Recently while driving down an interstate highway with my 23 year old daughter, an interesting and unexpected discussion of the Sacrament of Marriage developed. It began when static forced a change of radio stations. The new station was one of those call in talk shows. The caller, a female named Gloria, stated that her husband had beaten her. The host immediately urged her to dump the bum. "Get out and don't look back." Divorce is the only option in such cases, subsequent callers all agreed. No one had any other suggestions or ideas. Divorce was the only option.
What, I wondered, happened to the idea of marriage as a promise to overcome the problems of life with God's Grace? What information might be offered that would allow people to see other alternatives? The information is available. We know that marriage and family relationships can be viewed as single emotional units. It is a fact that relationships are mutually influencing. The end product of any relationship would be different if the involvement of either of the two partners participating were different.
This was a startling view. It is counter cultural. It is a view unacknowledged on the radio talk show. To voice this view in such emotional settings is risky business. Yet it must be stated because it opens up people to God's Grace promised in the Sacrament of Marriage.
The spirituality of St. Ignatius teaches that when one prays that person offers himself (or herself) to be the instrument God employs to bring about the prayed for change. When one prays for a spouse with the view that relationships are mutually influencing, that prayer is to see one's own part in the problem. It is empowering. It prevents one from being a helpless victim because it keeps one's thoughts on one's self. It means that there is always something constructive to be done as we remove the plank from our own eye to avoid criticism of our mate (Luke 6:37-42). To always ask what is my contribution to the problem is to open one's self more fully to God's Grace granted so abundantly in the Sacrament of Marriage.