Marriage Archives

If marriage is a grand madness, as discussed in part 1 of this series, then how does one endure it?

Bono has said several times that the reason he has been able to remain faithfully married to his wife Ali for almost 30 years is because he still doesn’t really know her and there’s a creative distance between them that she manages:

Ali is the most extraordinary woman. I still can’t figure her out. I still feel I don’t know her. She’s a very mysterious woman and she’s very independent!

The U2 song A Man And A Woman is about this mysterious distance.

“It’s a song for adults, for people who have been together for a long time and who are still together,” he says.

I could never take a chance
Of losing love to find romance
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

And you’re the one, there’s no-one else
who makes me want to lose myself
In the mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman

Then there’s the song Mysterious Ways, which celebrates the mystery of woman. Like many of U2’s love songs, it can also be seen as a song to God.

U2 once wrote a song called She’s A Mystery To Me for Roy Orbison. Here’s a video with Bono singing the song. “And if my love is blind/Then I don’t want to see/She’s a mystery to me.

In the book  Achtung Baby, Stephen Catanzarite writes about how if we do not accept that mystery is at the heart of the differing natures of man and woman, then we lose the ability to appreciate the value of those differences. We’re only left with the differences.

He quotes from Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity:

Mystery is not…to be thought of as a high wall that we can neither see over nor get around. It is to be thought of rather as a gallery into which we can progress deeper and deeper, though we never reach the end – yet every step of our progress is immeasurably satisfying.

A Mystery, in short, is an invitation to the mind. For it means that there is an inexhaustible well of Truth from which the mind may drink and drink again in the certainty that the well will never run dry, that there will always be water for the mind’s thirst.

Of course not everyone thinks mystery is compatible with intimacy and inevitable conflicts occur (“our heaven turns to hell”). This will be the topic of part 3. Stay tuned.


It’s always interesting to get inspiration about a topic such as marriage from an unexpected source – in this case rock music.

As an aside, marriage is a topic that’s been written about to death and one I normally avoid writing about. The only book on marriage that interests me is Erma Bombeck’s A Marriage Made in Heaven: Or Too Tired for an Affair. She tells the details of her 45+ year marriage and the book is refreshingly free of advice and “make marriage work” mantras.

OK, back to marriage and rock music. It’s not a very Hallmarky way of going about it, but one can learn a thing or two about marriage from some of the songs U2 has released over the past 30+ years. And from their lead singer Bono, who has remained faithfully married to his childhood sweetheart for almost 30 years.

Rock music often speaks of romantic relationships at a base level (sex) or the other extreme of sappiness. Fortunately U2 doesn’t take that approach.

In a Rolling Stone interview in 1987 Bono said:

“Rock & roll, it seems, is caught up in juvenilia. Relationships are at the level of sex in the back seat of a Chevrolet. Now I’m interested in what happens further down the road — the violence of love, ownership, obsession, possession, all these things. And I think rock & roll is wide-open for a writer who can take it all down.”

This is why U2’s music has been helpful, because it explores the gray areas and the painful areas of marriage that make it hard to remain committed.The U2 song All I Want is You is a meditation about this commitment to his wife Ali.

Here’s what Bono has to say about commitment:

I don’t think being married to someone is so easy, really. But I’m interested in the idea of marriage. I think it’s madness but it’s a grand madness. If people think it’s normal, they’re out of their minds. I think that’s why a lot of people fall apart, because they’re not prepared for what it is. Once they’ve made that commitment, they think that’s the end of it, now they can rest easy.

Grand madness. Yep. Pretty much.

I’ll have more posts from time to time in this U2 Primer on Marriage series so stay tuned.


The case for loneliness

Wanting to break through the wall of loneliness is a basic instinct. It’s often at the root of many behaviors, such as changing jobs, churches, moving to a new neighborhood/city, etc.

It’s also not unusual to go through a difficult struggle and emerge from it saying, “I want to help others going through similar struggles so they won’t feel alone like I did.”

Unfortunately it seems that loneliness is inherent in many struggles. But maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.

I’m reading  The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen and he makes a case for loneliness:

But the more I think about loneliness, the more I think that the wound of loneliness is like the Grand Canyon – a deep incision in the surface of our existence which has become an inexhaustible source of beauty and understanding.

Therefore I would like to voice loudly and clearly what might seem unpopular and maybe even disturbing: The Christian way of life does not take away our loneliness; it protects it and cherishes it as a precious gift.

…Perhaps the painful awareness of loneliness is an invitation to transcend our limitations and look beyond the boundaries of our existence. The awareness of loneliness might be a gift we must protect and guard, because our loneliness reveals to us an inner emptiness that can be destructive when misunderstood, but filled with promise for him who can tolerate its sweet pain.

He goes on to say that our desire to avoid loneliness sets us up for relating to the world and other people with “devastating expectations.” For example, marriages are often ruined because neither partner was able to take completely take away the other’s loneliness.

We keep hoping that one day we will find the man who really understands our experiences, the woman who will bring peace to our restless life, the job where we can fulfill our potential, the book which will explain everything, and the place where we can feel at home.

Such false help leads us to make exhausting demands and prepares us for bitterness and dangerous hostility when we start discovering that nobody, and nothing, can live up to our absolutistic expectations.

When you start claiming your bouts of loneliness as a source of human understanding – rather than something to avoid at all costs – only then will you be able to offer real service to others who need help understanding their suffering.


Are You Getting Your Needs Met? Stop it!

Right after I wrote about  The Emma Peel Approach to Needs I came across something Dr. Ellyn Bader said about needs, which I’ll quote below. She runs The Couples Institute in California with her husband and only takes on difficult cases.

“Yes, everyone should be sure the relationship is healthy for them.  But the statement ‘be sure your needs are being met’ has done more damage to American relationships than any other statement floating around.  Needs are food, water, shelter, air to breathe, etc.  Mostly everything else is wants and desires.”

“However, most dysfunctional couples we see come to therapy with the lament, ‘I’m not getting my needs met.’  They can’t or won’t stop focusing on what the other is not doing, rather than what they themselves can do.  I wish I could erase ‘be sure your needs are getting met’ from the American lingo!”

Which reminds me of this Bob Newhart video, where he says the two words some therapists probably long to say everytime they hear, “I’m not getting my needs met.”


Communication is Overrated

Most every married person has probably said to themselves at one point, “Why does communication have to be so difficult?”

As someone who has been married almost 22 years, I came to the conclusion many years ago that communication is overrated.

A psychologist recently told me that when married people come to him and say, “We need to learn to communicate better!” he tells them that what they are really looking for is better debate skills, so they can get their way more often.

I was pleased to come across this passage in Richard Russo’s novel Straight Man, as it supports my communication is overrated theory:

One of the nice things about our marriage, at least to my way of thinking, is that my wife and I no longer have to argue everything through. We each know what the other will say, and so the saying becomes an unnecessary formality. No doubt some marriage counselor would explain to us that our problem is a failure to communicate, but to my way of thinking we’ve worked so long and hard to achieve this silence, Lily’s and mine, so fraught with mutual understanding.