Read Time: 4 minutes

Talking about contraception is an important part of marriage preparation. Contraception in its various forms has become the status quo for sexual relationships outside of the Church. Some Catholic couples either don’t know or don’t agree with the Church’s teaching. Getting comfortable talking about contraception is vitally important for the moral and sexual health of the couples you work with.

So how do you have this conversation?

1. Know the Church’s teaching inside and out.

There’s no getting around it: the Church’s teaching on contraception runs contrary to what is accepted by modern culture and is often misunderstood.

If you aren’t sure why contraception is forbidden, read the teaching and prepare to discuss it. This doesn’t mean you need a graduate degree in theology before you start doing marriage prep.

Fortunately, the Catholic position is actually more intuitive than that, but you should know what you’re talking about and why the Church teaches what it does.

For many couples, you may be the first person who has ever shared the negative aspects of using contraception.

They will likely have questions and may even have objections.

You need to understand the principles behind the doctrine and be ready to explain why it is good for the couple’s marriage to avoid contraception.

Some good resources (for you and the couples) include the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, Catholic Answers, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2. Be honest about the Church’s teaching.

Many couples have stories of priests or mentors giving them incorrect information about contraception and marriage. They may be upset when they find out they’ve been misled.

If that’s the case, tell the couple gently, but honestly, what the Church in her wisdom teaches about marriage and sexuality.

Don’t dance around the truth. Be clear about what is and isn’t allowed. Deliver the message with charity, but don’t leave the couple wondering what you actually mean. Then, you can work with them to figure out how to follow the Church’s teachings in their marriage.

You shouldn’t feel embarrassed or afraid of the Catholic understanding of sexuality.

There are many good reasons to avoid contraception, from the potential health risks to the way it tends to violate the dignity of both spouses. If you know these reasons, you’ll be able to explain the Catholic position while truly understanding and believing it yourself, which is crucial.

3. Be patient with couples (and yourself).

For some couples, the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality is strange and confusing. They may have a hard time understanding how a couple goes about having a happy, fulfilling marriage and sex life without birth control.

Obviously, you shouldn’t belittle or criticize them. Charity and gentleness are needed at all times.

Keep in mind that it’s not necessary for them to fully understand and agree with you right away.

Give them the truth clearly and kindly, then allow them time to think about what you said and discuss it privately. Suggest that they also pray about it. Conversion and understanding don’t have to happen immediately.

Let the Holy Spirit work, and don’t feel the need to “win” the discussion and answer every objection the first time you broach the subject. If a change of heart is needed, remember that it is God, not you, who will work that out.

4. Offer an alternative.

The thought of being married and having sex without contraception can be overwhelming for some couples. Visions of 20 children or 15-passenger vans may pop into their heads. The couple may fear the health risks that can be associated with pregnancy, especially if the wife has underlying health problems.

On a theoretical level, wives may believe the Church only values them for their ability to have babies.

Fortunately, the Church doesn’t simply forbid contraception and abandon couples to figure it out on their own. It offers an alternative approach: Natural Family Planning (NFP).

There are a lot of great resources available for couples who want to learn about NFP, including our own new course: NFP Life.

You’ll also want to know if NFP coaching is available locally, if your parish doesn’t have a program for that. Oftentimes, local nurses will be certified to teach the methods of NFP. If your parish does offer a program or class, have the information on hand and give it to the couple right away.

You’ll also want information on medical professionals who actually know how NFP works (learn more about Dr. Danielle Koestner here). As frustrating and tragic as it is, some OB/GYNs can be woefully untrained and uninformed about the scientific methods used in NFP.

You should understand the basics of NFP — and why it isn’t the “rhythm method” — so you can answer initial questions from the couple. Allow the details to be covered by the mentor or course.

The bottom line

NFP has tremendous benefits for the couple’s health and their marriage. Understanding these can be helpful when explaining why they should practice Natural Family Planning in their marriage.

Contraception and family planning may be a difficult topic for many couples, but if it’s done with charity and wisdom, such conversations can bear a lot of fruit.

Above all, remember that the Church has very good reasons to teach what it does, and these teachings are actually borne of science and theology, not just one or the other. When you meet with couples to talk about contraception and Natural Family Planning, you can be confident that you are sharing good news for both their physical and spiritual health.

Read Time: 2 minutes

Financial discussions can be difficult to have with your partner. Everyone has different philosophies about managing money. However, when couples get married, having healthy discussions about money can directly affect your relationship.

These tips can help guide you through difficult conversations about money.

Have an Open Mind

When discussing your finances, it’s important to keep an open mind. Everyone comes from varying financial backgrounds and may have had different experiences with money. These experiences contribute to a person’s financial outlook, and it can cause conflict when you and your partner don’t see eye to eye.

However, if you maintain an open mind during financial conversations, you may be able to work through disagreements quickly and with more effective solutions.

A great way to avoid confrontation is to spend time focusing on your partner’s strengths.

If the entire conversation is focused on their weaknesses, your partner may get defensive which could lead to arguments. Make sure you acknowledge the financial strengths of your partner so they feel supported throughout your discussion.

Create Realistic Goals

As with any important conversation with your partner, you should agree on a common goal.

Are you talking about setting up a budget, or do you want to save money to start a family? Whatever your goals are, be upfront and honest about them and try to keep the conversation on track.

Remember, when you’re setting up goals with your partner they need to be actionable and specific.

Realistic goals need to include dates and checkpoints, which makes it easier for individuals to hold themselves accountable.

Listen More, Talk Less

These conversations can get long and difficult, especially either or both of you do all the talking and no listening. Be in tune with what your partner is expressing, simply stating that you understand their point of view. This can go a long way.

Utilizing active listening techniques throughout your discussion will help de-escalate any disagreements you and your partner have. If you feel like you and your partner are struggling with healthy communication, you may want to consult your priest, a marriage counselor, and/or a mentor to help guide you.

Discuss All of Your Finances

This is the best opportunity to be transparent about any financial goals you’re working towards or concerns that you may have. This could include debt, credit score, loans, homeownership, or any other financial matters.

Being transparent about your financial status is the best way to establish an open line of communication about finances going forward. Thoroughly understanding your financial status can help you make educated decisions that impact your lives as a couple, such as moving in together for the first time, applying for a mortgage, or opening a joint bank account.

These larger financial decisions will be greatly impacted by your current financial status and should be discussed openly.

Additionally, you should also explain what you’re prioritizing financially.

That way, you both understand which goals you want to achieve first, and how they can best support your family. Make time in the conversation so both of you can clearly articulate the value of achieving goals. In doing that, you will both feel understood and supported.

It’s Hard, But Not Impossible

Discussing finances with your partner can be scary, especially if you’ve never openly discussed these topics before. However, by keeping an open mind, setting goals, and actively listening you’ll be well on your way to a stronger relationship and even better future conversations about money.

Read Time: 4 minutes

Having friendships with individuals and other couples is healthy for married couples.

We should all have a variety of people to engage with socially and consult for advice. Your best friend doesn’t have to be your partner’s best friend, but if your spouse can’t stand your BFF or vice versa, it’s going to create some tension.

So, how do you know if one of your friendships is negatively affecting your marriage?

1. Your Spouse Thinks Your Friend is Toxic

If your spouse has seriously negative feelings about one of your friends, you cannot ignore it. If the person who you’ve committed to as a lifelong intimate partner expresses this level of concern, failing to take their advice will damage your relationship.

Allow your partner to explain why they dislike your friend, and discuss options for handling the relationship.

As someone on the outside looking in, and someone with your best interest in mind, your spouse may be able to identify unhealthy behaviors that you’ve just accepted as part of the friendship. If you have a friend who frequently manipulates you, takes advantage of your kindness, or uses you as a dumping ground for their negative emotions, that likely won’t play well with your spouse.

Avoiding the conversation with your spouse or defending your friend’s bad behavior will lead to conflict in your marriage.

Especially if it becomes clear to your spouse that you are more loyal to your friend than you are to them. If you find yourself squabbling with your partner about a friendship, you’ll need to come to an agreement about how this friendship fits into your life. You will likely need to set boundaries with your friend, and let them know that you can no longer tolerate their destructive behavior.

If they can’t respect that, you may have to walk away.

2. Your Friend Doesn’t Approve of Your Marriage or Your Marital Culture

Adjusting to life as a married couple takes time. Even couples who’ve dated for years find life after the wedding is different than they imagined.

However, eventually, couples slip into routines and behaviors that uniquely mark their lives together and collectively make up their marital culture.

This culture is like any other with its own rituals, style of communication, foods, and distribution of roles among other things. Couples usually gravitate toward others who have similar cultures, describing the experience as “clicking” or “connecting”.

Having a friend who doesn’t approve of your marriage is kind of a deal breaker.

If your friend can’t support you in this major area of your life, their disapproval will become a source of constant conflict. If the issue is with your marital culture, there may be some room for compromise and acceptance. Communicate openly and determine what the issue is. If it’s something simple like public displays of affection that bother your friend, you may be able to take a break when they are around. More deeply held convictions that make up who you are as a couple may require some grace and understanding from your friend rather than an overhaul of your beliefs.

3. A Friend is Demanding a Level of Relationship Reserved for Your Spouse

A close friendship is a blessing and can be a safe place to process your feelings and talk about important things. However, friendship dynamics may change after marriage, and it’s natural to begin going to your spouse to talk about many of the things you used to communicate with your friends. You may even decide to share most things with your partner first and just recap with your friends.

Healthy friendships can handle this shift, even if it takes a period of adjustment. The line begins to grow blurry however, when a friend becomes jealous, resentful, or competitive of your spouse.

Good friends will be understanding of the changing dynamic of your relationship, even if they grieve the loss of your exclusive attention. Toxic friends will punish you for not meeting their relational demands, and they will try to make you feel guilty for being devoted to your spouse.

Removing Toxic Friendships from Your Life

If you’ve given your friends the benefit of goodwill, and talked through the changes brought on by your marriage, you should be able to step into a new and healthy era of friendship. Your connection with your spouse may even help your friendships become healthier as they offer perspective and help you communicate better with your friends.

But if you’ve clearly identified that your friendship is unhealthy and there are no signs it will improve, it may be time to move on.

Letting go of a friend is never easy, even if walking away from their destructive habits frees you from emotional pain. I’m not even sure you can un-love someone who you’ve cared about and invested in relationally. When friendships end, it is rarely mutual and positive, so you will have to trust your decision and be as respectful as possible.

Developing a Friendship With Your Spouse

Healthy marriages are marked by a strong friendship between partners. They have fun together, communicate openly, and want what’s best for each other. They aren’t greedy or possessive, and they support their partner having all kinds of friends. They love spending time together, but they also see the joy that outside friendships can bring to their partner and their relationship.

Partners who are good friends will also help you identify the people in your life who aren’t good friends.

They may do it verbally, or you may just start seeing the contrast between the way they care for you and the way an unhealthy friend tears you down. Either way, your marriage can provide a safe place to process outside relationships and a safe haven when you have to remove a toxic friend from your life.

Read Time: 4 minutes

Three Things I’ve Learned After 25 Years of Marriage: Part One

This may seem odd, but I don’t really like giving marital advice.

In order to give advice, you need to be thought of as someone who has attained a certain level of expertise on the subject at hand. In the area of marriage, even after 25+ years, I do not feel like an expert.

However, early on in our marriage my husband and I agreed that we would alway try to be learners, that we would try to grow individually and as a couple so we could have a strong and healthy relationship. We’ve kept that promise, and I’ve learned three important things along the way. Here is part one.

Nurturing Your Relationship Gets Harder When You Have Kids

It’s incredibly tempting to let your whole world revolve around your children when you become parents. Without even trying, kids are all-consuming with their physical, emotional, and educational needs.

This doesn’t stop as they become self-sufficient and the exhaustion of raising them transitions from worrying about feeding schedules and developmental milestones to their high school grades and dating choices.

Many parents shift, or even slowly drift, to expending all of their time and energy on their kids and neglecting their relationship with one another.

Date nights start being put off for school recitals and sporting events, conversations transition to detail swapping and scheduling logistics, and physical intimacy dwindles as couples deal with fatigue, fussy babies, and complicated bedtime routines.

Children Are Supposed to Leave the Nest, Spouses Are Not

One of the goals of parenting is to release self-sufficient adults into the world to make their own lives and create their own families. Couples who understand this realize they have to fight to nurture their marriage alongside raising their children.

They know that someday their children will leave their home, and they need something greater than co-parenting to keep them together.

My husband and I learned this lesson in a variety of ways over the years. We felt it as tension and anger that built up when we neglected each other. We saw it when we watched couples who made children their #1 priority struggle when their kids became adults. We realized it when we recognized that our kids, even when they were older, couldn’t handle our emotional needs in the way that we as partners could.

Understanding the Difference Between Your Identity and Your Roles

Because of the consuming nature of parenting, I sometimes found it difficult to separate my identity from the many roles I had as a wife and mother. I even introduced myself to new people by the roles I had:

“Hi, I’m Jessie, I’m Chris’s wife and a homeschooling mom of five.”

While those roles were wonderful and deeply satisfying parts of my life, they really weren’t who I was. They were wonderful gifts that allowed me to love and nurture people in an intimate way, but there was, and is, so much more to me.

Our identities, or who God uniquely created us to be, actually shape the way we perform our roles. We may grow and change, but the core of who we are remains quite steady. Understanding our identities can help us accept the changing demands of parenting, and it can help us have a healthier marriage.

Relieving Others of the Burden of Validating You

When our identities are rooted in the knowledge that God created us and gifted us with unique characteristics, we free ourselves and others from having to constantly validate us and make us feel important.

We love others more unconditionally, without a list of silent demands that can never fully be met.

This allows us to pour our attributes into parenting and being a spouse in healthier ways:

It allows us to create boundaries with our children because we can handle them being angry with us at times.

It allows us to let them become independent because we don’t need them to need us.

There are many more benefits, but these two alone are crucial to the health of your marriage.

Finding the Space to Focus on Your Marriage

There are a million ways to nurture your relationship as a couple while parenting, and it will be a constant flow of successes and failures, but making your marriage a priority is healthier for both couples and their children.

There are rhythms in life that provide natural places for rest, but couples with kids will always have to be intentional about spending time alone.

My husband and I used to joke that every time we went on a date, we ended up at the grocery store. Looking back, that’s not a negative thing at all.

Even taking the time to help each other with chores or routine tasks can be a bonding experience. In addition, couples have to figure out ways to be alone for small moments every day, and at least once a week for a couple of hours and once a year for an overnight retreat.

It’s About Progress, Not Perfection

If your marriage is growing, you’ll be able to see it. You’ll look back and see that you’ve grown closer, you understand each other more, and you’ve stopped having some of those petty arguments.

Your kids will see it too.

They will understand that their parents are a united front, there to offer love, support, and guidance as they navigate their way to independence.

It’s not always easy, but as your children become adults and move out, it’s incredibly gratifying to be left with your best friend. The partner you’ve shared so many memories with, worked through so many difficult moments with, and trusted with your most intimate thoughts and feelings. It also helps to have a wonderful friend who will still go to the grocery store with you.

Up Next:

Part Two: Your Sex Life Will Have Lots of Ups and Downs (Coming Soon!)

Read Time: 5 minutes

“They Said You’d Never Change”

I can clearly hear the voices in my head of multiple women saying:

“Don’t think you’re gonna change him, honey!”

“If he’s like that now, he’ll always be that way.”

“Once a [blank], always a [blank]. People don’t change!”

While these well-meaning and sometimes cautionary statements can be true, especially about destructive habits that naive partners are hoping will just disappear someday, they can also lead to a false belief that people never change.

Change is the Only Certainty in Life

My husband and I were married when I was 19 and he was 24. As I reflect on our 26+ years together, we have experienced many things that have permanently changed us. In some ways, we are still the same people that fell in love all those years ago, but in many other ways, we are completely different people.

Setting aside more complicated situations like substance abuse and mental illness, it’s naive to think that you and your partner won’t change much as you progress through life together. Change is a part of life, and it’s inevitable.

It’s actually unhealthy to avoid it, and trying to avoid it leads down its own path that ultimately, and ironically, changes us.

When my husband and I were going through premarital counseling with our priest, we talked about this natural phenomenon. Our priest asked us questions about how we would respond to future possible marital challenges.

Those questions helped us realize that the longer we stayed together, the more challenges we would face.

Additionally, we had to admit that circumstances could arise that had the power to change us into people we may not want to be. We realized then that the most important thing we could do was try to change together and head in the same direction, even if our paths weren’t exactly the same.

We recognized that we would each have our own personal take on life’s changes; but, if our core value to accept change as an opportunity for growth remained solid, we could change together and use those opportunities to grow stronger as a couple.

Change Can Lead to Growth

Since our marriage in 1996, we have experienced the death of many loved ones, the baby-through-adulthood stages of our five children, the onset of an autoimmune disease, periods of clinical depression and anxiety disorders, four housing moves and a major construction project, along with all the other ups and downs of world relations and the economy.

All of those major things, including all of the seemingly mundane “little things” in life, have changed us tremendously.

We’ve comforted, questioned, and cared for one another in our weaknesses and our failures. There have been arguments, tears, and broken-hearted apologies. There has been conflict, distance, and reconciliation. My husband and I have each had moments where we wondered who this person we were married to was becoming and if we were going to make it through these rough seasons intact.

So far, we’ve gone through the challenges together, and we’ve made it to the other side stronger.

How? For us, staying together and letting change grow us has been rooted in our beliefs or core values. In response to change, our actions have varied based on circumstances, but what we believe has stayed the same.

Here are some of the things we believed when we got married that have remained constant:

  • We believe in the sanctity of marriage: that we are accountable to God for the way we preserve and protect our relationship, and that He values our commitment to each other and will help us uphold it.
  • We believe that marital faithfulness is the key to building trust and security: we protect the exclusivity of our friendship and sexual relationship. We’re best friends, and we only have sex with each other.
  • We believe marriage can last a lifetime: we are committed to preserving and fighting for our relationship as long as we live.
  • We believe family is a priority: we don’t give up on family.
  • We believe communication is necessary: we don’t ignore issues or avoid confrontation. We talk about our feelings and concerns, and we listen to each other.
  • We get help when we’re stuck: we’re not afraid to ask for help when we can’t resolve our issues on our own.

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

In some ways, change gets a bad wrap. The negative stories we hear about people changing their minds about major areas of their lives or even their desire for their partner can make change seem like something to avoid. But the change that comes from gaining wisdom and understanding about ourselves and the world we live in is comforting in many ways.

As we navigate life together, confronting all of the wonderful and difficult circumstances that arise, we have the opportunity to learn new things, increase our capacities, and grow stronger emotionally.

When we do these things together, as partners in life and marriage, that growth is reflected in the quality of our relationship. We become better friends, more confident lovers, and more trusted confidants.

The change we can experience as we grow closer and learn more about each other can help us explore new areas of our relationship that weren’t available before. In some ways, as we change, we experience the newness in one another and have the opportunity to fall in love anew, discovering exciting new things about our partners that keep the relationship fresh and fun.

If we resist change, we actually resist expanding our ability to know each other and love each more.

This may be why some relationships stagnate and couples start looking for outside stimulation to pique their interest. Staying the same may seem comforting initially, but years and years of going through the same routines can shift to monotony and boredom if a couple resists change.

What if the Change is Negative?

When you’re walking through grief, postpartum depression, the loss of a job or other major life changes, personality, temperament, and attitudes can be affected temporarily or permanently. These circumstances can emotionally debilitate us and bring out the worst in us. Going through seasons like this is a normal part of marriage, but it can be unsettling and even heartbreaking to watch your partner suffer and struggle to be themselves.

These are the times to hold onto your core beliefs about marriage, and lean on God and others to help you navigate this season.

While our marriage relationship is exclusive in some ways, we should be part of a community of family, friends, and church members who provide a safe and supportive environment that acts as a protective net for us when we are struggling. Clergy and counselors are also valuable professionals who can help us navigate difficult seasons and work through problems.

Wise couples get help when they realize their struggles are beyond their current ability to easily solve or understand them. They value their relationship enough to be honest with themselves and others so they can move forward into healing.

Looking Forward to Change

Since change is inevitable, accepting it as a normal part of life can reduce the amount of shock you’ll experience when it happens. Reframing your relationship with change, and seeing it as a positive component of a healthy and thriving marriage, can help you look forward to the benefits it can offer.

As you head toward your 10th, 20th, and 50th wedding anniversary, you will become different people than the starry-eyed couple that stood at the altar all those years ago, but changing together can be a beautiful journey.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Moving in together is a big step in any relationship. You’ve just been married, and now you’re ready to take on your world together in a new home.

However, one of the biggest reasons couples fight at this stage, or any stage, is financial difficulties.

There are a few proactive actions you can take that’ll strengthen your relationship when it comes to finances and make the transition a little easier.

1. Have an Open and Honest Discussion

Having discussions about finances can be difficult for even the strongest of couples. During this discussion, you’ll want to evaluate the state of your individual finances and make some key decisions for your financial future. When entering into this important conversation, make sure to be respectful of others’ feelings and approaches to money, and be honest about the state of your finances when communicating to your partner.

Also, if you feel that the discussion has taken an unproductive turn, take a moment away from the conversation to relax, seek guidance, and remember this is the person you love. The important thing is to make sure you’re on the same page financially by the end of your conversation.

During these conversations, talk openly about your finances including student loans, credit card debt or other types of debt, savings goals, and retirement plans. This’ll help you understand your bigger financial picture as a married couple. Another decision you’ll need to come to by the end of this discussion is whether or not you want to combine your finances.

To some, marriage and living together means you should combine all aspects of your life, including finances.

However, there can be some advantages to keeping your finances separate, or having some things combined and others separate. It’s important to be understanding about your partner’s personal financial goals, and make sure to communicate about what you can work on together.

2. Decide to Rent or Own

The biggest decision you’ll make when moving in together is deciding where you’re going to live. In some situations, one partner will move into another partner’s current residence. Others prefer to start their life together in an entirely new home.

When beginning your search for your home, you’ll need to decide whether it’s best to rent or own.

After discussing your finances, you should have a pretty good understanding of how much you can afford to pay in rent. There’s often a preconceived notion that renting can save couples money, especially with recently raised interest rates. However, mortgage payments can be, at times, less of an expense.

Additionally, you’re working toward owning your home which is a financial asset as compared to paying rent, where the only benefit is having a living space. To see if owning is an option for you, you’ll need to figure out how much you can afford on a mortgage, which can be calculated by evaluating your credit score and your debt-to-income ratio. If you think owning is out of your budget, consider walking through this process first because it might be more within reach than you think.

3. Create Your Home’s Budget

Once you’ve decided if you’ll be renting or buying, you’ll want to create a budget for your home and your new family. When moving into a new place, there are always hidden costs that you’re not expecting initially. These costs include furniture, moving costs, appliances, and updates to your living space.

Even if you decided previously to keep your finances separate, this might be a good opportunity to open a joint account to pay for things such as the mortgage or rent, property taxes, utilities, and internet. This is a great way to ensure you’ve saved the correct amount of money each month collectively, and without needing to draw from your individual savings accounts to make these payments.

Once you have those expenses covered, you can start a simple budget for some of the other shared costs that you’ll incur monthly, such as streaming services, groceries, entertainment, pet costs, and home maintenance.

After living together in the home for 2 – 3 months, look at the money you’re spending in each category, and see where you can cut to increase savings. It might take some trial and error with your partner in these beginning months, but trust that with faith you and your partner will continue to grow.

Once you’re settled into your new home, you and your spouse can start enjoying your lives together. Remember to approach financial discussions with patience and to have financial health check-ups every now and again.

If you feel like you and your spouse are having disagreements about finances, or just experiencing difficult times, sometimes it can be best to see your priest, a financial counselor, and other marriage mentors in your life. Bumps in a marriage can happen, however with planning and understanding your life together can continue to grow through any obstacles.

Read Time: 7 minutes

​Congratulations! If you’re reading this you have successfully survived engagement, marriage preparation, wedding planning, and hopefully had the best day of your life with a lovely honeymoon to boot!

When my husband, Joshua, and I got married in June 2021, it was 4 weeks after we both graduated from college. I remember finishing finals, visiting my family in Dallas for a few weeks, then returning to Lubbock, TX for two weeks of setting up our new home and finishing wedding preparations.

Our wedding went off without a hitch and we had a wonderful week in the Ozark mountains. When we were up at our cabin the Arkansas woods, we both felt like years of university stress and months of wedding strain were lifted off our shoulders. It was by far the most blissful period of our lives.

But then we got home.

​Joshua and I had been together for 3 years and 7 months when we got married. We were best friends (and don’t worry, we still are!). We could spend every minute of every day together and never get bored of each other. We never cohabitated, but we spent plenty of time at each other’s residences while we dated through college.

We thought we knew how the other lived and that we wouldn’t find too many surprises. We had also, at the recommendation of our chaplain, conquered 10 weeks of premarital counseling in addition to completing The Marriage Group’s Pre-Cana course during engagement. To be honest, we realized marriage would be different on an intellectual and emotional level, but we apparently hadn’t fully grasped what marriage – our marriage – would look like on a practical level.

Now that we are a year into this, here are the 6 most important tips for newlyweds adjusting to the first weeks and months of marriage.

1. Allow Yourself to have High Standards

​Anyone who has lived with a roommate at any time in their life most likely may have suffered from not communicating their needs. I know I did all through college. I’m a very tidy person. I like the blankets folded and the pillows in place and the floor clear and the dishes washed and the trash emptied regularly. I never had a roommate who I was 100% happy with regarding their living habits. But, instead of just communicating my needs early on, I let my frustrations fester and build for months or even the entire school year. Why? Because this roommate was temporary. The dorm wasn’t my home.

Your spouse is not temporary, and your residence is your home.

​When Joshua and I moved in together post-honeymoon, we immediately told each other when we weren’t happy with a particular living habit.

  • I had a certain way I liked the dishwasher loaded and organized. I told him, and he did it!
  • He wanted me to communicate with him if I was going to be gone when he got home from work, and I did it!

It’s not like we had never washed dishes together or updated each other about our plans when we were dating. It’s that the little things mattered more as soon as we were married and living together in our home, not just dating or in a place we were staying for a year.

​So, allow yourself and your spouse to have high expectations, and communicate about them. This is the rest of your life we’re talking about. Don’t force yourself to settle for living less than you want to and silently build up frustration that will eventually boil over.

2. Learn How to Resolve Conflict

​You know how people say, “Don’t go to bed angry”? The idea behind it is to always resolve your conflict before the day ends.

From our experience, Joshua and I would disagree. What we learned in pre-marital counseling and what we find works in our marriage is building positivity within our conflicts. As St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:26, “Do not let the sun set on your anger” (not your conflict).

​This looks like being affectionate even and especially while you argue: holding hands while you talk or intermittently hugging and kissing when you feel the conversation making progress. This looks like setting boundaries with your spouse during heated arguments: letting them know if they’ve said something that hurt you, or that you need to take a break and calm down.

Above all, this still looks like conflict, yes, but also with the assurance that you and your spouse are both of good will toward the other.

You are not enemies or opponents. You are not trying to be right or make your spouse wrong. You are expressing your needs and desires and emotions. You are safe to give that to, and receive it from, your spouse.

​If you need sleep and let the conversation rest for a bit, get to a place where you feel safe with your spouse and then cuddle up for the night. Don’t make your mission: do not go to bed angry. Make your mission: go to bed secure.

3. Accept Influence from your Spouse

​While having high standards and communicating them to your partner, also allow yourself to adjust for your partner. When I first told Joshua I wanted the dishwasher loaded a certain way, I was so particular that I wanted him to load the forks on the right, the spoons in the middle, and the knives on the left. He tried to remember my particular order but struggled. The end result was he always loads the silverware into individual pockets (he keeps the forks together and the spoons together, etc.) but not necessarily from right to left. And guess what — I don’t care! I just wanted the dishwasher to be organized and slightly easier to unload.

​Psychology researchers have actually seen, from observing married couples, a direct correlation between accepting influence from your spouse and marital happiness.

If spouses are stubborn and refuse to hear their partner’s needs or desires and are unwilling to change up their own schedules or habits to accommodate the person they have vowed to spend the rest of their life with, it leads to nothing but trouble down the road.

  • If you’re the type of man to stay up until 3 AM playing video games and your wife would prefer you come to bed with her by midnight, you may want to consider rearranging your hobbies.
  • If you’re the type of woman to watch reality dating shows with your girlfriends when they air on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights and your husband would like you to pick just one of those three nights to continue your routine with, you may want to consider setting up some boundaries with your friends.

These things change when you get married, and that’s okay.

4. Make a Bill Calendar

​Review the section on Finances from your Pre-Cana course if you need to — because finances are a top source of stress for newlyweds. Every couple needs to work out the particulars of their spending expectations, habits, bank account and tax preferences, and any other details related to money on an individual and household level.

Joshua and I are a year into marriage and have our first kiddo, and we’ve had more than one conversation lately about how we want to handle finances and bills. We certainly don’t regret opening a joint account and completely sharing our money, but not everyone likes that idea. We don’t put “spending limits” on each other, but some people prefer to have that structure. It’s okay to not have all the answers right when you get married!

​But, if there is one piece of advice I think is safe to give across the board, it’s make a bill calendar. We have a full-month calendar in our kitchen with all our monthly bills: what they are, how much they cost, when they’re due, and how they need to be paid (auto or manual).

The reason I encourage this is because (1) it’s an easy way to organize your bills and not lose track of anything, and (2) it allows you and your spouse to have healthy communication regarding our finances every single month.

We sit down together every month, go through the bills, and put them on the calendar. We maintain open communication about our money. We both have full access to our joint account. Neither of us are ever blind-sided by where our money is going.

Every couple needs to evaluate their needs on an individual level, and every couple also needs to keep open and honest communication regarding their household finances.

5. Adjusting to Sex and NFP is Difficult and Awkward — and that’s Okay!

​Speaking of communicating with our spouse every month, let’s talk about Natural Family Planning for a minute. To go from abstinence to full intimacy is a physical adjustment. To go from sex being a mortal sin to a beautiful and holy unity can be a mental struggle. And, let’s face it, NFP can be a little scary.

All of a sudden you are engaging with your partner in a completely new way AND you could unexpectedly have a kid on the way? Whew.

​Practicing Natural Family Planning and saying no to contraception means putting a lot of trust in God and in your spouse. It requires regular communication about your desires and needs for having children and for intimacy. Adjusting to having sex also takes a lot of vulnerability and honesty about your needs and desires, too.

Also, adding sex into the equation changes your relationship.

Physically and hormonally bonding yourself to your spouse changes how you relate to each other in every other way (a good reason that abstinence before marriage makes sense).

​This will be expanded on in future content, but for now, know that it’s okay to struggle, to be scared even, and to need some time to make these adjustments. The good news is that frequent communication about this topic will help mitigate a lot of the awkwardness.

6. Give Yourself — and your Spouse — A Whole Lotta Grace

​Finally, marriage is hard!

Yes, you are still with the same person you’ve been with for X amount of time. But no, you are not in the same relationship. Marriage isn’t just dating but living together. Marriage is a full-on blending of not only your lives, but yourselves.

Marital intimacy binds people together in ways that change the relationship entirely: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

It’s not going to be a seamless transition. You and your spouse will struggle individually and as a team with any number of challenges. Don’t worry — we will cover a lot of those topics as tome goes on. We’re right here with you as you navigate through these uncharted waters.

​You have a new, wonderful, lifelong vocation and commitment to someone you clearly love. Embrace everything: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. You’ve got your whole life together. Let us help you start figuring out how to live it fully.

Marriage is hard, yes, but it is also rewarding.

Read Time: 2 minutes

Here you go again. You’re working with a couple who hasn’t darkened the door of a church in years. You guide them through the marriage prep process, preside at their Catholic wedding, then watch as they carry on with their life journey leaving faith by the side of the road.

You see it over and over, and honestly, it can make you feel a little jaded about marriage prep.

The couple has so much on their mind already: wedding decorations, catering, invitations, honeymoon travel arrangements, etc. If their faith isn’t already really important to them, it’s going to get crowded out pretty fast.

As you prepare an engaged couple for marriage, what can you do to keep their Catholic faith alive?

Teach them how to pray.

Sure, they may know the standard Catholic prayers by heart, like the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary.” But do they know how to pray together, as a couple?

So many people have never really been taught how to pray. That means they’re missing the very foundation for their faith lives. But as a clergy or ministry leader, you can provide that foundation for them.

When a couple prays together, their spiritual lives change. They start to develop a relationship with Christ. And when that happens, their love will mature. They’ll ask deeper questions. And all those things you wish would stick in their heads about faith and marriage? They’ll desire to know it for themselves.

That’s not an overnight process, though. It can start here in marriage prep, but like all good things, learning to pray and growing in faith take time.

So start small. Encourage your couples to start praying together. Better yet, don’t just tell them, show them how.

Yes, praying as a couple can feel awkward at first. That’s okay. (And you can tell them that.) It’s like planting seeds. If they stick with it, those seeds of faith will bloom in their married life with the help of God’s grace.

When you remember that, you’ll find joy and purpose coming back into your marriage prep.

Here are some resources to help you teach couples how to pray.

Joined by Grace: A Catholic Prayer Book for Engaged and Newly Married Couples

A simple, practical guide on ways to pray as a couple. It’s full of texts to pray with and background info on devotions your couples can start working into their life together.

The Rosary

The idea of praying the Rosary every day intimidates most people, so invite couples to try praying just one decade a day with a pocket rosary. That alone can make a powerful impact on their faith.

Novena for engaged couples

Praying a novena together for nine days in a row builds up habits of prayer the easy way, because it takes just a few minutes to do each day. This “Novena for a Happy and Faithful Marriage” was compiled from St. Josemaria Escriva’s writings on marriage in today’s world.

Read Time: 4 minutes

If there’s something in your past you haven’t revealed to your partner, it may seem like it’s not that important. Especially if you’ve made it from dating to engagement or even marriage without telling them. However, keeping secrets, even little ones, can erode the foundation of an otherwise strong relationship.

Why Does It Matter?

Healthy relationships are built on mutual trust. That means that each partner has committed themselves to honesty because you cannot build trust without it.

When people get into relationships, they typically begin building trust by being honest in their present dealings with their new partners. As time goes on, they begin sharing past details of their lives, increasing the amount of things they share as trust in the relationship builds.

Being honest about your past and present behavior, thoughts, and experiences is an opportunity for your partner to know you intimately. It gives them a context for knowing who you really are and all the complexities that make up your personality. This intimate knowledge of each other provides the basis for a fun-loving friendship and deeply satisfying physical intimacy.

Where Do You Start?

After trust has been established, sharing your most personal thoughts and experiences should come over time. As your relationship develops, there will be many opportunities to let your partner know more about you. Taking advantage of these opportunities, either in the moment or soon after, will establish a pattern of openness that will benefit your relationship in the future.

If you haven’t grown up in a family that had good communication skills, this may be challenging for you. You may feel that your past is irrelevant to your present relationship or that your thoughts and feelings are better kept to yourself. If that’s the case, consider the quality of the relationships you’ve seen that were devoid of openness and honesty.  Are you comfortable repeating those patterns and experiencing similar consequences?

Many people can point to a couple who’ve been together for years, but they don’t have a relationship marked by joy and camaraderie. The couple stays together, but they don’t seem to enjoy each other or derive a lot of pleasure out of their marriage. Deciding not to divorce or living separate lives may keep you celebrating wedding anniversaries, but if you want something more than that in your relationship, growing in openness and honesty will be essential.

If you’d like to pursue a relationship with your partner that has a deeper level of sharing, it’s not impossible to expand the way you were taught to communicate. It will take effort on your part, but you can grow in this area if you’re willing to try.

What About the Bad Stuff?

It’s always easier to share your successes and the fun parts of your history than it is to talk about your losses, grief, and failures. Part of the reason we choose our partners is because they see us as special and amazing, and they chose us out of a sea of potential mates.

It’s scary to think of tarnishing their view of us by letting them know the less-than-wonderful things we’ve thought or done. That’s why secrecy is so appealing; the risk of losing our partner’s favor is more threatening than the perceived value of being open and honest.

However, the problem with secrecy is that it doesn’t stay in one area of our lives. As multi-dimensional and complex beings, small habits in one area of our life tend to flow over into other parts of our lives. Tightly-guarded secrets create a defensive layer in our personality. To protect them, we must keep our partner away from that part of ourselves.

What About the Really Bad Stuff?

When we allow ourselves to keep secrets from our partners, we’re essentially saying that they don’t have access to our whole selves. They can only know, love, and commit to part of us. Even if we consider the secret “small” in relation to our whole selves, we are still holding something back.

One of the problems with this is that secrets usually resurface multiple times in our lives. We can’t forget because they are a part of us, a part of our story. When we’re confronted by them through a memory or a trigger, we react in a multitude of ways that affect our emotions and behaviors which in turn affects our partners.

Who you are affects your partner, and if you are committed to them and the health of your relationship, they deserve to know the truth.

The reality is that all people have thoughts, behaviors, and experiences that they regret or feel ashamed of. Some of us have been victims, and some of us have been perpetrators. Some have been both. We’ve all been mean, selfish, hateful, and immoral. Coming to terms with those parts of ourselves individually is difficult; confessing them to the people we love makes us feel incredibly vulnerable. If this feels like more than you can handle on your own, seek out a trusted counselor, mentor, or minister.

The Amazing Thing About Grace

If you’re willing to be honest and open, you will have to confront your own vulnerability. When you share your secrets with your partner, there will be a period of time when you can’t control their reaction. To move forward, you’ll have to accept their feelings and allow them space to process. Surrendering to this instead of trying to manage it will also build trust. Additionally, it sets a precedent for them to come to you with their own secrets, understanding that this is part of a healthy relationship.

A loving partner will listen while you share. They may ask questions as they process, and they may get emotional for a variety of reasons. These are all normal responses. Depending on how long they have known you, it may take time for them to synthesize this new information about you into their frame of reference.

This can be uncomfortable, but experiencing deeper levels of connection with your partner is worth it. If you’re sharing something that you regret or feel ashamed of, especially something from your past that no longer represents who you are presently, being honest about it may help you move on. When people love one another, they are able to accept and forgive imperfections, failures, and bad behaviors. Receiving forgiveness helps us forgive ourselves.

What to Hold Back


Having an open and honest relationship doesn’t mean having to tell your partner every single thing you think and feel. As complex creatures, there is a place for private thoughts and feelings. We all have places where we are processing the world, our faith, and our mortality in solitude, and that’s okay.

You’ll know a secret is worth sharing if something about keeping it creates a wall between you and your partner. Deciding what to share isn’t as important as making sure there isn’t anything you’re intentionally hiding. Your partner should be privy to important facts about your life, thoughts, and feelings, and the freedom you’ll experience from being honest is worth the effort it takes to openly communicate.

Read Time: 3 minutes

You have an engaged couple who wants to get married at your church. Wonderful!

As a pastor, you have lots of experience talking with people in various stages of life. However, this engaged couple does NOT have much experience talking with clergy. They likely have things on their mind that they don’t know how to bring up with you.

So how do you put them more at ease?

You can take the lead in handling topics they may not feel comfortable about introducing into the discussion. That takes the burden off of them. The more relaxed they feel, the more fruitful your marriage prep discussions will be.

Here are three things engaged couples want to know, but tend not to ask about.

1. Marriage Prep Resources to Help Them

There are so many resources out there geared to couples preparing for marriage. But you typically don’t look for something until you need it. So your engaged couple may not be aware of all the great stuff out there for their benefit.

You may notice a specific aspect of their relationship that could be helped by a resource you know about. You can point them in the right direction by compiling a few resources you know and trust, and you can give them a copy of or a link to them at your next meeting. It’s as simple as saying, “Here, you might find this useful.” That way, they don’t have to ask for “help.”

You may be surprised at how many couples really do look into your suggestions!

The Marriage Group offers plenty of resources for engaged couples like relationship-building tools, Marriage Boosters videos, and our Ultimate Guide to Pre-Cana and Wedding Ceremony Planning eBooks.

2. Natural Family Planning 101

NFP is one of those topics that many folks, couples and clergy alike, feel awkward introducing into the conversation. That makes it hard for couples to understand what it is and why it’s so important.

Many couples have heard of NFP but don’t know much about it. Or they may be open to learning about it, but they just need someone to take the initiative to put the right information into their hands.

As with other marriage prep resources, you can have NFP resources on hand for couples to look at on their own. That allows them to fully absorb it without the uncomfortable feeling of an in-person conversation.

You can point them to your diocese’s NFP resources and classes, older couples in the parish that could help, or online resources. Additionally, The Marriage Group’s “NFP Life” video course is a simple, accessible way for couples to learn about NFP and how to integrate it into their future marriage.

3. What They Can and Can’t Do At Their Wedding

Planning a Catholic wedding involves a lot of details, from the music to the readings to the photographer — and oh yes, all the decorations.

Your church probably has policies established for all these things. But that doesn’t mean your engaged couple knows them very well.

They might assume they can do things your parish policy doesn’t actually allow. Or they might wonder whether they’re allowed to do something, but they’re afraid to ask and hear you say “no.”

By communicating your church’s policies clearly and kindly up front, you can save them – and yourself – a lot of unnecessary stress, especially from having to tell them “no” later on (heaven forbid, on the wedding day!).

One Last Thing

As a pastor or ministry leader, you have a privileged role in preparing people for marriage. You may not see it in the moment, but your interactions with an engaged couple can make a long-term impact on their married lives, their family, and even the future of your parish. If that weighs on you as a heavy responsibility, we are here to help!

God bless you in your ministry.