Welcome to this installment of RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY. In this series, guest authors* share about all the challenging realities of marriage.
Marriage today is rarely presented realistically or positively. Hollywood and the media promote Disney fairytales where couples “live happily ever after.” Or marriage is demonized as an unnecessary complication when hooking up and cohabitation will do just as well.
But what about the Catholic who still believes in the sanctity of marriage, including its permanence? Is it even possible for couples to remain connected to one another through all of life’s struggles and suffering? YES. In RELATABLE: LOVE, ACTUALLY, we will feature authentic, honest, and hopeful stories by real Catholic women about the journey of marriage. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, after all, and we want to give a voice to those couples struggling with infertility, infidelity, miscarriage, mental illness, addiction, and financial stress. We want to give hope by sharing stories of those who have weathered those crosses and come out stronger for them. These stories will reassure strugglings wives that you are not alone. And that with God’s help, there is a way forward, even if you just take baby steps, one day at a time.
*While some authors may post anonymously for privacy reasons, we assure you that each story is authentic and reflects the journey of a real person.
Expecting #8 in December, I thought now might be a good time to reflect on my marriage and, in particular, the man I married (because duh, right?). It also helps that today, September 23, is our anniversary.
Padre Pio knew exactly what he was getting into with the two of us when we chose that day.
The thing is, neither of us was really entrenched in the Faith at the time we married. That would change over the years, as children so often challenge us to do, but one thing we had going for us then still works in our favor even to this day. And the one thing that was our biggest stumbling block would prove to be our single biggest challenge time and again.
THE TEST THAT WOULD SET THE MARITAL TONE
You see, our wedding prep classes involved a very lengthy test that covered several areas of our lives. The goal was to highlight the important things we’d discussed together as a couple as well as uncover areas we still needed to…dig into. Our results were scored like any regular test, 0-100% and of all our tests, our lowest scored test was still pretty dang good – 86% if I am recalling correctly. We scored 100% in communication and 86% in domestic responsibilities.
What that resulted in was the ease of communicating about the one thing we both disagreed about – who would do the dishes and take out the trash?
Through the years, our communication method would became dated. What once seemed sufficient enough to convey wants and needs became a source of stalemates and cold wars. Or hot wars and too many unnecessary words were said. Though we often talked about finding outside help to assist us in healthier ways to communicate, opportunities never materialized.
It was too expensive.
We didn’t have sitters for the weekend away.
It didn’t fit into our already busy schedules.
The desire to better ourselves as spouses and as a united couple remained in spite of those obstacles, so we just kept chipping away at it.
We weren’t professionals. We didn’t really know what we were doing. But we knew what the end goal was and that laser focus was what helped and continues to help guide and shape our marriage goals.
We aren’t perfect. Far from it. And there are a lot of days when we get it 100% all wrong and have to regroup. And were it not for the knowledge that we have the same end goal regardless of current frustrations and life to work through, we might have given up.
But giving up has never been an option, though there have certainly been moments and hours where the next steps were unknown. And giving up will never be an option. Though we are not the same people who stood on that altar, making a vow to God, self, and spouse, we have continued to travel in the same direction – sometimes hand in hand and sometimes separate paths side by side, but always within view of each other. Not only has sacramental marriage left an indelible mark on each of us, so has life as we’ve each faced challenges through the years. I wouldn’t want to be the young lady at the altar anymore. She wouldn’t be able to handle all of life’s challenges as I do. And the love I feel for my husband today is very different from all those years ago. Like a fine wine, it’s aged and the enhanced by all the years. Our experiences and challenges have caused that love to grow in ways we couldn’t have foreseen.
So, just how exactly are we loving each other this many years into marriage? And how are we guarding and protecting our marriage from spiritual attack? It’s all ebb and flow over the years, but this is where we are now.
- Pray. And pray well. Whatever you do for the day, make sure you have built in time for that touchpoint with God. Individual, of course, but also as a couple. There is nothing more eye opening – and keeps your intentions more grounded – than to know your spouse’s needs and gratitudes. At a loss for what to do? There’s a plethora of options – off the cuff prayers, rote prayers (rosary, novenas), Lectio Divina using daily Scripture, contemplative prayer, spending time in Adoration or in front of the Tabernacle in the church, turning off the radio and letting your mind float toward God, videos and podcasts…anything that gets the wheels turning toward prayer.
- Go to Mass…together. Think about your witness in the pews to those around you. I get it, kids get sick, spouses travel, we have events and things that come up, we get sick ourselves, too, but make the default be to go to Mass together as a couple and family. I invite you to compare and contrast the experience of going to Mass with and without your spouse.
- Keep the stagnant at bay. Though we are both introverts and homebodies drawn to relaxing evenings at home with nothing more than some store bought steaks (usually a filet or ribeye), mashed or baked potatoes, jalapeño poppers, and a beer or Mike’s in hand…where was I going with this? Now I’m hungry, lol. Oh yeah, connect with your spouse through simplistic activities that can be done in the home.
- Daily check ins. This took some time to cultivate with intention, but it is something we now do on the daily. No more being self absorbed or thinking the other doesn’t care. We each share how our day went and since we are both problem solvers by nature (I’m weird, I’m not the typical gal who just needs to vent to be heard or validated first…I like solutions and I like to give solutions), we end up problem solving and trouble shooting things as they come up.
- Affection – lotsa affection. One of us has affection as our love language. And one of us struggled for years trying to be that affectionate, loving tender spouse. But you know what? After lots of prayer and Come to Jesus internal talks, it finally happened. The one of us who craves that touch is now met by a spouse who actually wants to receive and initiate those hand holdings and random hugs.
- The little things that say I love you. Knowing each other’s love language is gold. It’s not to say the execution is perfect, but the end goal is clear. If you are someone for whom service is important, then perhaps your spouse getting you coffee in the morning is like the CAT’S MEOW. That would be me. And I tend to speak in that same love language. I am forever asking the kids and my husband what they need from the store when I put my curbside grocery list together. It’s not so much that I don’t want them to be without as it is making sure they don’t have that added stress of not having the things they need to get through the day – like deodorant or toothpaste, lol. Or creamer for the coffee…oof!
- Talk about money. And talk about it often. Even if only one of you directly handles the finances, both spouses really should be on the same page and in the know about finances and financial goals. Try opening up a discussion ON payday. See what bills are coming up and, if you are dealing with debt, come up with a game plan to obliterate that debt. The more you talk about money, the more freeing it is, even when there’s too much month at the end of your money.
- Go OUT on dates. It doesn’t even have to be fancy, like a dinner out or a movie! Go to Costco, to the outlet mall to walk and window shop, even to a furniture store to think about the next piece of furniture you are considering, just having that time together is valuable. The last two don’t cost anything…the trip to Costco might be a serious temptation for you – I know it is for us, lol. Go in for one thing, yeah RIGHT.
- Remember, you are a TEAM. It’s too easy to get wrapped up in all the mom things and all the dad things. We are first and foremost a COUPLE and everything flows from that. When you care for your marriage, only good things flow from that love. The current push in society is to put the kids first, but I’m here to gently, but firmly remind you that you married your husband/wife, not your children. Taking care of yourself, your marriage, and spouse – spiritually and otherwise, is putting the oxygen mask on FIRST. Children are not harmed by two parents who truly love and sacrifice for each other.
And there you have it. These are but a few of the ways that we currently nourish and love each other well. It’s what I call a rolling discernment to assess how best we can love the other. What are some things that work for you, dear friend? I would love to read your suggestions and tips in the comments.
SPIRITUAL RESOURCES AND HEALING
WHERE TO START?
RETROUVAILLE – A Lifeline for Married Couples
THE ALEXANDER HOUSE – Offering Hope & Healing for Marriage, Family & Relationships
BELOVED: FINDING HAPPINESS IN MARRIAGE – offered through FORMED.ORG (ask your parish for the code to access this program for free)
- EXTENSIVE LIST OF WEBSITES AND BOOKS aimed at working on marriage skills, devotionals, sex and intimacy, forgiveness to healing from infidelity, pornography addiction, workaholism, substance abuse, and depression through Retrouvaille.
- THE FOUR KEYS TO EVERLASTING LOVE
In the privacy of your own home, you can begin to heal your marriage. CLICK HERE to start the process.