Love is Hard

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails —
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

In the second reading for last weekend, St. Paul offers a beautiful description of all that love should be. This teaching is appropriate for all kinds of love – love between family members, love between friends, and love between spouses. It offers a blueprint of how to live in harmony with those important to us. The love described in this scripture passage is the ideal, yet it stands in stark contrast to the image of love that popular culture presents, especially for married couples.

It smacked of irony that the same day I heard this reading, I heard of two young couples who are considering divorce. They both have been married less than three years, and one couple has a small child. Marriage isn’t what they expected. They just aren’t in love with each other anymore.

I’m not close to these couples and I know that the only people who knows what goes on in a marriage are the two people involved. There are certainly reasons why some couples shouldn’t be married, terrible things that no one should have to endure. There are also some people who were not able to make that marriage commitment in the first place for whatever reason. My intention is not to condemn anyone. Nevertheless, I hear more and more people using the reason “we’re not in love anymore” as a reason for divorce. It makes me wonder what these people think that love is supposed to be. Is their idea of love St. Paul’s description or the world’s idea that love is fireworks and romance?

Anyone who has been married for a while knows that marriage is not all wine and roses. Two imperfect people joined in holy matrimony create an imperfect union. Romance often gets lost in the work of day to day living. Marriages have ups and downs and those downs can last for years. Rough spots can be trying to the soul and to the relationship. There are going to be times when the thought of being married to the same person for the next however many years is simply too much to bear. There will be times when walking away seems like the only reasonable solution.

The best advice I ever got when I was getting married came from a coworker. She had been married for eleven years at the time. She told me, “I can stay married, if only for today.” I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve repeated that advice to myself. That is what a good marriage is made of – one day at a time. It is getting up and choosing to live St. Paul’s version of love, even when the feeling is not there. It is choosing to be patient and kind and putting the other person first. It is praying for the strength to keep going. I wish that more people spoke that truth to young couples who are getting married.

Love is all those wonderful things that St. Paul talks about. Love, true love, is also hard. It takes a strong commitment and a willingness to get through the difficult times one day at a time. Then we can live the true vision of love that God wants for us.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic, she blogs at

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Cooky642

    Having been married to the same man for 48 1/2 years, I can offer one more suggestion that you missed in your article: forgiveness. Forgiveness may seem like an unattainable ideal. There are things that SHOULD be “un-forgivable”. Anyone who’s been married 15 or 20 years knows exactly what I mean. Nevertheless, forgiveness is not optional for the Christian. Neither is it optional if you intend to live a life-long marriage. No one said it’s easy, but God is willing to help. Take it from an “old married woman”.

  • LarryW2LJ

    One of the best quotes I’ve heard lately was from the movie “Marley and Me”. The subject of divorce came up and the lead character came out with something to the effect, “Hey man, you don’t end it …. you mend it”.

    I’ve been married for 12 years now (relative newcomer, I guess!). Not a “perfect” marriage; but I still love my wife more than ever, even when it feels like that’s not being returned. When it gets frustrating, I always keep reminding myself that marriage is not about “Me”. It’s about my wife and kids …. that keeps me going (with God’s help).

    Don’t get me wrong – there are times that couples should part, as in the cases of violent physical or emotional abuse. God willing, those marriages can be saved with the proper professional help. But in many instances, I think the problem today is that too many people put “Me” first; and a lot of marriages end that could otherwise be saved.

  • innkeeper

    And then there are those of us who’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no hope for our marraige and now way out. We live separate lives because, as a Catholic, I’m not allowed to divorce & he’s content with the situation. It’s all about raising the kids & realizing that I have to live with it. There is no marital happiness in store for me & others like me.

    We are trapped with no way out & very little to no compassion from fellow Catholics….only touchy feely crappola of ‘if u love them enough’ or ‘if you pray enough’ or ‘get counseling’ (which we have)…The Church seemingly wishes us to suffer and we do it quite well.

    I made a vow & I’ll stick to it, no worries. No divorce here. No love here. Just a sacrement.

  • laurak

    My husband & I have been married almost 27 years now. We seperated 3 times and nearly divorced, but things got better after a while.

    There’s several things I’ve learned. It isn’t right to go back on your word. You gave your word to your spouse in your marriage vows, before God. A person is only as good as their word and if they go back on their word given in a solemn vow before God, what else would they back out of when the going gets rough? People don’t keep their word a lot any more, whether is is a function they are supposed to be at, or a vow they made.

    Also, forgiveness is the single biggest issue in a long term marriage. There are many people that get a divorce rather than forgive their spouse, because after all, they deserved it. Their spouse did something wrong and that’s how they justify getting a divorce. However, the unforgiveness often continues long after a divorce. It can become a cancer that affects their children and the extended family too for many years.

    These spells, even the long spells, usually blow over and get better. Time heals all things, and so does a little effort by even one of the spouses. When you change your behavior, it changes your spouse too. And it starts with forgiveness and acceptance of who the other person is, not the person you want to change them into being.

    Laura K.

  • lkeebler

    Dear innkeeper:

    Let Christ be your spouse. He will be the Love of your life and be the marital happiness you yearn for. In your devotion to your marital vows to your husband you have been faithful to Christ, you have been given the water in which you shall never thirst. The woman at the well was thirsty (John 4), she had been married five times and still she thirsted, Christ said to her to drink of Him (the Messiah), “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst…” Turn to Christ in prayer and adoration, for the needs of your heart and He will be the spouse to you that your husband has not fulfilled. Christ is the completion of our hearts and souls, even if we have wonderful attentive husbands, they will not fulfill the yearning of our hearts. Only Christ can do that.