“I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
“To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Those are vows – or some variation of them – that engaged couples will be pledging to one another as the 2012 wedding season dawns at St. Mary of Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament.
But as many couples in our parish plan their big days, there is sobering news.
According to a report in USA Today in December, a record-low 51 percent of adults aged 18 and older in the United States were married in 2010 compared with 72 percent in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data.
The most dramatic decline in marriage occurred among adults ages 18 to 29. Just 20 percent of them were married in 2010 compared with 59 percent in 1960. The number of new marriages in the U.S. fell 5 percent between 2009 and 2010.
The decline in marriage has been accompanied by an increase in cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood. If current trends continue, the percentage of U.S. adults who are married will fall below half within a few years, the researchers said.
Additionally, the New York Times reported that married couples have dropped below half of all American households for the first time, according to Census Bureau data. Married couples represented just 48 percent of American households in 2010. This was slightly less than in 2000 but far below the 78 percent of households occupied by married couples in 1950.
With all the bad news, why get married at all? Why not just live together?
The difference between marriage and living together is that marriage is a sacrament, and that God is part of the marriage, say members of the Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament Marriage Team.
“Marriage is for all of us a sacrament,” said Joe and Lori Siniscarco. “It is not only an expression of love between two people, but a union based on God’s love for us. He has to be the third person in a marriage. He has to be part of a marriage.”
The Siniscarcos, who will celebrate their 35th anniversary in May, have been part of the Marriage Team for eight years. The Marriage Ministry includes conducting wedding rehearsals, administrating the “Prepare” program to assist couples preparing for marriage, and conducting a day retreat for the couples that will be married in our church.
Part of the job of the team is to reinforce basic tenets before couples make their commitments.
“Couples need to go into marriage with a solid relationship, commitment, life skills, relationship skills and communication skills,” Joe and Lori said. “It is not all the preparation and the wedding day that makes the marriage, it is your commitment to each other and God.”
Mario and Carmelann Scalzo, also members of the Marriage Team, will be married 40 years in September. They agree that marriage is special.
“Remember that it is a sacrament and to keep God and their faith in the marriage ceremony and in their lives afterwards,” Carmelann said. “Keep love and God in the home and marriage. Treat each other with respect.”
Bob and Angela Ferdula have been married for almost 23 years and have been helping engaged couples for about 15. They echo that the most important point about marriage is that it is a gift from God.
“Marriage is a sacrament and a sacrament is holy,” they said. “If a couple is planning to marry in church, they should know this and treasure this.”
A couple typically goes into marriage full of love and hope. Eventually, the honeymoon ends and reality sets in. That’s when the work really beings.
As the vows say, in good times and in bad, for better or for worse.
Mario said struggling through the hard times and disagreements are the worst part of being married. So, how does a couple cope without having to Google a lawyer?
Once again, this is when it’s time to count on your faith.
“Support each other, rely on family, relatives and friends for support, and your faith,” Joe and Lori advise. “God is the third piece of marriage.”
For young couples, the Siniscarcos suggest to “talk to each other, talk with someone else, and wait until you are ready.”
“We not only want God’s blessing, but we want his love, support and his teachings to help support and grow the marriage.”
Bob and Angela also said talking to each other is crucial.
“Be truthful and do not hold anything back because it will come back to haunt you,” they said. “Discuss, discuss. And if headway is not made, seek counseling.”
So, with all the bad news, how do couples make a marriage survive?
“Marriage is a full-time job,” Bob and Angela said. “You always have to consider each other’s feelings. Communicating always helps.”
Joe and Lori agree.
“Communication is key,” they said. “Second, is learn how to forgive. It is easy to say you’re sorry but more difficult to forgive.
“Learn to appreciate each other, treat each other with respect; enjoy life,” they added.
The Scalzos say there are three factors that make a good marriage: “Love a lot, laugh a lot and live a lot.”
And when a marriage is good, it’s very good.
The best part of being married?
“Sharing and knowing your partner is there for you,” Bob and Angela said. “Two people become one but without losing their individuality.”
Carmelann said it’s important knowing your partner always will be there with you.
“Being together and sharing all the ups and downs,” Carmelann said is the best part of being wed. “Spending time with someone who cares for you and loves you unconditionally.”
— Fran Perritano