My Marriage is Not a Fairy Tale

To Parking

My Marriage is Not a Fairy Tale by Jackie Angel

Also titled, “How you can marry the man of your dreams and still want to punch him in the face sometimes”

A few years ago, as a single woman, I sat across from a young engaged couple at a Theology of the Body retreat during lunchtime. Curious about their “love story,” I listened for 45 minutes on how God wove everything together for them—how it took YEARS of prayers and novenas that eventually were answered in the most crazy ways. I mean, it took 45 MINUTES to tell their story. By the end I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. This is the most amazing love story I’ve ever heard. There’s no way that I could ever have that kind of story. With my luck, I’ll meet my future husband in a bar—like the one time I ever frequent a bar—and have absolutely no cool story to share and my life and marriage will be ruined!” Okay, maybe I wasn’t that dramatic.

Feeling a bit hopeful by this couple’s story, but also a bit doubtful, my prayer to God was, “Jesus, I trust in You. I trust whatever plans you have for me. I pray that my time as a single woman isn’t just a ‘waste’ until I get married. Lord, use me however you want. I will be patient with you, knowing that the longer I wait for my husband, the better he’ll be, assuming we are both growing in holiness everyday. I know the best thing I can do for my future vocation is to become holy now. And, if I die tomorrow, then my vocation will be in Heaven with you, and that would be awesome! Help me live everyday with joy and not be a miserable single person. You are the only one who satisfies this heart and I would rather be single and joyful in you, than be miserable in a relationship with someone just because I didn’t want to be ‘lonely.’ Jesus, I trust in You.”

Of course, my little heart would get caught up in the romantic comedies (I mean, “You’ve Got Mail” is constantly on cable) or the Disney fairy tales and wonder how my “love story” would ensue. (I should’ve read Sarah Swafford’s Emotional Virtue on how to control all these daydreams, but it wasn’t written yet!). I also met a lot of Catholic young adults who were married and I would envy their love stories, because it seemed like they all had these amazing fairy-tale stories that ended with “Happily Ever Afters.” All these women were married to amazing men of God. I kept thinking to myself, “If I’ve met all these amazing married men of God, surely there have got to be some SINGLE amazing men of God! And God, I only need ONE!”

Well, I did meet a lot of amazing single men of God. I traveled to over 40 states and 16 countries in the last 7 years doing ministry, and let me tell you—there are a TON of amazing men of God (and, if you want me to set you up with them, I can… wink, wink). However, none of them were my husband. Yes, I may have dated or been courted by a few of them, but at some point it was pretty easy to realize they weren’t “the one” (even if it took 6-10 months to figure it out). Maybe it’s because I was older and knew myself really well. Maybe it’s because God was guarding my heart. For goodness sakes, the year before I dated Bobby, there were 3 guys that I really liked and wished would ask me out. My little heart waited and waited, but none of them even liked me back. Maybe it’s because I was praying to God, “Lord, if he’s not ‘the one,’ don’t let him like me back. I don’t want to waste his time or my time from finding our future vocations.” Well, God listened to my prayer, and I was frustrated. Annoyed. “God, WHY would you actually answer my prayer the way I wanted!? Couldn’t at least ONE of them have liked me?” (Isn’t it funny how we do that with God?)

Well, sure enough I re-met Bobby, and you can read the story here. And yes, the love story that God had for me was way better than the one I could’ve imagined for myself. I am glad I was patient. I am glad I didn’t settle for a previous boyfriend. It was worth it to wait on the Lord and not just “take” any relationship that came my way because I wanted to be married and have babies. I am glad I did it God’s way and not my way.

HOWEVER, just because it was easy to discern the relationship doesn’t mean the relationship itself was easy. Relationships with human beings, in general, aren’t easy. We are imperfect people dealing with other imperfect people. Even if they’re our family or our best friends, relationships take work and require commitment, understanding, compromise, a common goal, etc.

During girls’ sessions, I normally get to share our love story. And girls are normally pretty inspired to not settle, to have hope that God has a love story for them, too, and maybe even have courage to break off a relationship they’re in, knowing it’s not leading to marriage and/or knowing they have a complete lack of peace and joy that one should have going into their vocation.

The problem is, these girls’ sessions only last for so long, and it always seems like “THE END! And we lived “HAPPILY EVER AFTER!” It’s only in further talks about dating and relationships that Bobby and I get to share the “fun” stories about the trials, the arguments, the real everyday reality of a relationship based on God. These are actually my favorite talks to give, because I want people to have hope that marriage is awesome, but that it’s also work. It also causes one to die-to-self a lot.

In fairy tales, you don’t actually ever get to see what happens after the end. In real life, you actually get to live the “after.” And trust me: while I always knew God had an amazing “knight in shining armor” out there for me, I also knew we’d probably argue a lot, make each other frustrated, get annoyed, etc. I never had this weird fairy-tale idea of a relationship where none of that stuff happens, even if it was with the man of my dreams.

In our dating/courting relationship, just like all couples, Bobby and I had to learn how to communicate with each other. With an extrovert like me who likes to “talk” about things and an introvert like Bobby who doesn’t, this was a painful, arduous process. At one point during an argument, I said to Bobby, “Seriously, you aren’t in seminary anymore—you can’t just run to your room and shut the door. If we are going to be married we have to talk about things!”

There were many times that Bobby had to endure my few “days of the month” where I was very emotional and either wanted to cry at every commercial or I wanted to punch him in the face. Thankfully, once we started taking NFP classes 6 months before our marriage, Bobby was charting my cycle and could pinpoint the exact two days when he could buy me flowers or chocolate to lessen the “crazy.” (I may or may not have still wanted to punch him in the face).

Our dating/courtship saw a lot of tears from me, a lot of dispelling weird expectations we had from previous relationships or being raised in different families. We also had to deal with our un-chastity in previous relationships and how that affected our current relationship. We had to discuss our prayer life—what that would look like individually and as a couple. We had to discuss stupid things like which way the toilet paper roll goes on (there IS a right way, and it’s with the paper flowing “over the top”).

But let me say—there were other guys I dated where I couldn’t talk about these things. In other relationships I would be afraid to bring up “tough” subjects for fear of being dumped. I would be afraid to talk about our prayer life or chastity. With Bobby, on the other hand, I felt comfortable to be myself. I felt comfortable to show my crazy side, my crying side, my “I’m proud to be Catholic” side, my girly side, my tough side, my goofy side, etc. I believe if you can’t bring up tough subjects with your significant other out of fear of ruining the relationship, that’s a HUGE red flag that they aren’t the person you’re supposed to be with the rest of your life.

While my marriage is not a fairytale—it consists of real life, real people, real poopy diapers, real pride, real selfishness—I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why? Because I know that the only real “Happily Ever After” where “The End” consists of no death, no mourning, no wailing or pain is in Heaven (Revelation 21:4). This life, however, does have death, mourning, pain, and suffering. And no marriage is immune from that. Our goal in life is to learn how to love—God, others, and ourselves. And real love is demanding. Real love is painful. Real love hurts. Real love demands a dying to self. Real love is sacrificial. Real love is not just a “feeling.” Real love is the Cross (the agony) and the Resurrection (the ecstasy). You can’t have the Resurrection, though, without the Cross. You can’t have the ecstasy without the agony. You can’t have Heaven–the “Happily Ever After”–without the Cross, both literally and figuratively.

After every argument or moment(s) of suffering, I love and respect my husband more. (Whereas in previous relationships after those things, especially arguments, I noticed that I respected my boyfriends less). My most memorable fight was when Bobby and I were 3,000 miles apart and we hung up the phone still angry (since the issue wasn’t resolved, it was midnight my time, and I had to wake up early the next morning for an event). I woke up, though, to an email from Bobby that said, “I am still very frustrated. However, I love you and I’m not going anywhere.” There was an assurance in that statement. I thought, “I have peace in my soul that this is the man I’m called to marry, even though we are both frustrated/angry with each other. And wow, I really love this man.” And guess what: that’s how I feel during the arguments/fights we have in our marriage, too. (In my mind it normally sounds like, “Ugh, I still love you even though I want to punch* you in the face right now!”)

I love him more everyday because I get to know the real him and not the “idea” of him. He is a good man. He is a holy man. We are not perfect, but we are perfect for each other (I could write a whole other blog about that). I am so thankful to God everyday for our marriage, in all its strengths, in all its trials. I am thankful for a husband who leads me to Heaven, and a marriage filled with joy. I am thankful for learning that it’s not all about me. I am thankful that I get to learn how to die to myself and how to live for another (and, of course, it sucks at the time to actually do these things). And mostly, I am thankful that God, who brought us together, is the foundation and center of it all. To me, that’s what makes our marriage full of peace and joy—even when I want to punch* my husband in the face.

Life is not a fairy tale. Marriage is not a fairy tale. Thank God for that. Because in the end, when we’re chillin’ in Heaven together, we’re really going to live “Happily Ever After.”

*To those who are worried about this statement: no, I would never actually punch my husband in the face. Take a chill pill. Relax. Don’t call the Vatican police on me.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING FOR MARRIAGE/RELATIONSHIP DISCERNMENT:

A related blog by Mark Hart called, “What I Wish I’d Known Before I Got Married”

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love by Dr. Edward Sri

How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystallina Evert

Emotional Virtue by Sarah Swafford

  One thought on “My Marriage is Not a Fairy Tale

  1. August 13, 2015 at 11:10 am

    I really needed this today. Thank you so much Jackie!

    Check out Marcus and Dianne’s story if you haven’t yet: http://www.thirstingfortruth.com

  2. August 13, 2015 at 11:23 am

    What a great post! Thank you for sharing! After losing our sweet daughter last summer, I am more thankful than ever for my husband. I am thankful that I didn’t settle and that I patiently waited for the man God called me to marry. I am thankful that God has always been at the heart of our marriage. I am just so thankful because tragedy can truly test the strength of a marriage and I feel as though ours is stronger now than ever.

  3. Michelle Meza
    August 13, 2015 at 11:25 am

    This really hit home for me, the whole “dying to yourself” theme, especially since Jesus has been calling me to this very sacrificial act in my own life (mind you, not in a relationship context). I don’t know what God’s plan is for me vocation-wise, but I do know that this in-between period of my single life will not be a waste, but is in fact preparing me for my future role in God’s kingdom. Thanks for sharing, Jackie!

  4. Elena Gehan
    August 13, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I love you Jackie! This is such a beautiful post! :) I just got engaged, and can totally relate to you. I have shed so many tears during my courtship with my fiance, and continue to still shed tears during our engagement. Ever since I knew my vocation I would flutter over love stories, and invested all my time reading books on marriage and chastity. Haha and now i’m going through this process of spiritual dryness. I have been like this over two years. And my feelings for my fiance come and go all the time. We have fought and argued a lot. There were times I really wanted to punch him in the face, as well! Or at least say. “Gosh, I can’t stand you!” And of course he is still always there saying. “I still love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I love him so much more. And I know my love for him is real. We have struggled so much with chastity, and I never before in my life ever had. I actually shared my first kiss with him. Some part of me wants to blame it all on him, but I always have to constantly remind myself that I, too, have failed him. And I needed to keep forgiving him. Also to continue to ask for God’s grace and forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation. That is the reality of relationships like you said. You are dealing with a real person, and not an idea. It is so painful. I used to be jealous of other couples who seemed like they had it all together. But, recently I am actually so grateful that we are going through these hard times. I trust that God is doing good in us, and is purifying us from our selfishness and pride. It’s pretty amazing how wounds come to surface when you meet the person God has for you. But, thank God that He wants to heal us from it.
    -By the way, I am such a huge fan.

  5. August 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    I am happily married for 23 years. *high five*. I did meet my husband in a bar, but hey, God works in mysterious ways. It doesn’t always happen the way you think it’s going to. We dated for 7 years, broke up for a year, and reconnected in a bar (more like a pub) again! Now I’m not telling anyone they should go hang out in a bar cause the guys you meet there are probably not the ones sent by the Father. That’s just where the Father had to get me, by total accident, to open my eyes. And it was because I had been praying. Like hard core praying. I think the thing to remember about your “happy ever after” is that as long as God is in charge it doesn’t matter how you get there. Your idea of fabulous might be absolute poop next to what God has in store for you. Don’t put limits on God’s blessings. You have no idea how or where he will bless you. And Jackie… I sometimes still want to punch my husband in the face ;-) God Bless!

  6. samantha rodriguez
    August 13, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I so needed to hear this(again)! Haha I live in a small town where it seems like everyone is getting married and having babies while I’m over here like “I like food” haha it’s sometimes hard to remain hopeful. I’m a youth leader at my church and my kids and I always talk about how trusting in God is one of the hardest things to do. You have society telling you what your life should look like and has you worrying about your timeline instead of trusting in God’s and I’m in that season now. It was getting pretty bleak but God is cool enough to send me little reminders :) thanks for sharing Jackie!! You, Bobby, and Abby are a beautiful family! Love & blessings, Sam :)

  7. August 13, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Love this, Jackie! Your story of not settling resonates a lot with me. Oh and also – I’m taking you up on your offer to set me up with someone… ;) I’ll wait. Lol.

  8. Monica
    August 13, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Excellent! Post,!!!!! Jackie thank you very much!

  9. Michelle
    August 15, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I remember watching the Love & Responsibility NYC video you and Bobby gave this summer and I really liked what you (Jackie) said about the two extremes. I’m paraphrasing but it was like “The two extremes are ‘I want my future spouse to be a doctor/wealthy/model/fill in the blank’ and ‘Love is a choice so no matter who you marry he/she will be the wrong person!’ I was so thankful you said that because it put my mind at ease. Extremes in attitude are unrealistic and yet we should seek a middle ground like you mentioned.

    I just hope that women like the ones whoinsinspired you to write this (sobering) blog believe in the middle ground you spoke about. No one has to settle for a life sucking, drag me to hell, incompatible, joyless, marriage with a spouse who you’re not physically/emotionally/spiritually attracted to! Would we advise a man or woman who is discerning a religious vocation to live in a community where the other people are abusive, the spiritual fathers don’t celebrate the sacraments, and you can’t trust anyone to give spiritual direction? Would we tell them “Well, it’s not ideal but no religious community is perfect. Pray for them.” Heck no! Why do women think marriage as a sacrament should be compromising and filled with anxiety during courtship is beyond me. Please post another blog about how Bobby isn’t perfect but he’s perfect for you. Please keep posting about not settling! :)

  10. James
    August 24, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks (as always) Jackie for sharing! There is great fruit from your vocational journey, trials and perseverance. Keep at it.

    • James
      August 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Also! Have you read Love and Responsibility by St. JPII? I see hints of it throughout your writing. I am rereading it for the second time. Its a bit tough to read at times, but still worth it!

  11. K.
    September 5, 2015 at 4:43 am

    I’ve read each post on this blog several times, usually eating something; with a feeling that I’m watching a good sc-fi movie.
    I got wired to singlehood. I’ve heard fom my parents: ‘you better never get married’, ‘we don’t want to be grandparends’, ‘these two (when they heard a couple is getting married’) have no idea, what they are getting into’ many times. I know they love me, but this is just how it is. My mother always talked about holding hands or any signs of affection, emotions when it comes to coupless as unneccesary showing off.
    I just turned 23 and over years pursuing singlehood became a natural choice to me. The problem is that I started looking at people who are choosing marriage like they are creatures from another planet, let alone the fact that I became a regular princess Elsa to any guy who wants to know me a bit better, instead of politely telling them to search for happiness somewhere else.

    If you have any piece of advice which would help me to grow back in respect for people who want marriage; please, please share it with me.

    God bless you two,
    K.

    • M.
      November 17, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      Hi K.

      I grew up in a very similar situation. My parents always wanted me to focus on singlehood and a career and whenever my dad saw that someone was getting married his remark was, “Fools”. He recently pointed out to me that university researchers have found that “having children is as bad for one’s mental health as poverty or a major illness”. Knowing my parents, I know that they think they are protecting me. They did not want me to end up dissatisfied and full of regret because of something that I decide when I am 25 years old.

      1. My first piece of advice would be to examine who has helped form you in this mindset. Are they people that you want to be like? Or do you imagine that your life and attitudes would hopefully look a little differently than theirs. Even if they are your parents, do you find them to be people of faith or people of joyfulness (note: I don’t say happiness, but JOYfullness)? Have they been a positive influence on your spirit, your soul, etc? I love my parents dearly, respect them, and I hope to spend the rest of my life communicating my gratitude for all that they have done for me. However, as I’ve gotten older I have identified some behaviors and attitudes of theirs that I hope will not bring forward with me.

      2. My second piece of advice would be to broaden your social circle. Try putting yourself in situations where you might meet other middle age or older couples. I obviously don’t know your life situation, but I know that it was refreshing for me to meet people that are living joyful, adventurous lives in marriage, even with children.

      3. My third piece of advice: examine your own beliefs and place in life and accept that other people’s might be different. It does not make you better or worse, same to them. My idea of the good life when I graduated from college was to continue traveling all over the world and go to grad school. I can guarantee you that that lifestyle would have made me miserable. Luckily, I met my now fiancé who was integral in leading me closer to a moral life and God. Since meeting him, my options in life have narrowed and it may appear that I am “losing freedom”. But it does not feel like that because my soul has expanded a million times over and loving him and loving God has freed me from a previously crippling egoism. But for someone else, traveling or school might be that integral step their relationship with God and the world. I cannot begrudge them, envy them, or assume they are just plain nuts, I just have to pray that they are at peace and are doing God’s will.

      I can identify with people getting married seeming to be a bit, uh, crazy. I think the current over-the-top wedding industry also lends to that. I feel like a lot of what I see makes it feel like people are marketing their relationship to me…and it weirds me out! Just know that there are people out there who don’t treat their wedding/marriage like a Disneyworld spectacle. You just won’t see it because they are busy cherishing it, getting on with their days, and being active in their communities…not documenting every bit of it.

      My parents’ attitudes toward marriage have been confusing and have caused a lot of pain, so please be honest with yourself. It can be a little bit terrifying to think that your parents have just been gritting their teeth all these years. It sounds like right now your heart is closed to relationships. That’s okay. I wouldn’t work overtime trying to force it open. Perhaps you are being called to something else in life right now. My final piece of advice would be to quiet your heart (including your mind and body too – avoid things that could confuse or mislead you…heavy alcohol, drugs, sexual contact, etc.) so that when a person of true quality comes along, the shouting, urging, and excitement you feel inside of you will stand out, and you will know that THIS might actually be worth making yourself vulnerable for.

      My prayers are with you.

  12. malaika
    December 28, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Thank you for your wonderful post! It is so real and insightful. I think I’m gonna read your prayer everyday! It will help me through the rough patch I’m going through:)

  13. January 2, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    This such a beautiful story! finally the truth about ” happily ever after” … God bless u guys

  14. October 8, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    I prayed for a man who would look at me not with lust, but with gratitude to God for His beautiful creation. ( I was also being laughed at and mocked because of my decision to stay pure until marriage.)

    That prayer has been answered…in such a way far beyond my imagination.

    I was scanning my prayer journal, unaware of the pair of beautiful eyes which were looking at me with utter admiration. Oh how can I forget that fateful day in December 17, 2014? I was at my lowest point. I went through sudden tragic deaths of my loved-ones & it was when I gave up a promising career to pursue my love for writing. Everything felt wrong. I didn’t know when, how, & where to start. As I recalled how God has been faithful to me in the past, I decided to utter a bold prayer: “Lord, I know You called me to be Your writer. Now Lord, give me a mentor”

    I opened my eyes & there in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I saw the man who owns the pair of beautiful eyes which were looking at me intently without me even noticing. I saw him did the sign of the cross as he touched the mirror protecting the Holy Eucharist. There was nothing strange about him, except the resounding voice of God that said: “He is the one”

    I panicked, my heart was pounding heavily as I asked God: “God, do you mean ‘the one’ as my mentor or…You know…’the one’ I’ve been waiting for?”

    Before I could discern God’s answer, the man approached me. To my surprise, he gave me his calling card. He said something but I didn’t understand even a single word as I was too shocked. I accepted the calling card & inserted it in my prayer journal. I couldn’t understand why my heart was racing. With trembling hands, I took out the card with words written: “Hi. I’m a Catholic missionary & author from NZ…” I couldn’t read the words written anymore as my tears blurred my already impaired vision. The flood gates of tears in my eyes opened. I was so amazed at how God answered my prayer for a mentor right after uttering the prayer. I texted the man right away & we shared our first meal together at Max’s restaurant where we chatted for 3 hours like long lost friends.

    Everything started from there. We would always attend Mass together at St.Francis Church from which Adoration Chapel we first met. We had a morning routine of running together at 6 in the morning then we would share our reflections from the Gospel. That deepened our friendship until we became bestfriends. He was the one who comforted me & wiped my tears with his shirt when I was crying for a man I thought I loved. He listened to the cries of my heart. Since then, he has always been with me in my ups & downs.

    Our friendship blossomed & gave birth to our co-authored book “Worth The Chase (Finding Love God’s Way)”. Our book’s message is of great love, the beauty of chastity, forgiveness, and healing of the broken-hearted. It offers great hope that God loves us no matter what, that He is calling us to turn to Him totally and that we can once again seek and obtain a pure heart no matter our past. This was God’s awesome miracle as we both love to write on topics about purity & following Christ. To know more about our co-authored book, you may visit these links: http://www.facebook.com/worthchase and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V7IRN2W

    Everything wasn’t smooth sailing though. He had to go back to NZ due to his brother’s sudden death. I realized that distance really makes the heart grow fonder. Our feelings developed when we were away from each other.

    On May 20, 2015, he popped up the question that will forever change our lives: “Will you be my girlfriend?”

    I was stunned.
    I told him to hold on as I wanted to get confirmation from God first. (I had been single for 5 years since my last failed relationship with a man who couldn’t accept my decision of staying pure until marriage, then after that I fell in love with a man who came into my life just as quick as he left) I vowed to myself that I would be very careful to whom I give my heart. I asked two powerful questions: “Is he a man after God’s own heart?”
    “Is he into purity?”

    The answers to my questions are both big YES so I gave him my YES.
    He then proposed to me on November 20, 2015 at a Catholic gathering after celebrating the Holy Mass where I served as a lector and we got married on April 21, 2016 at the same Church where we first met. Our wedding night was beautiful, not just because we both waited until marriage, but also because we believe God was in our midst and has planned that beautiful night even before we were born.

    I found love God’s way.

    Brendan pursued me God’s way.

    We are not perfect. We are imperfect lovers who are loved perfectly by a perfect God.

    True love exists and it’s worth the wait. No, true love isn’t just a fairy tale. True love is for two people who are brave enough to choose to forgive and love each other every single day.
    May our love story inspire you to believe that we were made by God beautifully and wonderfully for a love that lasts forever, rather than a lust that lasts for a moment.

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