November 1, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

An important list of gifts for a soon-to-be married couple

Patti LambLast week, my husband and I encountered the cutest young couple registering for their wedding at Target. They were holding hands in the kitchen aisle, carefully selecting a cutting board and the right pasta strainer. They picked up several cheese graters, and evaluated each one before zapping the winner with their scanner. They were off to a promising start.

My husband and I exchanged smiles, remembering when we registered for our wedding in that very same store.

We celebrate our 10-year anniversary later this month and, as much as we love Target, we’ve learned that there are some things for which couples cannot register. We can only pray and call upon the grace God gives us in the sacrament of marriage.

On our way to the store’s grocery side, my husband and I comprised this list of gifts we wish for that bright-eyed couple.

Acceptance. A beloved mentor once told me “What you see is what you get—at best.” He explained that people are often on their best behavior when dating, and after marriage, we cannot expect to change or “fix” one another. He said that if your happiness depends on changing the other person, you’ll be disappointed. My husband and I are living proof. I wasn’t the most punctual person before we were married, and lateness is my husband’s biggest pet peeve. I’m not doing much better 10 years later, but my husband has accepted my chronic lateness and now pads important departure times by 15 minutes.

Sound work ethic. It turns out that marriage isn’t 50/50. There are many times when you’ve got to do more than your fair share. Marriage takes work. You’ve got to give 100 percent, and you can’t hold grudges or keep track of who last folded the laundry or got up with the kids when they had the stomach flu.

Sense of humor. Don’t get out of bed without it. Laughter beats the alternative. On a recent road trip full of many windy roads, my husband stopped the car and said, “Your cringing and shrieks of terror will not change the probability of that semi merging into us.” He bought me an eye mask for the return trip.

Unlimited forgiveness. We all have bad days, and say things we don’t mean. Mistakes are part of life and marriage. There might be a day (or three) when you give each other the silent treatment and need to cool off. Marriage has taught me to be a better forgiver. The times when I most needed forgiveness from my husband, he didn’t withhold it. He granted it willingly, and I know it wasn’t always easy.

Openness to God’s will. There is no perfect marriage. There are only various degrees of pretending that our marriages are perfect. Engaged couples might have their whole lives together planned out, but perhaps God has different plans. My dear friend’s inability to conceive was a definite curve ball, but she and her husband are now parents to three beautiful adopted children. Sometimes, what we initially consider a disappointment is one of God’s greatest blessings in disguise.

Marriage takes more than good kitchen utensils. Actually, it might be more practical to register for Tylenol and Band-Aids for life’s headaches and scrapes.

To that young couple soon to wed: Even if you receive everything you register for, you’ll find that marriage is about more than things. A good marriage and a happy home take everything from within and very little from Target.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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