A great question to ask an engaged couple is whether they want to get married or stay married. After a bit of thinking, most couples will (thankfully) say they want to stay married. They want to live together as husband and wife until death parts them.
Here’s the follow-up question that should also be posed: “What do you think it will take to stay married?” The answer to this inquiry comes more slowly. It requires more thought and reflection because many persons seeking marriage are unsure of what glues spouses together when the good feelings of love diminish and struggles arise. Perhaps they are uncertain because they have seen more marriages fail rather than survive the presence of pain, conflict and adversity that will occur.
Let’s face it, spousal love is sacrificial. It is grounded on this truth that you cannot fully find yourself except through a sincere gift of yourself. Every husband and wife knows that wedding vows are promises to will the good of the other—not will the good of yourself. This is a daily demand that can be difficult to meet, unless you know where to go for assistance.
Fortitude is the help that strengthens spouses. Fortitude is the presence of extraordinary assistance from God to stay the course—especially in the face of unbearable personal suffering. The Catholic Church tells us that Fortitude assures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It reaches even to the ability to possibly sacrificing one’s own life for a just cause. (CCC 1808, 1838)
If you profile married couples who have celebrated 20+ years of marriage, they can share numerous experiences that caused strife between them. They can tell you how sickness or financial strife, disagreement or differences, anger or anxiety took them to the limit of their human power. They can share how hard it was to deal with the conflict respectfully. They can express the temptation to walk away rather than stick in there.
What these same couples can also tell you is that they survived each issue and stayed married because the Holy Spirit gave them the courage to remain faithful to their vows. They prayed for heavenly assistance and were given the supernatural aid to cope with the problem, control their selfish impulses and cultivate a deeper love and honor for their spouse.
The Gift of Fortitude from the Holy Spirit acts as the glue that holds a couple together when the world tries to pull them apart.