Along Rte 28A in Falmouth on Cape Cod there used to be this quaint, seasonal café that a good friend and I loved to frequent. The building that housed the café was really just an ordinary old barn. However, when the café’s owner returned each summer and arranged three or four small umbrella-covered tables on the cut grass just beyond the yawning barn doors, and charmingly decorated each table with a hand-woven scarf and a colorful glass jar bursting with wild flowers, the barn underwent a Cinderella-style transformation and became a most inviting spot. Classical music often drifted out of the barn and a lovely, Romanesque birdbath tucked into the nearby tall grass brought song birds to the patio area providing the final charming touches.
The café was the baby of a man who traveled from France to Cape Cod every summer. There were probably a few more customers than just my friend and I, especially when the weather was warm and the walkers were out doing their thing, but I never remember feeling rushed or crowded. The café’s atmosphere and the owner’s manner of French hospitality made us feel so singularly important that my friend and I would begin driving by the closed barn in early May always hoping to be there on the first day that the barn doors were unbolted and swung open.
The sad turn to my story is that not only did my friend move away, but also for three full summers afterward I waited and watched for those barn doors to open again, but to no avail. The hefty wooden beam securing the huge barn doors remained in place and only the occasional twitter of a solitary songbird filled the air. After three seasons of its owner’s absence, the weeds and briars consumed the patio area and completely shrouded the Romanesque birdbath. Walkers passing by on a warm summer morning would have no reason to think that the barn ever contained anything more than rusty tools, spider webs, and mouse nests.
Sometimes after being married for some period of time, spouses can become like that café. What used to be the most inviting “spot” of our joint lives (our spousal relationship) gets closed up and overlooked. Instead of working to charm and woo our spouse to come and spend a little time with us, we get busy tending to what seem to be more pressing matters like paying the mortgage, volunteering at church, and helping the kids with homework.
Most often ours is not a purposeful act of abandonment. Small children and grown children alike, careers and volunteer activities both can be very demanding. Life has this way of getting intense, and frankly, I think keeping an open, intimate relationship with a spouse takes even more time, focus, and energy, than does running a café. But the rewards are greater too–much greater–because the ultimate goal of being a spouse is to help our better half get to heaven.
One of the most important ways I’ve found to maintain openness in my marriage is to remain, first and foremost, open to God. Instead of letting the secular media inform my perspectives on love, sex, and marriage, I try to allow daily scripture reading and prayer, attentiveness to the Holy Spirit during Mass, and fellowship with other Christians enlighten my outlook on these things.
Being open to God inevitably helps me to desire the virtues I need to make my husband feel singularly important on an ongoing basis instead of rushed along and crowded out of my life. Another way I’ve found to make my husband feel singularly important is establish a regular time for us to be alone and to maintain that time with the same rigidity that I would any meeting for work, school, or church.
Remembering the sharp contrast between that same spot on Rte 28A when it is a closed, old barn and when it is an open, charming café has been instrumental in helping me desire to be more like the latter for my husband. In any season, I hope it can help all married couples recognize the value of lifting the bolt(s) and opening up to our spouses, again, even or especially if we have been closed to them for too long.
(© 2011 Heidi Bratton)