Marriage is About More than Just the Couple

What is marriage all about? This author makes the argument that it's not all about the couple.

“One of our favorite sayings to remind ourselves of is, ‘Your life is not about you.’ And that’s something we hope to bring to our marriage, too: my marriage is not about me. Our marriage is not about us.”

As my soon-to-be husband spoke these words at our rehearsal dinner, most of our guests quietly laughed, assuming he was making some sort of joke — because obviously our marriage, to be celebrated by so many people who had traveled to be with us that weekend, was about us. After all, it’s our marriage, right?

But Patrick wasn’t making a lighthearted joke, nor was he speaking of something we take lightly or say in jest to one another. Those words that he spoke in front of our family and friends serve as the guiding force for our marriage, just as they served as the focal point of our wedding weekend.

Our marriage is not about us.

Now, as I write this, I’ve been married for six months, two weeks, and one day. I’m not here to tout myself as a marriage expert. Patrick and I are learning what marriage means every day, and I have no authority to tell someone how to live their life or to give marriage advice. But I do know one thing: my marriage is not about me.

And it’s not about Patrick, either. Yes, in the simplest sense, our wedding vows involve the two of us. We promised to love and honor each other all the days of our lives — and to be true to one another. That’s something I can only give to Patrick, and he to me. It comes with a commitment to take another person’s life into my hands, to accept responsibility for the way my actions affect him and to allow his life to mold mine, too. Our marriage will change us, shape us, and form us together.

But if that’s all we allow our marriage to be, we’re missing out on something truly beautiful. If a marriage were just about the two people who have committed their lives to one another, there would be no need for a public ceremony — no need for friends, a priest, a sacrament. The very way we treat the wedding ceremony tells us that something far greater is happening, something that requires the participation of a community and encourages the couple to give of themselves in return.

For Patrick and for me, our marriage is about bringing life into the world. There’s a very simplistic way of thinking of this, which is that our marriage is about having kids and raising them in the faith that we grew up with. And we do plan to have kids — but that’s not the only way our marriage will be life-giving.

Indeed, as young adults in an apartment in the middle of St. Louis, we’re called to bring life into the world through our marriage today, right now. The way we love one another should change the world — in large and small ways — to bring life to those around us and even those we might never meet. Our lives together should form us to lift up one another and the people who surround us.

When we are living our marital vows to the best of our ability, the love and honor with which we love each other should pour out into the world. We are changed by our marriage to one another, and we in turn have the responsibility to change the world — by building each other up and using the grace we’ve been given through our marriage to bring light and hope to others.

At our wedding ceremony, Patrick and I served as Eucharistic ministers, giving the Body of Christ to our friends and family. This was a very small way for us to incorporate this mentality into our wedding — to remind ourselves and our guests that our act of marriage was one not of self-love alone, but of giving of ourselves in service to others.

That’s the image I hope to carry with me throughout my marriage. As Patrick and I grow in love, my hope is that we’ll continue to find ways to bring life to those around us, serving them in ways unique to each. As Catholics, we believe our marriage transformed us, and it continues to do so — but just like the Mass, this sacrament is only living in us to the fullest if we hold up our end of the deal.

So yes, we have a lot of responsibility on our hands, both to each other and to the world. But God equips us to do what He asks of us, so we’re far from alone. And that’s why our marriage is not about us.

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