According to Justin Tubiolo, marriage can be like Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane: You may ask God to spare you this cup of suffering, but he’s going to give it to you anyway.
“And I was told, ‘This is your cross to bear,'” Tubiolo quipped.
“Who told you that?” his wife, Nancy, laughingly asked.
“She’s going to abuse me now at home,” Justin remarked, returning the laughter.
The good-natured ribbing between Justin and Nancy, who have been married for almost 30 years, contains some elements of truth. They say starry-eyed engaged couples should consider that their plans for their lives together may have to be shelved for a variety of reasons — unexpected health problems with children; one spouse losing a job; or the need for a spouse to take care of an aging parent.
“I do think of Gethsemane when I think of placing yourself in God’s hands and taking on whatever challenge God intends for us to face,” Justin Tubiolo said.
That’s why couples should ground their marriage in Christ, the Tubiolos observed, noting that they have lived out that belief by serving on Catholic marriage-preparation teams at St. John Fisher College; St. Anne Parish in Rochester; and currently at St. Rita’s in Webster. They recommended that couples attend church regularly and become active in their faith.
The Tubiolos, for example, are involved in Cursillo, a lay-Catholic spirituality and evangelization movement, and Justin added that cultivating a shared faith helps couples through the hard times they will inevitably face.
“Just tune into God’s guidance,” he said.
On that note, Nancy noted that marriage is a vocation and a sacrament.
“You’re supposed to give to each other openly, the way Christ gives,” she said.
“The wedding ceremony is a sacrament, but the marriage is your daily calling to do this,” her husband added.
In practical terms, that means that couples should consider how they will share their lives together, the Tubiolos said, citing as an example their belief that couples shouldn’t have separate bank accounts.
“It’s a union — make it so,” Justin said.
Spouses also need to be united on what types of careers, if any, they will support each other in pursuing. The Tubiolos added that spouses should keep each other abreast of what is going on at work. That way, spouses are preserved from suffering any sudden shocks should their mates decide to leave a job or seek a new position, they said.
Nancy added that newlyweds should realize that one or both spouses may have to give up a cherished career goal in the event that financial or other challenges make that goal impossible to reach, or if child rearing doesn’t allow time for two full-time careers.
On that note, Nancy added that couples should talk before they get married about how many children they want to have. For some couples, three is a lot, whereas others may hope for a dozen.
The Tubiolos invited couples marrying in the Catholic Church to be open to its teaching against artificial contraception and to research natural family planning.
“We explain to (engaged couples) that the church is saying the couple is called to procreate — to assist God in creating,” Justin said. Nancy added that natural family planning gives couples a sense of fertility being a gift, not a burden.
“Our society thinks of fertility as a disorder, something that must be corrected,” Justin said, adding that artificial birth-control methods — from Norplant to the pill to sterilizations — send the message that fertility is a medical problem. The real problem, they observed, is that “no one talks about using your willpower and knowledge (to plan families).”
When and if children do come into a couple’s life, the parents need to agree on such issues as discipline, the Tubiolos said. Justin noted that each spouse has grown up in a different family, and that some families settle issues through loud arguments, whereas others loathe any type of boisterous expression. Differing family backgrounds will lead to differences on how to discipline children, the Tubiolos said, noting that couples need to discuss such differences.
Most engaged persons know that they are marrying into new families, the Tubiolos said, but that doesn’t mean issues with in-laws won’t arise. Nancy pointed out that holidays especially can raise challenges because they call on spouses to divide their time between two families.
“Sometimes (spouses) have to make the parents aware that they are a family now, and that they make their own traditions,” she said.
Justin pointed out that family means the couple themselves, and not only when they have children. Whether or not children are involved, a couple needs to realize that they are the nucleus of a new family and must pay attention to their relationship, the Tubiolos said. That means, among other things, paying attention to their romantic and sexual lives. Nancy suggested couples try to have some alone time at least once a week so they can focus on being with one another to the exclusion of all the other people in their lives.
And when they’re together, couples need to communicate, the Tubiolos said.
“It’s probably best to talk about things on a daily basis, trying to keep each other informed about each others’ lives,” Nancy said.
Most importantly, couples need to realize that they are taking a permanent vow to love and be faithful to each other, the Tubiolos said, prompting another semi-joking, semi-serious comment by Justin.
“Just remember that your relationship is permanent; that you have no intention of leaving the other without croaking first,” he said with a smile.