Pause for Reflection The secret of a successful marriage in the long haul

Once upon a time a couple celebrated their 25th marriage anniversary, not having had a single conflict. Asked about their secret, the husband said: "Well, on our honeymoon we went riding. My wife's horse was a crazy one. He jumped, making her topple. She patted his back and said, "This is your first time."

After it happened again, she calmly said, "This is your second time". When the horse dropped her a third time, she took a gun from her purse and shot the horse. I shouted, "Why did you do that! Are you crazy?" She gave a silent look and calmly said: "This is your first time."

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"The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret" - Henny Youngman.

The world record for shortest marriage is 6 hours, but remains in dispute as to whether it belongs to Rudolph Valentino or to Brittany Spears. Then there is J. Lopez at 8 months (the 13 months was an earlier marriage), Elizabeth Taylor at 8 months (one of her marriages)need I go on?

Actually, there is a secret to a successful marriage. In a recent homily at my son's wedding Father Wendelin Rolheiser, a long time participant in World Wide Marriage Encounter, said that today 1 in 2 marriages fails. If the couple is married in church and continues to go to church, only 1 in 50 fails; but where the couple is married in church, continues to go to church and has a prayer life together, the failure is 1 in 1005.

In a homily entitled "Prayer the Art of Choosing to Face God" Father Brendan McGuire says: "Whatever way one is facing is typically the way one will walkWe walk whichever way our head is turnedIt's kind of hard to walk backwards with our face front."

If we are always facing work, he continues, then that is what we spend our time and energy on. "Prayer is the art of choosing to face God. It's a deliberate turning of our facetowards God."

Being committed in a marriage relationship is like that. We can choose to face our partner or to face another direction. Always we can come back to working for that relationship and making it work. It is something we choose to do or not to do.

Of course there are tough times when we have to turn to God and ask for help. The grace of the sacrament is there for us and accessible. We have to choose, sometimes on our knees in frustration, to ask for that help. Jesus is the third partner in a marriage and will not let us down.

Recently my wife and I celebrated a wedding anniversary with another couple who are close friends of ours. Together we have 93 years of successful marriage. I'm not bragging about it, just sharing our secrets of success. As long as we face each other, our marriage will endure. As long as we stand together before the altar of God on Sunday morning, our marriage will succeed.

"Marriage demands work. A happy marriage exacts the very best of us. Yet above all, maintaining a successful marriage is a choice." (Janette K. Gibbons)

"Marriage, like any other worthwhile activity, requires time and energy. It takes at least as much time to keep a marriage in shape as it does for a weight lifter to keep his body in shape." (Dee W. Hadley)

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