You cannot predict the future, but you can plan for the future.

Okay, okay, I know that’s pretty cliché, but if something is a cliché, it usually means it’s true, right?

The Future (personifying it a little bit here) is scary by nature. The overall ambiguity of it all can be staggering. Within all of that multifaceted kaleidoscope of uncertainty, there is also a little bit of excitement when it comes to dreaming about the future. With all of that said, it is important to plan, rather, start setting goals

While there are no “magic formulas” when it comes to setting goals in your marriage, there are a few common denominators that just seem to work.

We have put together this practical guide — along with a few things that have helped in our personal marriages — to help you organize a roadmap for your future.

Ten, Five, and One

When thinking of setting goals, inherently, my initial thoughts are what things will look like years down the road. So let’s start there!

I’m a simple man, and I like to have some sort of formulaic foundation whenever I begin any exercise. What has worked for me and my marriage has been the Ten, Five, and One Model.

Start with your ten year goals (I personally think any longer than ten years can start to become too broad/too distant in the future). What sort of career are you looking to have? Will you both be working? Will you have children? How many? Think broadly with this — as much as you can, obviously, but also be specific on some of the things that allow you to be. This creates the framework to work within while making the other plans.

Think of it like finding all of the edge pieces of a thousand-piece puzzle and putting it together. You’re framing in the tapestry of your life together!

After you’ve mapped out your ten year goals, start working on your five year goals. This one’s a bit easier to map out because there are probably things in your life already that come with a timeline. For instance, if you have already purchased a home, you might say something like, “in five years, we would like to have X amount paid off.” You get the idea.

Once you feel good about the five year goals, it’s time to work on the one year goals. This one might arguably be the most difficult to work through.

Remember the puzzle metaphor? Man, those middle pieces can be challenging.

Somehow, it’s easier to dream about ten years from now because it’s lofty and a literal shot in the dark. The one year plan might also be the most important plan out of the three. It helps to eliminate most “surprises” (for better or for worse).

It also really helps the two of you become closer together with communication and balancing life. Again, there are few surprises, especially when it comes to the day-to-day stuff because you’ve already laid out a concrete plan together. Embrace the “mundane” and the perceived monotony when it comes to  the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month schedules. Be as specific as possible to eliminate those unpleasant surprises.

As soon as you complete the ten, five, and one year plans, go through it again from the top. Make sure that there is some sort of ebb and flow to the overall plan, with consistent themes as the thread.

Practical, Pleasing Plans

Like, I said, I’m a simple man, and I enjoy alliterations.

Now that we’ve established functionality of creating a plan from a birds-eye view, let’s get into some specifics.

Let’s tackle the practical planning first.

Everyone wants to be prepared as much as possible. What does that look like for you and your spouse?

Do either or both of you have a life insurance policy? Do you have an emergency fund in place in case the unthinkable happens? This could also include severe illness, medical bills, things like that. What about general savings? What are you hoping to accomplish with your finances as your plan begins to unfold?

During this portion of planning, it’s easy to become far too practical, that we end up eliminating any sort of enjoyment, or hopeful outlook, from the goal-setting or future-planning process. As I’ve mentioned, you are going to be discussing some heavy topics — life insurance, planning for illness, emergency funds…

So let’s talk about the fun side!

I understand that we are all wired different, and those of you who may be reading this tend to lean on the more practical side, which is okay! Just hang with me here for a minute.

Inasmuch as practicality is important to discuss, the enjoyment of life and overall happiness is also just as important. This life is tough, fleeting, and confusing at times, so we have to enjoy it as much as we can.

So what makes you happy? What sort of things have you always dreamed of having in your home? What vacation have you always wanted to go on? Dream big, be specific, and have fun with this.

Revisit with Regularity

Plans change. Maybe you and your spouse decide to have children sooner than what you originally planned (learn more about Natural Family Planning). Maybe you receive an inheritance and you are now able to purchase that dream home this year, rather than five years down the road. Or maybe, you simply have different ideas of where you’d like to see yourselves in the not-so-distant future.

Whatever the case may be, put something on the schedule to revisit your plan with regularity. What does that look like? I can’t answer that for you, but what works for my wife and I is a quarterly assessment of the overall plan.

So How Do We Start?

I’m glad you asked!

I would like to encourage you and your spouse to participate in a simple exercise:

Get out your notepad and your favorite pen or pencil. Sit down with your favorite beverage and snacks, and turn on some soft music. You can do the following in any order, but here’s what works for my wife and I:

Don’t start with the plan yet. Start by writing down your fears.

Get everything out in the open, regardless of how irrational you feel your fears may be. We’re taught from a very young age that we must vanquish fear and not give it any time of day.

Contrary to that belief, one of my favorite quotes on this very notion is from Nelson Mandela:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Writing down your fears is a great exercise because somehow, it strips all of the power from them. You see the words written down on paper from an arial view. You feel a bit “above” your fears.

When you embrace fear and ambiguity together, you begin to see that perfect love that casts out all fear play out in a very real way.

This exercise was my wife’s idea, and it honestly helped me more than I could have ever imagined.

Once you get your fears out of the way, start tackling each one through the lens of your plan/goals for your marriage.

Again, be practical, but also have fun with it. Dare yourselves to dream a little and get creative.

After you complete those two exercises, I encourage you to take it just one step further.

Now that your plan is in place, come up with the daily encouragement you need to keep you on track with your dreams and goals. Think of this as creating your family mission statement to remind you of where your life is headed. Print it out, frame it, and put it in a spot that you see every morning before heading out to start your day.

Live, breathe, embrace, and recite this over you and your family. It may feel weird to do at first, but the Mayo Clinic talks about the benefits of positive thinking/speaking over yourself.

The future may be unclear at times, but with a plan in place, you begin to feel a bit more in control of the overall narrative.

And that’s pretty comforting, honestly.

Whether you just started your adventure together, or you are seasoned veterans when it comes to marriage, we all know how important it is to maintain consistent and intentional date nights. It may actually be more important once you start having children together.

One issue that may come up is financing regularly scheduled date nights. I believe the misconception here is that you have to break the bank in order to have a meaningful experience. Dating your spouse doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to Disney World (I mean, that would be pretty awesome, but unrealistic for the vast majority).

On the contrary, dating your spouse simply requires a deep, intentional connection, or reconnection in some cases, with each other — again, with regularity.

We’ve put together a list of affordable, out-of-the-box date ideas that work for any budget.

Out of the Box Dates:

 

Department Store Date Challenge

You’ve most likely witnessed this trend over the past few years. Here’s how it works:

  • You pick your favorite department store (my wife’s and mine just happens to be Target), and set a budget for each person ($15-$20 each is usually enough).
  • Head to the bargain movie bin (movies are usually about five bucks), and dig in. No peeking, just grab one random movie each and see what you both picked. If it happens to be the live action Avatar: The Last Airbender, you have our permission to pick a new movie.
  • Then you split up and pick out your spouse’s favorite drink, candy and/or snack.
  • You head to the register when you’re done, and wait to reveal your treasures for until you get home.
  • Once you get home, it’s time for pjs, movies, snacks and snuggles. Bonus points for voting on which movie was the best out of the two.

Get Thrifty and Head to Dinner

  • Head to your local thrift shop, and pick out some outfits for each other.
  • Head home and toss them in the washer and dryer.
  • Once they’re ready, it’s time to get dolled up for your big night. Bonus points here are if you can find anything close to Harry and Lloyd’s ensemble.
  • Head to a restaurant of your choice. You can also significantly cut the cost of this date night by cooking with each other at home. Plus, it’s more fun. Unless you’re a terrible cook. Oh, and get dessert. You have our permission.

Ideas that Virtually Cost Nothing:

 

Flip a Coin and Take a Drive

This one’s fun.

  • Pick two locations within a reasonable driving distance. Determine which side of the coin is which location.
  • Flip a coin, and have your spouse “call” it.
  • Get in the car and drive. Hold hands on the drive if that’s your M.O…
  • Walk around your newly discovered favorite spot when you get there. Hold hands here, too.
  • Maybe pick up some cool-looking rocks as a memento from your romantic getaway.

Window Shopping in Your Local Downtown

If you don’t have a downtown with mom & pop shops, then your local mall will suffice. The concept is pretty simple:

  • Head downtown, walk around, and head into the shops.
  • Window shop. Try on new outfits. Talk to the store owners and hear their story of how they got started. Get creative!
  • Grab some cheap tacos for lunch, or pack some PB&Js ahead of time, and find a great picnic area.
  • Our recommendation is to check-in at the shops on social media, especially if they’re locally owned. That costs nothing, and it helps spread the word about that cool store you found.

The beauty of this is that there is no pressure to buy anything. You can look at all of the cool, super expensive stuff you normally don’t look at. This helps you to slow down and discover new things about your downtown or your local mall.

Love Letters and Sticky Notes

Again, this costs just about zero dollars to do. Write love letters to your spouse and hide them around the house. I’ve even dropped 49 cents on a stamp and bought envelopes from the dollar store to physically mail a letter to my wife… to our own house. Who doesn’t like getting fun mail? I even like to doodle all over the note with a bunch of hearts, kissy faces and other mushy stuff like that.
Get a pack of sticky notes and write up a few short love messages to your spouse every morning before you head to work. Stick them on things your spouse uses or sees daily so they can find them easily. Send them on a wild and crazy treasure hunt, Nicolas Cage style.

Here’s Your Homework:

Okay, so we know that we loaded you with a lot of ideas. You may be wondering, where do we start? 

In short? You start simple.

Our homework for you and your spouse is to start by writing down some “cue questions” for each other.

Questions like:

  • When did you know I was “the one?”
  • What was it like for you when you fell in love with me?
  • What is your favorite memory of us?
  • What is your favorite memory as a child?
  • What is your favorite movie that you could watch over and over again, and it would never get old?
  • What are your dreams and goals for the next 5 years?

…to name a few. This list could go on forever.

If you don’t know the answer to the questions, great! That will help you to learn new things about your spouse. If you already know the answer to the questions, that’s great, too! My wife and I have found that with these questions, after over a decade of being married, we hear new things in stories that we’ve heard and told each other several times. Little details we never heard before start popping up, and it’s exciting.

Play some cards or a few board games with each other and ask each other these questions while you’re hanging out. You’ll be surprised to see hours of meaningful conversation pass by in what feels like minutes.

Steer clear of Monopoly, though. That game makes people see “the real you,” and your spouse isn’t ready for that yet.

Have you ever wondered who instituted the Sacrament of Marriage in the Catholic Church? Have you asked yourself where is Marriage in the Bible?

This might be a question that is important to you and your fiance, especially now that you are preparing for marriage. Let us take a look at what the Bible tells us.

Marriage in the Bible

The Bible tells us that God created man and woman and after creating them, the first thing He does is to bless them.

“God blessed them…” (Gn. 1, 28)

This tells us that right from the beginning the union of man and woman is blessed by their creator God. God looks with favor this new union.  Marriage was what God had planned for man and woman.

This union of man and woman has also other implications; God tells them to “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gn. 1:28) Here we can clearly see the connection between marriage and establishing a family. Man and woman are called to create together, this union is to be the foundation of society.

Christ Instituted The Sacrament of Marriage

In the New Testament we see that Jesus reminds us the same truths that were previously stated in the book of Genesis.

Jesus says: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Mt: 19:4-6)

It is in these words of Jesus that we find the essence of the Sacrament of Marriage: a sacred union, instituted by Christ, between a man and a woman.

In the words of the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their letter “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan”, “Marriage is a lifelong partnership of the whole of life, of mutual and exclusive fidelity, established by mutual consent between a man and a woman, and ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation of offspring.”

When we think about this time in the Liturgical Calendar, Holy Week and Easter, we usually associate it with church services, long liturgies and rituals. We think of all this as something that happens ‘in church’ but we don’t see much connection of this season with our own lives.

Holy Week is a time to remember and commemorate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. But this is not just a historic remembrance. Every time that we commemorate the events of Holy Week (Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday) we are living again all the events that Jesus went through to bring us new life.

Holy Week is a life journey through all the tribulations that will bring us to a new life, a life that is everlasting!

Tribulations in Marriage

Does the perfect marriage exist? Who can say that they have the perfect marriage? What constitutes a ‘perfect’ marriage? These are all valid questions. Especially when we think that because we have some difficulties in our marriage, we may not be “the perfect couple.”

If we are completely honest, we all know that a marriage is not perfect because it is composed of two people who are imperfect. Therefore, there will necessarily be adjustments to be made, challenges to overcome, shortcomings to forgive. This is what we call the day to day reality of the married couple. We not only recognize these challenges, but we work through them, with the help of the tools that have been given to us in our marriage preparation, in marriage enrichment programs and sessions we have attended of in other resources that we may have on hand.

Faith, Marriage and Holy Week

Faith is also a tool that we can use to work through the challenges of marriage. We can look at our marriage and compare it to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Especially now during Holy Week and Easter, we need to keep in mind that Jesus went through all the pain, suffering, rejection, but he always had a clear awareness of what was to come…. The Resurrection. “The Son of Man* must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” Mark 8:31

When Jesus was taken prisoner, when he was being judged, punished, tortured, nailed to the cross and killed, he knew that the pain and the suffering he was experiencing was not the end of his existence. He knew something bigger, much bigger was coming. He knew God had a much bigger plan for him.

Easter, New Life, and Marriage

Every time that we experience challenges in marriage (and we do experience them) we can think of the experience of Holy Week and Easter. We must go through the sorrow of Good Friday in order to arrive to the joy of Easter. In the same way, in our marriage, we must go through difficulties, adjustments and challenges in order to grow as a couple and continue our married life together. Good Friday, the tomb, the darkness of the sepulcher, is only a stage. In our marriage, the problems, conflicts, arguments, disagreements, are also stages that will pass. The glory of the resurrection will come, and the joy of Easter will bring us new life.

Happy Easter to you and your family from all of us at The Marriage Group!

Lent is a time of preparation for the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church has established this time as a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so we can be spiritually ready to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

This time of preparation lasts 40 days. The number 40 is used in the Bible many times as a time of preparation for something else that is to come: in the story of the flood, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7: 4-12); Moses was in the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 34:28); the people of Israel wondered in the desert for 40 years (Joshua 5:6) and Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4: 1-2).

Lent and Engaged Couples

If you are engaged to be married, Lent is a great time of prayer and reflection and a time of preparation. If you are wondering if you can be married in the Catholic Church during lent, click here to access a great blog that explains that.

Since Lent is a time of preparation for Easter, it is also an invitation for you and your fiancé to prepare for the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony.

Preparation takes different forms: you can attend a retreat organized by your parish or your diocese, you can attend marriage preparation classes either as a group or one on one with a sponsor couple, and you can also attend online marriage preparation classes here. All these forms of marriage preparation are accepted by the church and are available to you.

Lent and Married Couples

If you recently got married in the Catholic Church and you are starting to build your own family and your own family traditions, Lent is a great time to establish some practices that are spiritually important for both of you.

Start by telling each other how each of your families of origin prepared for Easter during this time of Lent.

Did you attend reconciliation as a family? Did you practice fasting and almsgiving in a special way? Once you have shared all these stories with each other, establish your own Lenten practices.

What do you want to do during Lent now that you are married? Make sure to include time for prayer, both as a couple and individually, fasting and almsgiving.

Lent and Families

Lent gives families an opportunity to come together for prayer and to reflect on the things we want to change. It is important to highlight the aspects of forgiving, reconciliation, and accepting one another in the family. Family prayer before meals is a special time to be thankful for what we have and to ask God to help us be aware of those around us who are less fortunate. Nighttime prayers are also a good moment to stop and reflect on what we did wrong and who did we offend during the day.

Practicing the corporal works of mercy as a family is also a good Lenten practice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc., are all activities that the whole family can practice.

Lent is an invitation to all of us to change our ways (convert) and start a new life with the Risen Lord in the Resurrection at Easter. Let us make good use of these 40 days and really make a change in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Many blessings on this Lenten Season

The holidays represent a great challenge to marriages and family life. We all enjoy getting together with family and friends and spending time with them. But what happens when the extended family on both sides expect you to spend Christmas or New Years with them?

Where do you go? Who do you spend which holiday with? Do you spend them with his family? Her family? Or do you want to start your own new traditions as a new family?

All of  these are perfectly valid questions that most newlywed couples must answer at some point. The most important thing to know is that there is no perfect answer! As in many other situations, when it comes to deciding how and where to spend the holidays, what is most important is the dialogue between you and your spouse. Here are some aspects to consider when the two of you decide to have this conversation.

Family of Origin

Remember your marriage preparation segment on Family of Origin and remember that both of you come from different families with different traditions. One is not better than the other, they are different and there is value in both of them. Take time to share your own traditions about the holidays when you were growing up.

Old Traditions vs. New Traditions

After talking and sharing your own experiences and the traditions of your own families of origin, have open and honest dialogue about your own present family, the family that you and your spouse have formed: do you want to start new traditions together or do you want to be a part of your family of origin’s traditions? Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here, only honest answers!

Negotiating, Meeting in the Middle, Finding the Common Ground

What if you both want to spend Christmas with your parents and siblings? What if you receive invitations from both sides of the family to spend New Years with them? What do you? Where do you go? This is the time to negotiate, time to meet in the middle, time to give something to gain something. Remember that segment of marriage preparation that talks about “Conflict Resolution?” Well, now it is the time to put it into practice. Utilize your tools to express what you want, listen to what your spouse wants, and then together find a common ground. What’s most important here is not the outcome, it is the process, the dialogue and the love and understanding that you put into it. Find your own solution, the alternative that will work for your marriage. First, think about what makes your spouse happy, then think of the extended family and friends.

Attending a holiday celebration with the extended family is fun, but attending any celebration “Together-As-One” is what God really wants from the two of you. Will the holidays be the same as they were when you were growing up? NO! They will be even better now that you have formed your own family. Enjoy the holidays, have a Blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s grace.

An important aspect about preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church is finding and selecting the priest who will preside over the celebration.

Couples usually find the church first and, therefore, the priest who is at that particular church will celebrate the wedding ceremony. This is perfectly fine. It is important for couples to have a relationship with the priest or deacon who will preside over their wedding ceremony, whenever possible.

Oftentimes, couples chose a priest they already know to preside over their celebration. They may have a favorite priest, a friend, or a family member.

While finding the right priest to preside the celebration is very important, it is also important to know that the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the bride and the groom. Yes! The most important people in the sacrament of marriage are the ones who are entering into this covenant union we call marriage.

This is different from the other sacraments of the Catholic Church, where the minister is always a bishop, a priest or a deacon (an ordained minister). For the sacrament of marriage, the ministers are the contracting parties (bride and groom) because they are giving each other promises or vows and the consent.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.” (CCC 1623)

That’s why during this part of the ceremony, the priest asks the couple to stand facing each other and exchange the promises or vows, symbolizing that they are giving each other the consent to enter into this union forever.

This shows us how important and how unique this sacrament is in the eyes of the Church. The bride and the groom actively give each other the promises in what is considered the most important part of a Catholic wedding ceremony.

It is very important for the couple to be aware of this moment, which represents the essence of the Catholic wedding ceremony. If you are getting married in the Catholic Church, it is also important to know that, as the ministers in this sacrament, it is very important that you are well formed and prepared for this sacred duty. That’s why marriage preparation is so important and that’s the reason why the Church encourages you to take marriage preparation seriously.

It is our hope that through this process of marriage preparation, you will grow in your understanding of the sacrament of marriage and the importance of the role you play in the ceremony as a minister of the sacrament.

We wish you all the best!

June is the beginning of summer in the United States. It is also when most couples and families take time to rest and re-energize. We take trips to visit the beach, the lake, parks, etc. In general, it is a season for rest and relaxation; a time to take a break from our busy lives.

We might be tempted to say it is also a time to take a break from feeding our relationship with our spouse or to take a little break from this thing we call, “enriching our marriage.” Quite the opposite! Summer is the perfect time to engage again in this wonderful adventure we call marriage!

Taking Lessons from Nature

In nature, life grows rapidly in the summer. Trees and plants reach their full potential during summer. Fruits and vegetables grow and mature during summer. In the same way, our relationship as a couple grows during this time of rest and recreation, if we know how to feed it properly.

This is the time to go back to the beginning and re-encounter the reasons why we entered into this adventure we call marriage.

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia / The Joy of Love,” #9 says, “They [the married couple] embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?’ (Mt 19:4).” We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24).”

We should take advantage of this summer season that offers us more time and flexibility to do things that will become food for our relationship. We can use the extra free time we are given during summer to work on our marriage in an intentional way and in a more fun way!

Summer Marriage Enrichment

There are so many ways in which you can do something fun and creative to enrich your relationship this summer. From picnics in the park to outdoor movies, get creative and start planning those date nights.

Another great way to engage in Marriage Enrichment is to visit your local parish and ask about opportunities and events they may have available. Many parishes offer summer programs that are fun, creative and interesting! You will not only be working on your marriage, but you will develop stronger connections to your local parish and you will have an opportunity to build community with other married couples.

Whichever way you chose to enrich your marriage this summer, remember the “three Cs” of marriage enrichment:

  • Consistency: Schedule your enrichment opportunities and stick to your plan.
  • Creativity: Think outside the box! Be original, be brave and try new things.
  • Christ-Centered: Chose activities that will bring you closer to Christ, will feed your faith and your relationship with God.

It is our hope that you will have a great summer filled with opportunities to rest and to grow together in your marriage.

When it comes to any date, it’s pretty safe to say that we all like to be impressed by the other, and we like to be impressive as well. Truthfully though, don’t most of us simply appreciate a romantic effort most times, leaving the pricey extravagance for a random, extra special occasion?

At no time should a night out break your budget, but we can understand the occasional splurge. Here are a few of our favorite affordable dates, specifically with a lower cost in mind, yet ideas that are full of heart.

Breakfast!

I’ve got to start with one of my faves. Whether being picked up or you’re picking up your date early in the morning–to go to a favorite place to watch the sunrise, then off to a quaint breakfast spot, it sounds incredibly romantic. It’s a sweet way to start both of your days.

Window Shopping

Taking a nice long walk through a happenin’ downtown area of your hometown or neighboring city is a wonderful way to learn more about his or her likes and interests. It’s also a good way to scope out the local favorite delicatessens and bakeries.

Picnics

Since you just took a delightful walk through town, and now know where you can pick up a light lunch or just a coffee and a sweet-treat, you’re all set to go relax in the park or maybe sit alongside the boardwalk–if you’re lucky enough to live by the water. Perfect places for more fun, yet, intimate conversations.

Just A Drive…

For the cost of a little gasoline to fill your car–a ride up and down the coast or through the most scenic countryside can create some of the fondest memories, which can last a lifetime.

This list could go on-and-on, and I am certainly looking forward to that. We would love to hear about YOUR favorite, most romantic dates that cost you little to no money–only priceless time you spent with that special someone. Let us know by commenting here, or message us on Facebook or Instagram!

When a Catholic and a non-Catholic marry one another, obvious differences in doctrine, worship, or personal piety inevitably lead to tension. So how can an ecumenical marriage thrive?

You were drawn to this person in particular, not their religion in general.

A few years ago, Annie and Stephen met while dancing like fools at a friend’s wedding. As time went on they bonded as fools for Christ, she a Catholic and he a Protestant. Despite denominational differences, they both cared about healing the world, finding joy in every day, and earnestly doing the will of God. Last year they were married, and sharing their life in marriage has only intensified their common commitments.

We aren’t always attracted to people in our churches. Religious compatibility and marital compatibility are two different things. Even spouses of the same religion enter into a marriage because this particular person helps the other become holy.

No matter how much religion unites us, we must also remember that every person’s prayer life is radically unique. Each of us has a mysterious relationship with God that no one else can ever enter into. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect, and greet each other.”

Your denomination is an adjective, not a noun.

Fundamentally, we are all Christians. “Catholic”, “Protestant,” “Orthodox,” or any other denominational names just specify what kind of Christian we are. Often we assume we have different faiths rather than different expressions of the same faith. But long before spouses had any kind of romantic commitment, they were already committed to one another through a common baptism.

Within a healthy marriage the man and woman both make up what the other lacks: the same goes for an ecumenical marriage. The spontaneity of Stephen’s Protestant background enlivens Annie’s contemplative Catholic piety, just as much as Stephen finds grounded-ness in the order and symbolism of Annie’s Mass. Each tradition has something to give to the other.

Getting involved in each other’s communities especially helps unite spouses if one cannot participate fully in the other’s liturgy. Helping with coffee hour, weekday Bible studies, or volunteer events help everyone set aside denominational differences in order to grow together as Christians.

Resist the desire to change the other person.

ecumenical marriages

Annie and Stephan, photo courtesy of Caedy Convis Photography

Stephen said that whenever the phrase “I wish you would just…” comes into his head, he kills it immediately. Often ecumenical spouses entertain fantasies that this spouse will enter RCIA and receive communion with the rest of the family, or that this spouse will embrace the other’s style of worship. But do we really want the other person to grow, or do we just want them converted to our way of doing things?

You can’t build a relationship with someone you’re trying to fix. Don’t enter an ecumenical marriage with a chip on your shoulder or a passion for apologetics. Remember, marriage exists for your salvation and healing—you’re the one who needs to change.

Ecumenical marriage thrives for the same reasons any marriage thrives.

We aren’t supposed to run from difficulties, but nor should we shrug and belittle them. “It pains us to talk about this, because these are real struggles for us,” Stephen said. “Honestly, I wouldn’t suggest this to anyone,” said Annie, “unless it’s the will of God.” No matter the religion, all spouses need to hear the other person out, set aside their preoccupations or anxieties, and be sure that, as Annie says, “this is what God wants for us.”

Article contributed by Thomas Whitman. Photography by Caedy Convis Photography.