Four little words to make your marriage last

Matt and Mindy Dalton

Seven years ago, I was having the worst thoughts about the one I was supposed to love the most, Matt. We were headed for a weekend away to watch our older girls’ volleyball matches. A discussion took place on what time we needed to head to the airport. I was up, showered, packed and ready to go.

Matt was so looking forward to a weekend away, he was already in “relaxation mode” just taking his time (whistling, in fact), not aware he was running a bit behind with packing and being ready to go.

We headed out, 20 minutes later than planned, and as we drove to the airport, I started feeling anxious; having an interior battle inside.

Matt started to have somewhat of a sense that I wasn’t thrilled with him when he notified me that the car needed gas—which meant an even later arrival. I surrendered my pride and said: “Matt, I need to ask for forgiveness.”

“For what?” he asked. “For the negative thoughts that have been exploding in my head all morning long. Will you forgive me?”

“Yes, I forgive you.”

Then he proceeded to ask forgiveness for his selfishness.

If I hadn’t asked for forgiveness, our entire weekend might have been spent arguing and growing distant from one another. The foundation of our marriage coaching process is built on forgiveness—stating what we are sorry for and saying the words, “Will you forgive me?”

As one another’s authentic helpmate, we are saying, “Will you help me when I am weak? Will you help me be a better husband/father or wife/mother?”

Unfortunately, with a lot of the couples we meet, their hearts are so hardened, they come in pointing the finger at their spouse, never taking a look at themselves and how they have contributed to the disagreements. Some couples carry around resentment and hurt and pain for years.

The important piece is to take an interior look and ask ourselves: “How did I contribute to that argument? Could I have spoken in a more charitable manner? Was I stuffing my feelings, not sharing my heart?” (“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” Mt 7:3)

God, give me the grace to ask for forgiveness so that I can grant my spouse forgiveness.

Pope Francis says it well, “The perfect family doesn’t exist, nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife, and let’s not talk about the perfect mother-in-law! It’s just us sinners. If we learn to say we’re sorry and ask forgiveness, the marriage will last.”

You want your marriage to last? Go seek forgiveness from your spouse and grant them forgiveness as well.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.