By Vernon Khelawan, firstname.lastname@example.org
In less than a week my dear wife Joan and myself will celebrate 55 years of (they say) wedded bliss. I put a different connotation to that word ‘bliss’ where marriage is concerned.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It has been a beautiful and exciting journey so far. Courtship was great, engagement even greater. Marriage, with all its ups and downs, was and is a vastly different affair.
I say this because years-long marriage anniversaries are becoming rarer and rarer as the decades pass. Is it because the bond of marriage is becoming more difficult? Maybe.
Today we live in a totally different world. Women are independent. So independent that they don’t even wish to get married, but in the majority of cases they want to have children.
My parents, (both deceased) were married for 62 years. The difference—she never worked. She was totally dependent on my father. Today, the majority of wives work—independent and qualified.
We considered marriage such an important institution not only for the Church, but for the entire country, we pioneered the Marriage Encounter in the Archdiocese.
As a matter of fact, the initial meeting, through talks with Fr Brendan Clifford, was held at my home on St John Road, St Augustine. We had just returned from living in St Croix, USVI where we had participated in the movement, so it was not difficult to share our knowledge with a small committee to kick start the Movement.
We participated in the first two weekends and then switched to another marriage-oriented programme —Marriage Preparation.
We then spent 42 years working with the Family Life Commission in this programme lecturing to engaged couples in the parishes of St Joseph, Chaguanas, Diego Martin, the Cathedral in Port of Spain and our own Tunapuna parish. We also did several sessions in Antigua, while I was practising my profession on that island.
We have had good feedback over those years, that is not to say we have had our share of disappointments. Though different now, the programme continues with other couples leading the charge.
Marriage continues to be exciting but this country’s disregard for convention, tradition, and morals, makes it mandatory for the Church to ensure that it continues the programme.
Take it from me, a marital union is not an easy thing. After 55 years, Joan and I still have arguments and disagreements, but faithfulness and understanding mixed with a large dose of forgiveness always prevail.
Marriage’s biggest challenge is infidelity. Whether you refer to it as ‘horn’ or ‘cheating’, it’s going against the sacred vows you made the day of your wedding how many years before.
But it’s not the only challenge—finances, illness, job relationships and rearing your children. Of course, there are many more that married couples are called upon to address. So, as we move around, married couples should help each other, since so many of the problems experienced in such a journey are so similar.
So, while it is always easy to ‘hook up’, the commitment involved in a marriage is much greater and more serious. Walking away from a ‘hook up’ arrangement is a simple procedure. Just walk. But to get a divorce or separation in a full- fledged marriage takes a lot more—children’s welfare, plenty of wasted time, lawyers etc.
The Church is right therefore to continue all sorts of programmes related to marriage. In this digitalised world in which we live, it has become so important. It is a truly serious commitment and must be treated as such by both parties. In this world of same sex ‘marriages’ and ‘live with’ situations, children become stressed out and unbecoming behaviour prevails.
Marriage is absolutely divine and a fantastic sacrament. It is not smooth sailing. It is filled with ups and downs. Let us help the Church to teach how to make unions stable and long-lasting.
Joan and I wish to extend our deepest condolences to Wilfred Holder on the recent death of his loving wife Kay. As couples we worked assiduously to successfully bring the Marriage Encounter movement to Trinidad and Tobago. Wilfred, you have our total love.