Marriage: Self-Sustaining Energy

Last November our family has officially entered what Mike calls the holiday gauntlet.  We cram a lot of bang for our buck into a two month period, with three birthdays as well as Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas and New Years.

This year I’m marking a couple of big milestones.  For one thing, I’ll turn 30, but first, I will be celebrating our seven year anniversary.  Shortly before I got married, my mother said that I would really feel married after about seven years.  Well, she was right.  So I thought I’d meditate a little on what I’ve learned about keeping a marriage strong in the last seven years. Personally, we care for our marriage through our Catholicism.

Reception of the sacraments, family prayer, responsible generous fertility, these are all integral parts of our marriage.  Yet there are many good marriages outside the church, and many bad marriages within it.  So what would be a broader rule to explain what makes a good marriage?  Here’s what I came up with.

You hear a lot nowadays about finding someone who “makes you happy”.  If you’re getting married to make yourself happy, you’re in for a shock.  No other human being can make you happy all the time for the rest of your life.  They will let you down.  I’ve heard the phrase flipped on its head too.  You should want to spend your marriage making the other person happy.  Closer, at least that description is focused on generosity, but again, that’s an impossible task.  You will let them down.  How about this? Get married to make yourself better.  As you become better, you will naturally become happier.  As you become better, you will naturally make your spouse happier.

I think this rule encompasses a lot of the complexities of marriage.  It allows for the fact that we’re none of us the best versions of ourselves.  It encompasses both the self-centered and other-centered motivations that are part of love.  It also covers how we choose our spouse, if you pull it apart a little.  We do marry someone because in some sense they make us happy.  You marry someone you fall in love with, but to make it last it has to have this cyclic quality.  You love them, and for them you want to be better.  As you show them love in this way, they love you more and want to be better for you, which makes you love them more.  Ideally it’s like endless nuclear fusion.

I have written before about motherhood being a short cut to true charity.  I’m all about short cuts.  For me, marriage is a short cut too.  It is easier to be good for Mike than it is to be good for myself.  I am, without a doubt, a better person for having known him.  His trust, his good temper, his faith, his generosity, his patience, all of these have changed me and led me gently in the right direction.  I feel pretty unworthy of being married to such a fabulous person, but hopefully he’s picking up something positive in return.  At least he likes indoor pets now, and that’s definitely a Good.

To step back into the Catholic bubble for a moment, I met Mike, oh wow, about 12 years ago at Christendom College’s summer camp.  There one of our counselors spoke about marriage.  He said that your spouse should be your ticket to heaven.  Mike’s my ticket.  Because of that I try to be his.  Which hopefully makes him try to be mine.  Fusion, as bright, as powerful as the sun.

Caitlin Marchand


Caitlin Marchand is a home schooling mother of 4 and a graduate of Christendom College. She enjoys writing in her spare time and blogs at

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  • stark61555

    Married at 35 with NO KIDS, I have a severe problem with these Moms who think their kids come before their husbands. It is like they are not even married in the first place. They are so so complusive and think they have to do things a certain way to show off or something. Have you ever written anything about foster parents? Or those couples who have no children. Or have you ever done anything on couples who cannot by any means have kids and they are fine with that? Too often prideful parents who are too zealous make nasty nasty comments and act like they know it all, only to find out THEY DON’T. OFTEN couples like us who live in Florida have it way better than those compulsive people who show show and grow old before their time. Those people do not know who they are, really. They only did what they did because they thought they had to do it on their own. Something is severely wrong with them.

  • stark61555

    Another thing: I guess being married late, you have never lived on your own. You have never had your own personal time before “the crazies” set in. You went from your parents house to the house of a man, usually the house that HE CHOSE. From 1982 to 1990, I went to Europe twice, Maine once and other places without having to wipe noses and push in labor and delivery. I turned down three proposals just because I wanted my time. It was the best thing I ever did. I look younger than all my friends. I am 50 now and have no regrets. I also have way more work experience and know how to research things that others call repair men for on a usual basis.

  • stark61555

    Lean In by Sandberg is a great book.

  • Caitlin Marchand

    I must confess to being a little confused by your comments. It seems I have somehow offended you but my piece is about one way of looking at how marriage works. I write from my personal experience and hope that it can help or provoke some thought for others. I certainly don’t think everyone needs to get married young or have many children, but I don’t see that I have said that anywhere in this article. Because of writing from a personal perspective I cannot write about foster parents or childless couples because I would be speaking about something I know little about. I respect foster families and adoptive families immensely, and also have many friends who struggle with infertility or other legitimate reasons for having no or few kids and would never presume to judge. I have written about that, incidentally. Also, I don’t see that I have made any point that would seem to indicate I think my kids come before my husband. All I think is that my family, the whole unit, comes before any one member of it. There’s room for everybody’s needs to be met, although it takes work. I must also say that, while for many people getting married late, or pursuing a career etc etc are great goods that I should not judge, I think there are many who judge those of us who also made a CHOICE to get married young and have children right away. I chose marriage and motherhood at a young age. I did well in college and had many career interests. I certainly could have chosen other than I did. But that I made a choice different from the current cultural norm does not mean I don’t “know myself”, or have something “severely wrong”. It doesn’t mean I didn’t know my options or am some sort of doormat to my husband who has simply taken over the role my parents played of directing my life. None of those things are true, and for my many friends who have made similar choices I can say that they are not true for them either. We wanted certain things, and for those certain things we were willing to sacrifice other things. This is exactly the same as those people who have chosen differently. It means that I know myself well enough to know that this is what will make me the happiest and be the best for my soul. Those choices may not suit everybody, but we are all entitled to the assumption that we made our decisions thoughtfully, prayerfully, and generously.

  • Jeanne in Tampa

    Well, I think if a woman cannot make $32 to 45 an hour to start with healthcare to support herself, she should not even have kids or get married in the FIRST PLACE. WE WOMEN NEED TO MAKE AS MUCH AS A MAN OR MORE. We should take overbearing men’s jobs so the women home should get off their rumps and do something more than being on their rumps. I have way more experience than most men. It feels good. It feels very good. I run my husband’s legal office. We do it our way.
    This is why we are in the mess that we are in these days.
    Too often we take a back seat and say that “he should support us.” And the nice part about foster and adopt in my state is this: most daycare is free. I like the fact that I got a break from having kids. No pain of labor. Fine with me. No bills from the hospital.
    Get a real job and real experience honey. We don’t want to support you later, if something happens to him. We are not going to support you later, because you were irresponsible and sat on your stupid rump. I will stand by this forever. I hope it motivated you. Being motivated is not a sin. Staying home because you don’t have enough experience is an stupid excuse. Most are lazy and have no business staying home pumping out kids she herself cannot support. Tme to be motivated beyond what those churchman and clergy will not NOT NOT SUPPORT YOU. THEY CONDEMN YOU FOR NOT HAVING ENOUGH KIDS, BUT THEY WILL NOT PAY YOUR BILLS. I AM AGAINST BIRTH CONTROL, REALLY AND AGAINST USING OTHER PEOPLE. I AM FOR REAL HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. Comprende?

  • Jeanne in Tampa

    Oh I don’t have to do that church thing and pray a certain way. I don’t have to do this.