To stay married after 41 years and counting

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 23, 2019 - 12:00am

In today's era of instant weddings, divorces, annulments, legal separations, abandonment of spouses, nasty court litigations, custody of children, and property ownership and possessions, I’m proud to remain married after over four decades. I got married on December 23, 1978 in the Sacred Heart Parish Church. I have two living witnesses, Congressman Eddie Gullas, my ninong, and Vice Mayor Mike Rama, my cord sponsor.

Today, my wife and I commemorate our 41st wedding anniversary, with our five children, three daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and four grandchildren. We celebrated in advance in Europe last October with a pilgrimage to many religious sites, castles, monasteries, and churches. We visited the Holy Land last year and this year is our third visit to St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.

Many of my cousins, classmates, and neighbors are now separated from their spouses. I helped them reconcile but they called it quits. So many ask me how I managed to remain married and keep my family intact, strong, and in harmony. I gave a sharing to my Marriage Encounter Community in Ateneo and in many fora on my secret formula. First of all, before I got into marriage, I adopted a self-imposed credo: Next to God, family first. I work hard in my job, but I always put God in the center of my life, and my family is my first priority. There is no success in career or business that can ever make up for failure in the family. No offense meant to the divorcees and separated ones.

To stay married requires so much sacrifice and hard work, accompanied always by prayers and the virtue of humility. I always refer to St. Paul's definition of love in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13,1-13. Patience is necessary, and large doses of selflessness. Most of those who abandoned their marriages allowed their pride, anger, and jealousy --three most damaging cardinal sins-- to get the better of them. It’s not easy to be patient, especially if you are tired, stressed, and tense from the office. Anger, when not properly managed and contained can wreak havoc in marriage and family relations. Jealousy can be corrosive too.

I made sure to control my emotions, and not allow my feelings to take over my decision making. In Ateneo, we have a community of couples, called Magis Deo, and we always lift up to God all problems that may destroy our relationship. It’s not only a third party that wrecks marriages. Money issues, in-laws, lack of time for each other, lack of constant dialogue, and even health issues can wreck a marriage. There are many things that my wife and I disagree on, including food choices, disciplining of children, management of funds, and a myriad of matters from the sublime to the mundane. But as long as we listen to each other, we shall stay together even if we constantly argue and disagree.

Even if we constantly debate and sometimes harsh words are spoken, I always say “Bad talk is better than no talk.” Just as bad breath is better than no breath. Well, marriage is a mission. Love is not a feeling but a decision. And the decision is final and cannot be appealed. Ninong Eddie and Atty. Mike, please concur.


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