Well said, Dr. Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford bills herself as a “Clinical Psychologist, Mental Health/Midlife Blogger.”  (She also provides a handy response to the challenge of naming one good thing about Arkansas.)  Just kidding.  At any rate, I thought this post was so good, and so well-written, that I would just copy and paste it herein.  I’ve taken the liberty of bolding those items that speak to me loudly.


24 years of marriage.

That’s what September 15th meant for me.

We had celebrated earlier so I didn’t remember until I was driving to work. I called him. Told him I loved him. I got grocery store flowers when I got home. Beautifully arranged by the way.

What ever did we do without grocery store flowers?

Between being a marital therapist and my own experience, I have learned a few things. Since I am on year #24, I’ve divided them into 12’s. Just to be cute.

12 Things That Marriage Is Not:

1. Marriage is not for sissies. It’s hard work.

2. Marriage is not about getting what you want all the time. It’s not a dictatorship. It’s not wanting to win all the time because that would mean the other person would lose all the time. May be OK for you. Not good for the marriage.

3. Marriage is not rocket science. The principles it’s based on are really pretty simple. Kindness. Respect. Loyalty. That kind of thing.

4. Marriage is not unfashionable. It stays vital. Even Brangelina must think so.

5. Marriage is not in and of itself stimulating. Since you are with the same person over a long time, the two of you can get in a rut. You have to keep things fresh.

6. Marriage is not about collecting things. The joys of marriage aren’t tangible. You live them. That’s what makes them so very special.

7. Marriage is not for the impatient. Some of the best stuff takes a while to develop. You have to stick around to find that out.

8. Marriage is not the place for criticism. Or abuse. If it is found there, it will ruin any chance of true intimacy or trust and dissolve the hope that once might have existed.

9. Marriage is not a 24-hour repair shop. Your marital partner is not supposed to meet your every need. Some of those needs you may have to take care of yourself. Through your friendships or other activities.

10. Marriage is not self-sustaining. It does not thrive on its own. If all you focus on is the kids, you are making a mistake.

11. Marriage is not boring. Two lives woven together can be quite exciting! There’s just something about watching someone very different from you, living their life in an extremely different way. Up close and personal. You learn from that.

12. Marriage is not without conflict. Knowing how to disagree and work through anger and disappointment is probably the key to lots of stuff going well. Getting to that cooperating, mentioned in #2.


12 Things That Marriage Is:

1. Marriage is the potential for an intense, deep and diverse intimacy. Sexual. Emotional. Relational.

2. Marriage is knowing someone has your back. Always. You have theirs. It’s about interdependence.

3. Marriage is realizing that you have been seen in your worst times, and that you are still loved. There’s an overriding sense of gratitude and security.

4. Marriage is sharing old jokes. Or some story that may be told over and over but it still makes you laugh ’til you are left gasping for breath.

5. Marriage is getting teary-eyed together.

6. Marriage is thinking about the other one not being there anymore. And not being able to think about it.

7. Marriage is getting irritated by the things that always irritate you. Have irritated you for 24 years. Will irritate you for 24 more. And tolerating it because it is way overbalanced by the good stuff.

8. Marriage is not being able to wait to get home to share some little something.

9. Marriage is wishing you were the one having the operation. Or the illness. Not him.

10. Marriage is sometimes fighting. Trying to slowly learn to fight more fairly. To apologize. To listen. To learn. To find resolution.

11. Marriage is about vulnerability. Giving someone the right to hurt or disappoint you. While simultaneously giving that someone the opportunity to bring you tremendous joy and laughter.

12. Marriage is a promise. A vow. To try the hardest you have ever tried in your life. Marriage is a place for the achievement of a personal integrity like no other.

I’m now living year #25.

So far. So good. Thanks for reading! You can find more from Dr. Margaret at http://drmargaretrutherford.com!

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Rock, Paper, Scissors

by Denise McGonigal

Last night our family was laughing over how our three married daughters and their CBurrowsphoto #1husbands decide who gets their way in household matters.  Like, where to store the ketchup –  refrigerator or spice cabinet?  (Editor’s note:  Refrigerate after opening.)  Jif or Skippy peanut butter?  Kitchen sponge or dishcloth?  Powder or liquid dishwasher detergent?  Every couple has their list.

Rock, Paper, Scissors surfaced as Joe and Caitlin’s go-to method of arbitration.  Meghan and Jeremy duke it out over their favorite video game – winner’s preference rules.  And, to no one’s surprise, Erin touted her way of settling domestic disputes with Keven: “I decide, because I’m the boss.”  Good grief, how did that oldest one turn out to be so much like me?  Forgive me, oh kind and tolerant son-in-law.  That apple just didn’t fall far enough from this tree.

all you need is loveLooking back over the past thirty-four years, I wonder just how many times I let insignificant household disagreements get in the way of family and marital harmony because, well, “I’m the boss.”  Why did it matter so much that dishes from a dinner party be cleaned and put away before bedtime?  And why couldn’t the pool towels hang over the fence to dry a little?  And, perhaps to even broaden the scope a little, what really was the big deal about a child wearing the same favorite outfit every week to Mass?

Thank you, dear younger generation, for offering me a much more sensible way of resolving issues that amount to, well, nothing.  I have no skill with video games, but I can definitely develop a facility for Rock, Paper, Scissors.  And seriously, as “the boss,”why didn’t I think of that?holding_hands


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Do You Need God to Raise Your Kids?

Here’s another thoughtful post from our favorite guest blogger, Anne Slamkowski. Please visit her Making Room for God blog.

HYesterday, I blogged on a difficult subject: God and Marriage.  One of the issues that has comes up time and time again in conversations is how do you balance kids and marriage.  Not an easy topic to tackle for sure!  Kids complicate and at the same time lift up your marriage.  Kids give us joy and bring us turmoil.  Kids (and finances) are the first time you learn to sacrifice your selfish desires for your spouse.  No kidding. 

 When you first got married can you remember trying to figure out who was going to pay the bills and how you were going to share the money that was coming in?  Can you remember the first time you had to make a decision together about your kids’ future?  I would venture to guess that it wasn’t an easy decision.  There may even have been some arguing.   So when we talk about divorce rates in families today, we cannot help but discuss both financial issues and trouble with kids. 

One of the issues with kids is when things go badly.  Maybe (like me) you have a child that has medical issues or behavioral problems.  Maybe you have a child who suffers from mental illness.  Maybe you have a child who is constantly making bad choices.  Maybe you have a child that suffers from alcohol or drug addiction.  There are so many problems that parents are faced with today. Yet did any of you have training for this during your marriage prep classes?  Pete and I sure didn’t.   Nobody pulled us aside and said, “Heh, not all kids are perfect.”  No one told us the adventures we would be faced with when we started to grow our family.  No one told us that our kids could make bad choices no matter how good of parents we are.  The problem is we don’t have anything to model our lives after because all kids are different.  We cannot look at our own parents and make good parenting decisions because they lived in different circumstances.  All we have to rely on is each other and instinct.  When things go badly with our kids we tend to point fingers.  Have these words ever been spoken (or thought) about in your household:

“If you would have done or said this to him/her, we wouldn’t be in this place!” 

“If you would be home more often, then he/she would show more respect for us as parents.”

“If you would have disciplined better when he/she was young, then we wouldn’t be faced with these issues.”

“If you would do your job as a housewife, then our kids wouldn’t make these choices.”

“If only I would have treated my body better during pregnancy, then these medical issues wouldn’t have happened to my child.”

“Maybe I have done something to him/her to make him/her this way.”

“Maybe God is punishing me for something in my past.”

All of these comments go on in our brains.  They are doubts that arise during parenting.  I know because Pete and I have beaten ourselves up over why Katie has behavioral issues and seizures. We have blamed each other and ourselves.  Our doubts could have ruined our marriage, but we chose God over doubt.  Thank goodness! 

One of the best lessons that I have ever been taught is that my own kids are not my possessions. My kids belong to God.  They are children of God.  God has entrusted their care to me.  I love this because it reminds me that my kids are entrusted to me not because I deserved them, not because I purchased them, not because I own them, but because God gave me the opportunity to raise them for Him.  Whether you have adopted your children or given birth to your children, they are not your possessions.  Nope.  They are God’s children.  He gave you this opportunity.  What you do with this opportunity is now up to you.  You can choose to raise them without asking God for help, or you can raise them with God’s strength.  I choose the latter. 

If Pete and I were to dwell on all the mistakes we make as parents, I can tell you right now we would be miserable.  I make parental mistakes every day.  I try to learn from these mistakes.  I do my best to ask God daily for strength.  I constantly pray to God to show me what He needs me to do. 

Kids can be part of the problem in a marriage for sure, but they also can lift up your marriage.  If you realize now that kids are not your possessions.  Kids are not a way for you to re-live your childhood.  Kids are not an opportunity for you to show your own parents what they did wrong. Kids are a way for you to connect closer to God.  They are a way for you to see God’s beauty.  They are your pathway to a greater faith life.   f you are having issues with your own marriage that revolves around your children, ask God for help today.  Reconnect individually with your faith.  Find a way to keep God first in your life.  No one can parent effectively without God.  Exhaustion, depression and constant worry are all signs that you have pushed God away and are trying to tackle parenting on your own.  Don’t do this! Remind yourself that we all have the ability to be good parents, if we just ask God for help.

10 years and three kids later.

                      More of our favorite people.

Five Dreams for Your Child

Parents and kidsJoe McGonigal has been bugging me to help him post some articles from Tony Dungy’s All-Pro Dad site.  (This blog, after all, was his idea.)  Yet, his name is conspicuously missing from our list of contributing bloggers.  As the fathers of daughters–Joe and Denise have four, Nancy and I three–we share some attitudes and wishes for our girls.  This article is a nice compilation of some of my wishes and, undoubtedly, some of his.

(My strategy here is to post the articles that Joe and I talk about, beat him to the punch, and shame him into posting some of his own.  It doesn’t appear to be working.)

When our children were growing up, I told Nancy I had four goals for them while they lived under our roof.  I wanted them to go out into the world:

  • with healthy self-esteem.  Not OVERLY healthy, just healthy.
  • with great problem-solving skills.  Theirs are better than mine, thankfully.
  • with straight teeth.  All that orthodontia was purchased for a reason.  And, finally,
  • with the ability to operate a manual transmission.  This,alas, was our main failing, as only one of the three can reliably operate a clutch.  Of the four, however, this last one is silly.  But if they had been boys, it would have been at the top of the list.

Speaking of silly, I wish I had found this 20 years ago.

Date my daughter

In closing, then, I offer this passage from Matthew 18:

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz on Love

man and woman“Couples, like individuals, acquire virtues through the repetition of particular practices and behaviors. They make the virtue their own by freely choosing to act in certain ways, every day.”  

Introduction to the “Marital Virtue of the Month” Series By Archbishop Joseph Kurtz   (An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.)

Archbishop Kurtz continues, “Love, of course, is the more excellent way that includes all the virtues. As a couple grows in virtue they also grow in love. Hand in hand they walk the journey to holiness. I pray that you may persevere in this journey, knowing the love of God, the encouragement of the Church, and the support of the many couples who are walking this journey with you.”H

This up-to-date piece continues the conversation we’ve been having on this site, i.e., the responsibility of spouses not to simply strive for perfection on their own, but to bring their spouse closer to God as well.  We do that not by encouragement/arguing, active evangelization or subtle pressure, but by prayer, by living a committed Christian life, and by creating a wake with the power of our spirit that eventually overtakes our less-committed spouse and becomes irresistible, a wave that can help him along the road to faith.  As usual, we must allow The Holy Spirit to work in our lives and those we love.  And acknowledge that these things take place in God’s time.  Amen.LSE Papyrus logo

Tammy Darling on Keeping your Marriage Fresh

cropped-sunset-lovers.jpg14 Ideas to Keep Your Marriage Fresh is the most recent post by Tammy Darling at Catholic Digest.com.  Her tips are practical, simple and inexpensive, and are easy to fit into busy lives.  The vocation of marriage, as we all know by now, requires care and attention if it is to keep blooming.

For more ideas like these, sign up for our April 20 marriage retreat.  Love’s Sacred Embrace offers a wealth of ideas and concepts that will breathe new life into your marriage.  Come join us for a day of reflection and sharing on April 20.  Seating is limited, so please sign up early.

Valentine’s Day Revisited

Thanks to WikiPedia for the following introduction:  

February 14 is celebrated as St Valentine’s Day in various Christian denominations; it St Valentine shrinehas, for example, the rank of ‘commemoration’ in the calendar of saints in the Anglican Communion. In addition, the feast day of Saint Valentine is also given in the calendar of saints of the Lutheran Church.  However, in the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feast day of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: “Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14.”  

Seems there may have been several St. Valentines, at least one of whom was of some low character.  The Church, choosing safe over sorry, has given St. Valentine, all three of him, the boot.  Not damaging in any way the onslaught of red-colored confections and fru-fru parked in the center aisles of better discount, drug and department stores near you.

Once again, we Christians have managed to turn what was once a religious feast day into a secular selling opportunity.  In the process, we routinely substitute grasping for short-term pleasure for seeking lasting happiness.  Marketing types endeavor to raise everyone’s expectations, and we approach February 14th with credit cards extended, to ward off any hint of mediocrity or penury in outward displays of monetized affection we tend not to duplicate for another 365 days.  Your basic flash in the pan.Wedding

Whether it’s on the calendar or not, Valentine’s Day is, in my opinion, another opportunity to affirm for your spouse that you will love him or her forever, that you are glad you married him or her, and that you would happily marry him or her again on most days.

Heading toward our 38th anniversary, Nancy and I don’t go overboard in celebrating most holidays.  We are staring retirement in the face, and big displays of what is fairly obvious anyway only serve to put the day when we no longer have to make the daily trudge that much farther away.  Christmas and Easter are still big, but Labor Day–not so much.

On most holidays, a bunch of roses from Costco is received as nicely as an FTD delivery and at a third of the price.  A plate of salmon on Friday night  is virtually indistinguishable from one on Thursday night when we’re busy anyway.  Any intra-marital competition is limited to who can find the funnier card.  With joint bank accounts, ostentatious gift-giving is a little silly anyway.  “Here’s your fabulous gift, darling, and here’s the bill!!  Happy Valentine’s Day!”

My new favorite cliche is, “The best things in life aren’t things.”  If you want to talk about gifts that keep on giving, talk about the spouse who keeps The Four Horsemen out of your marriage.  The spouse who offers to get up early with the kids while you sleep in on a Saturday.  The spouse who shows your son how to ride a two-wheeler and your daughter how to bait a hook.  The spouse who does so many things around the house without being asked, or expecting to be thanked.  The spouse who cleaved to you to create a family, with whom you can be Nanny and PopPop, watching your kids building families of their own, and who will join with you again to envision the families those grandchildren will have someday.  All linked inexorably to two people–in our case, a couple of old hippies who met by accident and quickly sensed a connection that will ultimately have led to generations of descendants.  Many of whom will have myopia and teenage acne.

In accordance with God’s will.

Though it  saddens me to see how a number of my bad qualities have passed on to my children, and are likely to get passed along again, it is a gift to see them working to be effective parents and good wives, as all three of ours are girls.  They all married well, and that, too, is a gift from God.  These gifts–gifts of serenity, gifts of progeny, gifts of patience and affection and comfort–these are the gifts that experienced Valentine’s Day celebrants look for.

The fru-fru and chocolates can stay right where they are.

Old married couple