12 Years, 12 Lessons

Another post from the surprisingly insightful editors at Huffington Post.  Huff may not be your cup of team when it comes to politics, but they run some great articles on the subject of marriage.  Even with the secular bent, there are useful tips here.

Parents and kidsHere are some comments on the lessons that resonate with me:

  • 50/50 expectations inevitably lead to keeping score.  We have argued here that a 60/40 balance, where each spouse is willing to give 60% in exchange for 40% (and an equity position in the marriage) reduces score-keeping which, in turn, reduces arguments over who is carrying the load and who is slacking.  If your spouse is slacking big time–usually the husband, in my opinion–you need to address it, but in a friendly, non-confrontational manner.
  • Courtship cannot end when she says, “I do.”  Even in this age of liberated women (most of whom seem to be in their 40’s and older) husbands are well-advised to go the extra mile to keep the home fires burning, as it were.  Planning and executing rejuvenating date nights is harder than it was pre-kids, but you need to do it anyway. And wives, please don’t forget that your husbands still relish the thought of being seduced by you every now and again.  Just sayin’.
  • Digging in when it gets hard.  Marriage is pretty easy when things are going well, but when life throws us a curve or, worse yet, a beanball, couples need to lean into one another with resolve to weather the storm.  This compares to a previous essay describing the attitude of millennials toward marriage, in which it seems preferable to be able to just wash one’s hands and walk away into a new relationship.
  • Being here now–proximity does not equal presence.  If the two of you spend couple on cell phonesyour time at a romantic little restaurant on your phones, you’re missing out.  Establishing boundaries, such as turning off your phone when you get home from work, will enhance the intimacy in your relationship.  The job stuff will always be there tomorrow; the same cannot be said of your spouse.
  • My wife Nancy facilitates Bible study and recently drew a comparison between attendees who consume Bible study versus those who create it.  Applying the same contrast to marriage, if we are to manage a successful long term relationship we must do more than simply consume the benefits.  We must create, through curiosity, conversation, comfort and consideration, an environment in which both spouses enjoy the pleasures of an intimate relationship with one another. Guys, here’s a news flash–being happily married is not simply her job.
  • As Christians, we are called to forgive one another, even our enemies and those who wish us harm.  Forgiving one another, graciously and completely, is an important element of marriage.  If we are to forgive sworn enemies, are we not to forgive our best friend, our closest confidant, our lover and life partner?  Some marriages, in which cheating, lying, addictions and violence are routine, may exist outside the boundaries of forgiveness, in need of dissolution/annulment.  But in the majority of marriages, we should emulate God, be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

WeddingValentine’s Day is coming soon.  What are YOU planning to show your spouse how much you love being married?

Love's Sacred Embrace Masthead

Marriage Secrets Of Highly Successful Couples

This is the first, and perhaps last, link to an article on Huffington Post you’ll ever find on this blog.  The majority of articles in Arianna’s rag that discuss popular culture are not suitable for a Catholic/Christian site.  The fact that Denise McGonigal and I tripped over the same article could be a coincidence.  If you don’t believe in coincidences, then it must be The Holy Spirit continuing to work in mysterious ways.

Of course, many of these 10 Secrets are familiar to followers of this blog.  The one that struck me as new and refreshing is No. 9 – Successful couples adhere to the 60/40 rule.  This argues that, contrary to popular belief, healthy marriages are not a 50/50 proposition.  Instead, we are called to commit to a 60-40 posture, in which we give 60 and look for 40 in return.  The secret is for both spouses to adopt this posture.  When we are both happy to give a little more than we receive in return, the rough patches get smoothed out more easily, and occur less frequently.

Our friend John Gottman gets a shout out in here, as does the poet Robert Browning, who observed, “Success in marriage is more than finding the right person: It is being the right person.”  I’m sure there are a lot of divorcees out there who learned this last lesson the hard way.  In other words, wherever you go, there you are.

Check out the next Marriage on Tap tab at the top of the page.  God bless you and your spouse.

Marriage and the Mass

By Christine Burrows

Last Saturday, Peter and I attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s monthly Marriage on Tap event. This month’s speaker was Dr. Tim Heck who spoke, admittedly on a fresh topic for him, about how marriage reflects the liturgy of the Mass. I hadn’t heard anything like this before, so I took some notes. Here’s my summary of Dr. Heck’s message.

Sacred LoveThinking about the elements of the Mass, Dr. Heck took each one and drew a comparison to marriage. For instance, the entrance song at Mass is intended to be a joyful coming together. We sing with enthusiasm and anticipation. In our liturgy of marriage, we should seek to re-enter it with a joyful spirit, welcoming what’s to come. Ideally, we should do this on a daily basis, regularly reaffirming our marriages as a celebration of God’s plan for mankind.

Get it? It kind of works! So, here are the other comparisons he drew:

  • The blessing: As the priest does at the beginning of Mass, spouses should offer one another words and prayers of hope and encouragement.
  • Penitential Rite: As we acknowledge our sins and sinfulness before God, we should pray for the grace to be Jesus to our spouses by being able to forgive at all times.
  • Gloria: Here’s where we give praise and honor and thanksgiving to God. Let’s hear an Hallelujah for our marriages! Shout it out, or at least live it out with true thanksgiving for the sacrament.
  • Liturgy of the Word: Just as we seek to have the Word of God penetrate our minds and orient us toward the eternal, we should seek to use our own words (spoken and written) to inspire our spouses and seek Godliness in one another.
  • Homily: As we hear the Word of God in the readings and Gospel, we turn to the homily to educate and motivate us. Similarly, we should weave God’s language into our dialogue with our spouses.
  • Profession of Faith: When we stand to proclaim our shared faith, we present ourselves as a community of believers. So, too, should our marriage profess our devotion to the sacrament and to each other.
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist: This one requires a whole lesson on Theology of the Body, but, in an abbreviated sense, it’s about physical union. When we receive the Eucharist, we physically bring Christ into ourselves. In the sacrament of marriage, we unite sacramentally and physically.
  • Sign of Peace: We may see this part of Mass as a simple greeting, but it’s also a way of reconciling with one another. In our marriages, we should bring peace to one another; reconcile and forgive often. Say (and mean) “I love you.”
  • Silent Contemplation: As we end Mass, contemplating the greatness of God and the privilege to join with Him in Holy Eucharist, so, too, are we called to reflect on and give thanks for our marriage. Breathe in the grace of the sacrament. 

What do you think? Does it work as a way to consider your own marriage sacramentally? I’m thinking it might be another way to reflect on how our faith and the rituals within it transcend the actions of attending Mass or rote prayer. When we have parallels to think about that tie us back to our “real lives” it often gives us a greater sense of wonder in the routine. I hope next time you’re at Mass, you remember just one of these and think about your marriage, and maybe head back home with a re-commitment your spouse.

God is Love

Get Connected – Turn Toward Your Partner to Create Intimacy

Cute-Romantic-Love-CoupleHere’s another nugget from John Gottman, courtesy of the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative.  This piece discusses the specific types of connections we make with our spouses, how some are positive and some are negative.  Mastering the art of opening positive connections–leaning in versus leaning away–with your spouse invites a warm, open relationship in which conflicts heal quickly and intimacy is part of everyday life.

Get Connected – Turn Toward Your Partner to Create Intimacy

The story many of us tell ourselves is that our marriages are imperfect, that they are what they are, and there’s no point in trying to re-build them.  But what we also see are research reports, by Gottman and others, that suggest practical techniques for improving our relationships.  That yours, and mine, is imperfect is due to the fact that each of us is imperfect. We are all sinners.   And, therefore, it’s not so much about finding the right person as it is being the right person.  If our marriage appears to be failing, we will be taking some of the reason for that with us in the pursuit of a new, improved marriage.  Logic dictates that even in the unlikely event that Spouse #2 were, in fact, perfect, it would bode poorly for the success of the relationship.marriage-vs-money

Marriage literature suggests that most marriages go through three distinct stages.  Euphoria, that unmatched feeling early in the relationship when it seems the sun, the moon and the stars rotate around your intended spouse.  Disillusionment, when you realize the natural order of the universe and where exactly you and your spouse, and probably children, fit in it.  And, finally, That Third Stage, in which the partners either don’t work it out, manage some kind of peaceful coexistence, or, at best, feed and maintain a relationship built upon respect, trust and intimacy, both emotional and physical, and thank God for that person, for the loaning of your partner’s spirit, if only for a short time, that is at the core of sacramental marriage.

The practice of leaning into your spouse when discussing important issues is what the Masters of Marriage do.  It allows couples to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in marriage quickly and without any need for retribution.  It is a skill, and can be developed by anyone ready and willing to try to improve their marriage.  The story we need to be telling ourselves is that we can improve our marriage if we want to and if we enlist the help of The Holy Spirit.  As Nancy constantly reminds me, “The door is open.”

old-couple in love

Highlights from February 9 Marriage on Tap

Yesterday we had our second Marriage on Tap at Prairie View Golf Course. We were thrilled to have 50 couples join us for an evening of socializing, eating, playing games and hearing Lori Lowe speak. In just two events we have had 87 unique couples join us for Marriage on Tap.

At one point in the evening we had everyone stand up to see who in the room has been married the longest. As people were sitting down it was a blessing to see the number of couples still standing up as we got to the 40 year mark. But in the end, we had two couples standing who were both married for 49 years. The winning couple had the other couple by 9 days. But it was also a joy to see the couple who has been married for 2 years. It was a true testament that it doesn’t matter how many years you have been married – it always has to be worked on.

During the evening we had a chance to publically announce our blog, www.sacredembrace.org, as well as our Twitter, @sacred_embrace. We hope people start visiting our blog and follow up on Twitter. Also, we asked everyone there that if they feel compelled to write or share their story about marriage we invite them to contact us.

After our pasta dinner was served local marriage expert and blogger, Lori Lowe, spoke to us. Lori gave a great presentation on 12 tips married couples should be aware of to make their marriage successful. A few years back, Lori wrote a book on marriage and in doing her research she interviewed many married couples who have faced both hardships and happiness. The stories she shared with us were not only interesting but inspiring as well. As she went through her 12 tips she kept on referring back to various Bible verses and commented several times that the Bible has so much written on marriage.

Lori’s 12 Tips to a Thriving (Not Just Surviving) Marriage

  1. Things don’t always (or even usually) go as planned. – We can’t just overcome difficulties.We must be changed by them. How we respond matters most.
  2. Love is not enough to succeed in marriage
  3. Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver. Forgiveness is one of the hidden keys to a lifelong marriage.
  4. Love is sacrificial; learn to please one another
  5. The marriage is more important than the children (or the inability to bear children).
  6. Live with positivity & gratitude daily.
  7. Adversity isn’t a killer, it can be a strengthener.
  8. Happiness is NOT the goal of marriage.
  9. Have each other’s back. Be a team. Become one.
  10. Avoid addictions & obsessions
  11. Focus on strengths; don’t always work on your weaknesses.
  12. Our spouse cannot be our true source of joy.

But Lori’s best suggestion was to choose to love everyday.

After Lori’s talk we played a game called “So, You Think You Know Your Spouse” and for the second time in a row the women won this trivia game. But we think everyone seemed to enjoy the game anyways.

The night was supposed to end at 10pm but it seemed that people stayed until almost 11pm. Just like last month, there were many opportunities to meet new friends and reconnect with old friends. But most importantly, it was nice to reconnect with our spouses.

We hope to see you in March at Greek Tony’s.