Avoid having our relationships on life support

By Innocent Maziya

We do not wait for our cars to breakdown before we take them for service, we don’t wait until we are ill before we go for medical check-ups (at least we shouldn’t). Instead, we try to make sure that our cars are regularly serviced and we give our bodies the necessary attention, eating well, exercising, to keep them healthy. This is what we do for everything that we love and from which we expect so much.

This is the sentiment that inspired three couples from Couples For Christ to make the necessary sacrifices and join a couples retreat at St. Lucia Retreat Centre.

We all love our marriages, our families and we expect so much from them. This is where we expect to get love and attention, spiritual growth, psychosocial support and many other things. For our marriages to continue providing us with these we need to nurture them and ensure that they can provide these. In this way our marriages can be viewed at as living, breathing, growing things that give as much as their capacity allows them to give. It is up to us to increase that capacity. As in all living things, when our marriages are not growing then surely they are dying.

Before we can expect to enjoy the fruits from a tree, we need to plant it nurture it, allow it to grow and then, and only then can we enjoy the fruits. Marriage is an asset to us because we get so much from it. Like any other asset, you can only get what you invest in it. How else would you expect to get the benefits of marriage without first applying the necessary effort. True some marriages need more work than others, but they all need attention. If anyone enjoys the benefits of marriage without any effort, the obvious conclusion is that someone is putting in double the effort to make it work.

The Retreat Director, Fr. Sifiso Mchunu, of the Order of the Servants of Mary, shared a wealth of information with couples during the retreat. This information sharing was punctuated by Liturgy and, of course, a couple of visits to the beach.

The retreat covered familiar topics. Those topics that are covered from the very first time, when couples prepare for marriage. That very time when issues of venue, theme colour, catering and how to manage that boisterous uncle during the ceremony, occupied our minds more than the life we will be living after the ceremony. These issues, presented by different people over time and seen through a different lens that has been clarified by life’s experiences, are seen and understood differently over time. Hopefully with better clarity. It is this journey of rediscovering new meaning of everyday experiences in our day to day life that makes us grow and become better spouses, parents and human beings.

The theme for the retreat was “Umshado wase-Cana Emishadweni Yethu” (The Wedding of Cana in our own Marriages) and the anchor verse was “Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while…” (Mk. 6:31). The anchor verse reinforced the need, every once in a while, to remove ourselves from our work and responsibilities to rejuvenate and reflect before we return to our different vocations. The theme explored the way wine ran out during the wedding in Cana, reflecting on how wine runs out in our marriages and who we turn to when the wine runs out.

It would not be a couples retreat without a reflection on communication in marriages. Most problems in any relationship, be it work or social, are created by or made worse by poor communication. The Retreat Director covered this topic very well including suggestions on improving communication and some pitfalls to avoid in order to have good communication.

This retreat reinforced for me, the need to always be open to learning when it comes to marriage issues, to realise that there are always new ways of improving my relationship.

There is this uniformed reluctance to join such retreats. Some feel it is a waste of time, others feel ashamed to admit they need help, yet others feel they are ok and do not need such. Remember that when you visit the doctor for a check-up or take the car for service, you don’t only prevent problems before they start but also discover problems that you did not know existed and thus have an opportunity to deal with them before they have serious outcomes. And here some people would say that this creates problems that were not there. Truth is that they were there, just not seen or openly acknowledged. Let us also remember that handling a problem while it is still manageable is far easier than dealing with its outcomes.

Drivers know that if you ignore a small thing like oil change, you may find yourself overhauling the whole engine. If you ignore a small thing like drinking enough water every day, you may find yourself relying on a dialysis machine. Let us do our part to avoid having our relationships on life support.