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The Sacrificial Marriage

Have you ever heard the saying that ‘in order to have a successful marriage you must make sacrifices’?  How about ‘In order to appease the other partner you must make sacrifices’.  Or ‘to make your partner happy sometimes you must sacrifice what makes you happy in order for the other person to be happy’.

This kind of sounds like relationship requirements of the dark ages.  Back when the man controlled the relationship and the woman was there to appease the man.  A relationship that really wasn’t a relationship – it could be considered more of an ownership.  ‘You will honor and obey your man until death do you part’, pretty heavy commitment!

Is that really what it takes to have a successful relationship?

I had the great honor of being the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for my sister’s 25th Wedding Anniversary.  My sister and her husband are a great couple.  They haven’t always had it easy, but they have worked hard to become very successful.  When I say very successful I don’t mean they have become financially wealthy.  They have become wealthy in the true sense. They have a solid relationship, great career and business, strong spirituality and  they have three wonderful children.  They lead a very balanced life and it comes through in their relationship.

Following the traditional speeches, toasts and kind words it was time for me to close the ‘ceremonies’ so we could get to the dancing and celebrating part of the evening.

In my closing remarks I couldn’t resist but ask the 200 plus attendees to answer this question by a show of hands.  The question – ‘In order to have a successful marriage do you need to make sacrifices?’  Roughly 75% to 80% of the people put up their hands in agreement.  Yes you MUST make sacrifices.

I found this very interesting.  Especially after listening to the speeches and the accolades that everyone made about the couple that we were there to celebrate with.  None of the speeches talked about the sacrifices that they had to make in order to have a successful marriage.

Everyone spoke about the value of the friendship the couple possessed.  How they worked together to raise such a lovely family.  How proud their parents would be of them for what they have accomplished.  How they have accomplished so much in the past 25 years together.  And yet after all these comments the attendees felt very strongly that you have to make sacrifices in order to have a strong relationship.

Earlier that day I saw a poster that was completed by the Catechism class in the Church that we celebrated a renewal of their marriage vows.  A Catechism class is made up of young children. Across the top of of the poster it said ‘What is Love?’.  Then it had a few points below that defined Love in the minds of those children.  Some of the points were – Caring, Sharing, Helping, Fondness, Adoring and Respect.

Interesting that the word sacrifice was not on their list of how to define love.  Is it not love that is needed to have a strong relationship?  And if it is love, and if sacrifice doesn’t define love, then why do we feel that we must sacrifice to have a strong relationship.  Marriage is a Sacrament – sacrifice is not a Sacrament.

There will always be give and take – give and take is required to reach a common goal.  Give more and take less.  A strong relationship is 100/100.  Divorce is 50/50.

The common goal should be a strong loving relationship.  Not a relationship where you must sacrifice your core beliefs just to make the other person happy.  Nor should you demand that your partner make sacrifices so that you can gain what you want out of the relationship, in order to fulfill your selfish desires.

A relationship that is built on how the Catechism class defines love will always be stronger than the relationship that is built on sacrifices.


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What’s in your jar?

With Valentine’s day behind us by a couple weeks I am assuming that the roses are no longer red and the violets are no longer blue.  And the box of chocolates from the pretty heart shaped box are showing their love by the extra notch we now need in our belts.  Maybe that’s how the body part above the belt got the name ‘Love Handles’.  

Valentines after all is ‘the’ day to express your love.  Usually by spending money on things that don’t last too long.  Unfortunately, all too often it seems like it’s ‘thee’ only day some people take a moment to express their love.  

This past week I asked a close personal friend of mine a question.  The question was – what color of rose and how many roses does it take to tell someone that you love them.  Without a moments thought she replied ‘NONE’!  She continued to say that ‘roses are a nice gesture, almost everyone loves getting roses, but the real way to express your love is how you give of yourself, not how many roses you give, or what color they are’.  

She also jokingly said ‘besides her favorite flower is Orchids, not roses’!  At least that’s what I think she said, like a typical man I don’t always hear what someone else is saying!

The definition of love is an intense feeling of deep affection.  If your intense feeling of affection for someone is real, then the reality is the roses must be given everyday.  The roses in this case are not of the flower kind – but of the gesture kind.  It’s the way in which you treat those you love.  The priority that you place on those that you love compared to the things you may or may not love.  Things like work, chores or day to day life.  Sometimes life does get in the way of truly expressing your love on a daily basis.  We’ve all been guilty of this.  But this really shouldn’t be.  Making time for the expression of love shouldn’t be an exercise that you have to go through each day.  You shouldn’t have to place a booking in your smart phone calendar with a fancy reminder sound so that you don’t forget to follow up on that love thing!     

This past week I was staying in a motel room in a small Saskatchewan town.  It was the standard highway motel with a bathroom, a place to hang a few clothes and an old cube television.  Like most it had a space heater because the old boiler doesn’t always keep up with the heat demands of a cold prairie evening. And most grateful as always a clean bed!  This room, like most, was big enough to turn around in without bumping my elbows on anything. Definitely not the Hilton, but really it is everything a person needs for a night away from home. 

In the corner of the room sat a jar with some rocks and some ugly plastic roses in it.  Placed as a decoration or an ornament at one point in time and probably never thought of much since. The picture attached to this blog shows their ‘beauty’!  I didn’t even notice it the evening that I got there.    It was the next morning when I was doing my headspace exercise that they caught my eye and reminded me of an old story … the story goes something like this.

Imagine your life as a jar.  It begins empty and as we grow we add different experiences to our jar of life.  Those experiences will also include relationships.  And each of those experiences and relationships affect each other and they affect our jar.  

Now think about your relationships in a way that they are either big rocks, medium sized rocks, small rocks or pebbles.  You need to decide for yourself, but I would hope that those closest to you, your spouse, children, parents are the big rocks.  And then as the relationships get more distant they slowly become smaller rocks and then pebbles.  

The difficulty we humans have is that we spend too much time filling our jar of life with things other than rocks.  ‘Things’ like our jobs or professions, our chores, the demands we artificially put on ourselves, those expectations of all the so called really important things in our life.  Take a moment to think about those things in your life that get in the way of the gesture of love to the rocks in your life.  You know what they are.  Let’s imagine that those ‘things’ are sand.

Where we tend to run into trouble is we fill our jars of life with sand and then we try to squeeze our rocks into it.  And if the rock doesn’t fit we try to grind through the sand to make room for the rock.  Then in time the sand pushes the rock out of the way. Perhaps because there was no room for the big rock in the first place, or maybe you kept adding more sand.  Even though there was no more room for the big rock.  

And you keep doing that over and over and over, until the rock is tired of being pushed out of your jar by your sand and the rock finds another jar.  If the big rock was your child, maybe they begin hanging out with jars you don’t like, jars that lead them down the wrong path in life.  If the big rock that gets pushed out is your spouse – well you know you won’t like the jar that replaces your’s.  Of course none of this should concern you, after all now you have more room in your jar for more sand, just what you wanted – right?  

Let’s take this one step further.  The sand is extremely abrasive and after a while the sand will grind your jar thin.  It starts slowly but as it continues to grind your jar gets thinner and thinner until a grain of sand is able to pass through your jar through a hole.  Then two grains and then three grains.  Let’s imagine the hole in you jar as illness.  Or maybe old age.  Or some other time of importance in your life.  

Let’s say that the sand is your job.  And you become ill to the point where your jar can no longer hold the sand and the result is that you loose that job.  Or maybe you become the old man in a rocking chair that no one comes to visit.  Or the old lady in the kitchen always waiting for her children to come home for Sunday supper, the Sunday supper she never had time for while those rocks were in her jar.  

As the sand is emptying from your jar you realize that there are no rocks in you jar.  It’s not because they didn’t want to be there – it’s because you never made room for them.  And now they have another jar.  

Perhaps the best gesture of love that we can make is to place what is important to you in the jar first.  There should always be room for the big rocks.  Then there will be room for the small rocks.  And for the pebbles.  And the sand will always fit around the rocks, there is always room for the sand.  But there isn’t always room for the rocks.

And now let’s imagine that you are the rose in this picture … and maybe, just maybe – as the rose gets older and is not as vibrant anymore the rocks will still be with the rose, long after the sand is gone.