By Niobe Rodrigues
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a not-so-well-known definition for the word ‘widow’ as: “a woman whose spouse or partner leaves her alone or ignores her frequently or for long periods to engage in a usually specified activity”. When we encounter two of the widows in the Bible one is the widow of Zarephath, and the second is the widow in the temple. While these women would most likely have outlived their husbands, I chose the second meaning for widow to relate to women (and men) who feel alone in their marriage. The definition does not give an impression of abandonment or separation, but simply neglecting to spend time with the spouse.
Marriage is never what anyone expects. No matter how well or how long one has known the other partner, living together as man and wife demands one’s “whole livelihood”. What does that mean? Long before the couple gets to the good stuff, they must strengthen their connection, develop the art of communication, learn how to resolve conflict, understand the power of forgiveness, consider the impact of family on their marriage and lastly, examine intimacy in their union.
How do I know? These were the topics in a recently concluded online workshop held by The Carmelite Marriage Course Team that my husband and I attended. The sessions ran for seven weeks and ended the weekend before our 16th wedding anniversary. One might think after 16 years, shouldn’t one know the other well enough to not have to spend time on workshops like these? For the answer to that question one can look at For King and Country’s song ‘Pioneers’.
In verse two, wife and husband sing:
There’s a song that we sang on our honeymoon
I remember all the words but forgot the tune
Why are we out of tune?
Let’s forgive and let’s forgive again
I’m reaching out to my sweetest friend
Can we start again?
Marriage, while it’s a journey, it is also a cycle of peaks and troughs, highs and lows, joys and frustrations, oases and deserts, spaces and togetherness (see Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet). The workshop asked us to recall what we did in the past before we met each other, before we were married, before our honeymoon song, before we stopped speaking the words we used to say to each other, before the tone of our conversation and communication changed or became more rare. We were encouraged to reach out to the one we love to learn and start again.
Perhaps in your marriage all you have to give right now is two small coins—your two cents as it were. Give your two cents with love, not in anger, resenting that you have given so many times without your spouse’s reciprocation. Maybe you are on your last bit of flour in your relationship, your last bit of oil, but the heat of the Holy Spirit and the words of a counsellor or priest could help to increase your joy in your marriage again. It is possible that your fear would disappear and you could see another and a better year together. Let us work to end the widowhood and widowerhood in marriages where both partners are still alive. Let’s start with what little we have. When you’re at the bottom, the only way you can go is up.