The Four Major Hurdles to Marital Happiness, Part Two

Our previous post explored the challenges that children bring to a marriage, and some of the financial implications of living together as husband and wife.  This second piece focuses on two other subjects that married couples need to resolve lovingly, those being sex and the equitable sharing of household tasks.

About Sex

The Church’s teachings on sex and intimacy in marriage have evolved greatly over the past 25 years.  Historically, it was one of those things Catholics just didn’t talk about, as you could even get in trouble talking about it in some places, such as parochial schools.

Since the publication of Theology of the Body and the books that discuss it—The Good News About Sex and Marriage being first and foremost—there are many Catholic resources out there for couples seeking both physical and emotional intimacy in the marital bed. 

The Love’s Sacred Embrace retreats at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are centered on Theology of the Body, on connecting the physical and spiritual aspects of our marriages with Christ’s marriage to His Church.  If we ignore the spiritual side of our marriage, it’s easy to get caught up in the secular elements—the ones that come at you in the hundreds—that put a serious strain on relationships.

There will be plenty more posts on the topic of sex within sacramental marriage.  For now, let us simply acknowledge that our physical relationship with our spouse is a gift from God, an integral part of sacramental marriage.  As Catholics, we are called to celebrate our marriages—to our spouse, and as part of the Body of Christ—fully in both their spiritual and human aspects.

Last word on this subject—it’s okay to have sex with your spouse.  In fact, it’s VERY okay.  It is a living re-presentation of your marriage vows.  And do you even KNOW what The Touch of Eden is?  You’ll have to attend a retreat at OLMC to find out! 

About the Division of Labor

The commentary on the Mass two weeks ago addressed an idea that has been floating around in my head for awhile, but one that I’ve never been able to adequately express.  It is the Servant-Leader, and its importance was immediately visible to me as regards marriage enrichment.

Clearly, the commentary was focused on Jesus as the ultimate Servant-Leader, the savior who came to earth not to be served, but to serve.  This model, of service to the ones we love, is a perfect template for bringing harmony to our marriages.

The Division of Labor argument typically finds both spouses feeling put upon and unappreciated for all they do, and usually provokes some form of hostility.  In the background of this argument is the suggestion that neither spouse wants to do a heckuva lot more than what they’re already doing to keep the wheels on.  It is this orientation, which is completely human and understandable, that must be re-examined in order for couples to escape repeated instances of this dispute.

As with most things Christian, the answer is paradoxical.  The answer is to seek opportunities to serve your spouse, above and beyond the call, so to speak.  Volunteer to take early duty with the kids on both Saturday and Sunday one weekend.  Play checkers with his dad while he goes to a pub on Sunday to watch the Colts.  Come home early and make dinner for her book club.

Jesus was the model of the Servant-Leader, and we as husbands and wives are called to serve one another.  The side effect, of course, is that both spouses are happier, and a cycle of service can help these small acts of service become a way of life.  One that works both ways.  Not-so-random acts of kindness that anticipate needs and are offered up without being asked.  Leaning into one another, in small ways, rather than leaning away.

For those with too much to do, the answer is to seek one’s partner, and volunteer to do more.  Negotiate where the time will come from.  Seek “Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Appreciation” for your efforts.  Enlist the help of The Holy Spirit.  Your spouse will usually reciprocate, and offer to help you in some way, almost always without being asked.  Repeat, and repeat again.  Release the power of your faith.  Give it up, and see if The Holy Spirit doesn’t lighten your load.

Summary

If you and your spouse are spending a great deal of your time arguing, it may be that you could benefit from some coaching in some common areas of discord. The marriage enrichment ministry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel wishes to be a resource to help improve your marriage.  Our bi-annual retreats and monthly Marriage on Tap events are great places to meet other Catholic couples with similar concerns and an interest in creating an environment that supports marriage in our community.

* * * * *

If things in your marriage have moved too far along for the kind of informal support we provide in this ministry, we recommend you seek help from Third Option, a Catholic support group for marriages in trouble.

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