This panel originally appeared in the May edition of our Year of the Family newsletter. To read the newsletter in its entirety, visit our Year of the Family homepage.
We hear a lot today about the ways perceptions of marriage have changed between the generations. In order to glean a little wisdom from various age groups at different stages of life and relationships, we presented three individuals with questions about marriage. All provided a unique perspective on the institution and the role it has played in their lives.
Volunteer, Catholic Charities; Notre Dame Echo Apprentice
Why might someone choose to get married today?
At the root of it, I think people get married today because they crave intimacy and stability. Though this plays itself out in healthy and unhealthy ways, we all really do desire the same things.
What do you consider to be the purpose or value of marriage?
The purpose of marriage is to sanctify a relationship set out for vulnerability, creativity, challenge, and self-giving love. It is a way to know and be known, and to heal and be healed.
How is marriage perceived by your age group?
My generation is generally caricatured as an individualistic group wholly afraid to commit to marriage. But that hasn’t been my entire experience. We fall along a wide spectrum: I have friends who were married shortly after (and even during) college, and others who are saying, “Not yet,” and even “What for?”
I think there was a more linear, structured timeline for life that my parents followed. My age group isn’t afraid to walk a different path, so while there are still those who get married young, there are others who will wait. We think of marriage as a personal good before we think of it as a social one, so we are willing to make up our own minds about it.
Randall ClarkMarried: Five years
Senior Case Manager, Catholic Charities Veteran Services
What’s the hardest part of being married?
I think one aspect which may be difficult to conceptualize is that marriage means having to find compromise in everything. The mind wanders to the big things – where to live, when to have kids – but you soon realize even small matters take cooperation, down to whether you sleep with the window open or closed.
What’s the most rewarding part of being married?
There is a level of intimacy, understanding and teamwork that I never thought possible with another human being. I think in a culture that constantly reinforces narcissism and the uniqueness of the self through over-parenting and social media, such change in personal identity can be off-putting. But it is in that fusing of two people into one that makes marriage so special.
Martin IdlerMarried: 50 years
Executive Director, Diocese of Camden Division of Health Services
Why did you choose to marry?
It never occurred to our minds that there was another path. That’s the way families worked: man and woman raising children together. We saw it as God’s plan.
What’s the best and the hardest part of marriage?
The most difficult thing is you have to remember every single day that it’s two of you and you have to evaluate everything you do in relationship to each other.
We’ve had our arguments over the years. We argued over the same things my parents did: the children and money; but never about each other. Neither of us in all these years has said out loud, ‘I’m sorry I married you,’ or ‘I wish I wasn’t married,’ because it would have been a lie. But you have to work at it.
The reward is over the years she’s become my best friend in the world. We can finish each other’s sentences. That doesn’t mean we think alike, that just means we know how the other one thinks. I can’t picture myself with anybody else.
What would you say to people considering marriage today?
Be sure that you want to be with this person forever. Be sure that you try every day to learn more about them so that you can respond to them in a loving way.
Catholic Charities offers counseling services for married couples. Learn more on our counseling services page.