Faith guides newlyweds through changes
GREECE -- Married life has come at Beth and Jon Jamison hard and fast, seemingly almost from the moment they first exited St. Lawrence Church as bride and groom.
After their July 2008 wedding they returned to St. Paul, Minn., where Beth had moved the previous year to be closer to Jon. But Beth, a self-described homebody, had never gotten over her homesickness -- and those feelings only intensified when she and Jon discovered in late August that their first child was on the way.
So, they relocated to Rochester when their apartment lease in Minnesota ran out at the end of September. This not only meant leaving behind their jobs, but also moving in with Beth's parents.
"No jobs, no home, newly wed and pregnant," Beth remarked.
Now it was Jon's turn to struggle with living out of state, since he was very attached to his home turf as well. Add up the major adjustments he and Beth have made in a short time, and his assessment that "it either brings you together or tears you apart" seems right on the mark.
Well, Beth and Jon are very much together these days. Holding hands and huddling close together, they talked excitedly about their love and commitment to each other and their Catholic faith.
"It's easier than I thought, and that's only because we do have the foundation," said Jon, 26. "If we didn't have God as our foundation, I can't imagine how hard it would be."
"We leave a lot of it up to God," agreed Beth, 27, whose maiden name is Blodgett.
From Jane Doolittle's viewpoint, all newlyweds would do well to rank their priorities like the Jamisons.
"Unless couples see how it's supposed to work according to God's plan, they're not going to make it or they'll be terribly unhappy," said Doolittle, who along with her husband, Jim, is a longtime pre-Cana coordinator for her home parish of St. James in Trumansburg as well as at Holy Cross, Ovid, and St. Francis Solanus, Interlaken.
God's plan, she explained, is for a couple to live out the "for better or for worse" part of their marriage vows.
"The bottom line going out the gate, the most important thing, is your love for each other and not letting anything come before that. And even after (having) children, don't forget what's important," Doolittle said. "Marriage is a lifelong commitment, and you're going to have problems; we all do. It's not feelings and emotions, but it's about a decision to love."
Doolittle said she and her husband of 43 years often have empathized with engaged couples by relating their own experiences at pre-Cana sessions.
"We used to share quite a bit about our personal lives and some of the stuff we went through. We both came from very difficult family situations, and I was 18 and he was 21 when we got married," Doolittle said, adding that she has received positive feedback from people who recalled their story and applied it to their own marriages: "They remember, 'If Jim and Jane can make it, so can we.'"
In order to address potential differences prior to marriage, Doolittle strongly suggests taking the FOCCUS inventory before coming to pre-Cana. This counseling tool, used by most diocesan parishes, guides couples toward examining such issues as lifestyle expectations, problem solving, communication, religion, sexuality, finances and parenting.
The Jamisons -- who did FOCCUS as part of their marriage preparation in Minnesota -- said that in addition to making major decisions together, they've learned much about how to manage their day-in-and-day-out relationship. Beth said open communication is vital but also that it must occur "at the right time, in the right way," noting that she has little capacity to discuss important issues when she's tired at night. Jon added that he's come to appreciate the importance of "finding out how the other person feels loved, and loving them in that way rather than in your own way." Beth and Jon added that they've also learned not to sweat the small stuff, and have come to realize the value of not being married to a carbon copy of one's self.
"You have to love everything about the person. The things that frustrate me about him are the things I love about him," Beth said, explaining that Jon moves at a more deliberate pace with his decision-making, but this often works in their favor. Jon, meanwhile, appreciates his wife's propensity toward taking quick action.
"If I married another person like me, nothing would get done," he said with a laugh.
These days, both Beth and Jon volunteer in the youth-ministry program at St. Lawrence, where they attend Sunday Mass together and often go to weekday Mass as well. The Jamisons are still working on getting settled, awaiting their baby's arrival in May and hoping new jobs will soon come through. But if their commitment to each other and their Lord is any indicator, they should make out just fine in the end.
"The last thing we do every night is pray together," Jon said.