Each morning I look forward to opening my WhatsApp messenger to read La Stampa, the daily Italian newspaper that my brother and sister-in-law send me.
Recently, I was struck by a bold one-word headline: PATIENCE. That title called attention to the story of a couple celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.
The article was an in-depth interview with the spouses – the ups and downs of their life and their dreams. Among the questions the reporter asked the couple was: “What does it take to stay married this long?” The answer was one simple word: “Patience.”
Patience is one of the virtues we need to succeed in marriage. If you are married and are reading this, you are likely to recognize the truth in this statement. Patience is not all that you need in a marriage relationship, but without it, you can sure rock the boat, and probably so many times to capsize it.
St. Paul begins his description of Christian love with: “Love is patient and kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4) The Merriam Dictionary and other dictionaries define patience as the ability to tolerate discomfort, and to persevere in difficult times.
The statement of the Italian couple celebrating their 80th anniversary reminded me of a series of interviews I did with couples a few years ago. The question I asked them was: “What do you pray for in your marriage?” To my surprise the first response given by most was: Patience.
One couple explained: “Patience is something we need each day and we never seem to have enough!”
When I reflect back at the stages of any marriage, I see that patience is a quality needed throughout the span of our life.
For example, newlyweds face the challenge of merging their two lives into one. That is an enormous task that requires patience. Each brings to the relationship different values, different histories and different personalities with unique individual preferences. These differences cause friction in the relationship.
Merging their lives requires the patience to listen and to understand each other, to hear one another’s stories and to acknowledge the wishes, the ideas and the preferences. Then, patience is needed to work out a compromise so the couple can move forward.
Much patience is demanded when we become parents. From the night feedings, to the temper tantrums, to the childhood illnesses, to the teenagers’ moods and, later, the decisions of our children about the schools to attend, and the careers to follow and lifestyle to embrace.
We need patience all the time. We need patience when we leave the house. We get in our car and every light is red! Patience. Then we are in a hurry and meet a slow driver. Patience. We are irritated by someone who speeds or cuts us off. Take a deep breath. Patience. We are annoyed by the poor road conditions or road construction. Patience.
Without patience we are miserable and we do not enjoy the ride. Patience is a virtue that helps us endure the bumps on our life’s journey. Patience is the shock absorber of life.
Even at the end, as we get older, we need patience to put up with one another’s physical shortcomings. We are slower, one has to wait for the other. We cannot hear each other well, so we have to patiently ask to repeat. One is sick and needs the other’s full attention. Because we love that person, we put the needs of our spouse before ours. That requires patience!
For a person of faith, prayer and the sacraments are the source of grace that helps us grow in love.
St. Paul writes: “Love is patient.” Any act of patience is an act of self-giving love. I would dare to say that we can measure our love for our spouse by the degree of patience that we show.
Today, pray for patience, and try to be patient. Let your spouse finish their sentence and listen, instead of interrupting. Listen to someone’s opinion before giving yours. When someone is rude to you on the road, smile and say a prayer for them.
Question for Reflection: How do you rate yourself as a patient person?
John Bosio is a parishioner of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Old Hickory. He is the author of two books on marriage: “Happy Together: The Catholic Blueprint for a Loving Marriage” and “Blessed is Marriage: A Guide to the Beatitudes for Catholic Couples.” John is a former marriage and family therapist. Find out more about his books at www.happy-together.net.