You can catch up by clicking to read part one and part two of this three part series.
Seems like a long time ago that my husband and I met, got married, started a family, and got to where we are now. He’s been working overnights for over fifteen years. There’s a possibility of switching to days soon but God only knows. We need to be patient. We always need to be patient.
In fact, patience is probably the most important virtue in our lives. The stress of the hours alone could send one of us (or both of us) into a frenzy of frustration. There are times I want to lay into him about all the little nuances around the house that annoy me. I don’t; I can’t. It wouldn’t solve anything.
When something is bothering me, I take a breath, talk myself through the problem, and find a route to a peaceful way to communicate only what’s vital. The rest I have to let go.
Am I blocked from getting to the laundry? Can I move the things? Do I need something done I can’t do myself? Is he awake to ask for help? Can it wait? Is it crucial in this moment? Is it a hill I’m willing to die on? What can I do for myself right now?
These are the questions that get me through those moments.
Ultimately, we do communicate. Sometimes it’s me and sometimes it’s him, but we hear each other out. We forgive each other and ourselves. We trust in God first, then in each other. Things always work out when we do that. Honest communication, patience and understanding, and forgiveness are the pillars of our love.
Communication is so important in any marriage. When the marriage involves a lack of togetherness physically, that together needs to be stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. First responder marriages often leave couples barely seeing each other. That needs to be understood at the start. One parent will be doing more parenting, or at least they’ll each be doing their turn on their own.
Parenting plans, financial plans, house plans, family, work, you-name-it… It all needs to be communicated in advance, maybe even in writing, so no one needs to make a vital decision on their own at the risk of angering the other. When that does happen, patience and understanding need to be forefront in your marriage.
Patience and Understanding
If virtues were awards to be won, patience would be a gold medal, a blue ribbon, the championship cup! Having patience with others is having understanding and the essence of being slow to anger. The two really go together. If God didn’t understand us, He may not have been patient with us. If that were true, humans would have been wiped out a long time ago. If He who made us sees fit to keep us around, can we not have the same patience and seek to find understanding with one another in times of conflict?
Paul tells us in 1 Cor 13:4, “Love is patient,” and we’re happy to hear that on our wedding day. Are we willing to abide by that years, decades later in our troubles? Proverbs 3:13 says, “Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding! Her profit is better than profit in silver, and better than gold is her revenue.”
Sometimes when we know a person better, we expect more of them. But what if by knowing a person better, we understand them more and become more forgiving?
Ephesians 4:32 tell us to “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Our love can only barely shadow Christ’s Great Love, but we can look to imitate Christ often in our Catholic faith in how we live and love. If Christ can forgive our wretched forms, what right do we have to hold any grudge?
Marriage is a journey and we can’t expect to go along the road unless we’re side-by-side. We need to hold nothing between ourselves and our spouses. Christ is first, but our marriage is second. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to judge a person’s worthiness. Forgiveness means you allow love, Christ’s love, to lead you to love each other in a way no grudge could ever survive.
The most difficult part of first responder life is its fragility. First responders put their lives on the line for the sake of complete strangers. First responder family members live knowing that their responder is subject to moral, mental, and physical harm every day. Pray for our first responders and pray for their personal lives as well. Pray they remain safe in the face of danger, pray they don’t lose faith in the face of despair, and pray they have the support they need for strong, resilient marriages.