Blake and Brooke Sittler of Saskatoon say marriage is changing for the better.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Blake and Brooke Sittler of Saskatoon say marriage is changing for the better.

March 3, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Marriage is better now than ever. The old idea of marriage with the wife at home wearing a mini-apron as she waits for her husband is an idealized, romanticized, impoverished view of marriage, maintain Blake and Brooke Sittler.

Sadly, "We play into it and still yearn romantically for that and to our children and in society that has virtually no meaning anymore," the Saskatoon couple said at the annual celebration of World Marriage Day at St. Albert's Holy Family Church Feb. 23.

The Sittlers said the idea of an infatuated small nuclear family that's totally self-sustaining with no need for the community, no need for the in-laws, and no need for hurts, bumps and forgiveness has hurt us all.

That idea has taken away the important language around the place of marriage in society as a communal institution where two people can love one another in a sacramental way, they said.

Blake is co-director of pastoral services for the Diocese of Saskatoon and Brooke is a tax lawyer with the federal government. They got married in 1995 and have three teenage children.

"Blake is my lover, my best friend and my favourite person in the whole world," declared Brooke before more than 30 couples attending the celebration.

The couple said they are not experts on marriage, just two people who share openly the difficulty and struggle of the sacrament of marriage. For years now they have been preparing couples for marriage. They speak on sexuality and spirituality.

On World Marriage Day they encouraged participants "to be a couple that lives marriage in such a way with so much love, with so much compassion and so much forgiveness for each other that people look at us and say, 'We want that.'"

During their presentation the Sittlers reflected on Jesus' words, "No one pours new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined" (Matthew 9.17).

"We don't have the perfect marriage; that's the message we have been trying to convey for 18 years," Brooke said. "We fight every single day and when my daughter Elizabeth, who is 15, asked me 'Mom, what's one thing you would like me to know about marriage?' I told her, 'It's harder than it looks.'

"I want my children to know that. I want them to know that Blake and I started our marriage like two jagged rocks and we have been rubbing up against each other for 18 years and we are smoother as a result. That's what marriage is."

The Sittlers celebrated their 25th anniversary of dating on Valentine's Day with a date, during which Blake realized how much his wife had changed during their 18-year marriage.

ALWAYS CHANGING

"I thought I knew this woman intimately, I thought I could guess her answers but she was giving me new answers and I was realizing that one of the greatest lies we are told in the Catholic Church is that when you marry, you are married to one person and one person forever," Blake said.

"The lie is that this person is always changing. She was growing, she was changing and she was growing and changing me."

Keeping with the celebration's theme, Brooke recommended her audience to pour new wine into new wineskins.

"That's our message for you. We ask you to consider the new wine of marriage for yourselves. Your own marriages are evolving every single day and as the years go by you are new people to one another," she said.

"Blake and I and our perceptions of who we were on our wedding day are the old wineskins. That wineskin will burst with what we are now to one another, the way that we have changed and grown."

The couple encouraged participants to develop a new language around marriage and marriage preparation. They described marriage as two people choosing to love one another like Jesus loved humanity when he died on the cross.

TORMENTORS FORGIVEN

Beaten up, the crucified Jesus forgave his tormentors because they didn't know what they were doing. After he died, he rose again. "The love he has for humanity is resurrection love. It's enough to totally overcome death and sin," Brooke pointed out.

"Our message to you is that love, that covenant love, that self-sacrificing outpouring of love where we forgive and we continue to give 100 per cent of ourselves to the person that we have chosen will be a resurrection love.

"It will be enough to bring them back to life in times when they are not able to do it on their own, and it will also overcome the small sins and death that every one of us experience in marriage."

Quality of life

Good things have happened to marriage and family life over the last 50 years, Blake said. "The quality of life in the marriage has increased in terms of the egalitarian nature of the back and forth between men and women."

Spousal abuse and child abuse, while they still exist, are talked about now. "We have brought these issues to light, and there are places where these people can go."

While nobody wants divorce for friends and family, previously it meant financial desolation for the woman and her children, Blake said. "Now there are supports, there are financial support laws; there are practices in place so while it is still destructive and hurtful at least it's not as destructive."

Divorce wasn't spoken about in the past. "If a woman went to a priest even 30 years ago and said, 'I'm having trouble in my marriage,' the response that she got was, 'This is your cross to bear my daughter,'" Blake related.

"It was a very unfortunate use of this theology of crucifixion because this is not what Jesus did on the cross."

A GREAT TIME

Things have improved greatly, Blake said, citing as example the expansion of women and men's options. "This is a great time to be a man married nowadays because we have so many more options. When Brooke wanted to go back to work, I stayed home with the kids," he recounted.

The old concept of marriage - the small house with the white picket fence where everybody puts on a mask that everything is alright - is old wine, according to Blake.

Today, it is alright "to tell our kids it's harder than it looks but it's a wine worth opening; it's a wine worth living out fully."