Read Time: 5 minutes

Jump to:


It’s the beginning of the year, and for most, that means that it’s time to outline the plan for the next 12 months!

Normally that can generally include things like a review of finances, planning for purchases both big and small, home projects and renovations that need to happen, and perhaps a nice vacation.

You may be thinking — that covers all the bases!

But as a married couple, we feel like there is something that often gets overlooked amidst the review and planning of all of the day-to-day, logistical items — and that is a review of the relationship.

First Things First…

We highly recommend working on your beginning of the year plan (including but not limited to the things we mentioned above) together, as a couple.

While this may seem obvious, there may be some out there who feel like they have to tackle the everyday challenges of running the household alone.

We understand that there may be dedicated “managers” of certain aspects (finances, for example), but there is a huge difference between a mutual understanding that someone may be gifted more in areas, and an attitude of, “You’re better at this, so YOU handle it.”

To clarify, one is a partnership, while the other is demanding and setting unhealthy expectations.

Roles within your marriage certainly change as time goes on, and you gain new experiences in life together. However, although as roles are defined, they should always be cooperative and complimentary with and of each other. Regardless of who is doing what, it is important to remain on the same page, and for both to have an understanding of the overall, broad objectives. Otherwise, you can become glorified roommates.

How to Review Refocus and Reenergize Your Relationship

As we mentioned before, it is absolutely important to approach the beginning of the year planning with practicality and from a bird’s eye view. Equally as important is putting your relationship under that same new year review.

Why is that important, and what does it mean?

Reviewing your relationship together at the start of the year helps to establish your roadmap, and helps to set expectations for you as a couple. This includes your romance, your family spirituality, your pursuit of each other, your intentionality to grow in your love for one another, your scheduled date nights for times of reconnecting and fun, for instance.

So let’s talk about that!

Romancing and Pursuing Each Other

Romance within marriage can often be perceived as, “the longer you are married, the less you feel ‘in love.'”

But it doesn’t actually have to be that way. In fact, according to Today, in a new national survey of married Americans, 40 percent of those who’d been married at least 10 years said they remained “very intensely” in love with their partner. So you may be asking, “how is that attainable?”

Although we never claim to have all the answers, we do have some suggestions to keep that spark alive and well.

We have all heard that real, long-term love is a choice, not a feeling. However, we believe that the more you choose to invest in the romance of your marriage, the more you begin to feel in love.

What do we mean by that?

It’s quite simple, really.

You can choose to hold your spouse’s hand when you’re in the car together or walking through the store together.

Start small. This will help to give you and your spouse a sense of connectedness and comfort — especially if either of your primary love languages is physical touch (we have more to say about love languages later in this section).

You can choose to put your phones on their chargers (in the other room, of course) when you are spending time together in your home.

Yes, in the other room — we were sure to cover that loophole! Look, we don’t make many definitive statements here, but we are fairly confident that if you constantly check your phones while you’re spending time together, you’re not actually spending time together. The act of removing that distraction from your immediate access tells your spouse that they are your priority, and they have your full attention. You then become intentional about the quality time you have with your spouse. Checking Facebook and your Cryptocurrency can wait.

You can choose to learn what your spouse’s primary love language is, and become masterfully fluent in it.

We all have a primary love language. It’s the thing that makes us feel most loved when when communicated effectively. For some, a bouquet of flowers as a “I was just thinking of you” gift is most meaningful. For others, quality time like we mentioned in the previous point fills the love tank. When those needs to feel desired are not met, husband and wife begin to feel disconnected from each other. If you haven’t checked out the Five Love Languages yet, or if it has been a while, they have an online quiz to help you determine which love language is your primary.

Growing in Love — Practically and Spiritually

It’s one thing to surprise your spouse with any of the tips mentioned above, but it has to be put into practice in order to keep the fire burning. Trust us when we say that the longer you implement those practices within your marriage, the more natural it feels. It shouldn’t get “easier” because the things worth fighting for involve effort. Hopefully you believe that your marriage is worth it.

Growing in love is how you and your spouse tread the path toward remaining “intensely in love” like we mentioned before. Growing in love is truly living out what it means to cherish your spouse. Every choice you make should have your spouse’s best interests in mind. Every word you utter to your spouse should be that of unconditional love and respect — especially in times of disagreement or conflict.

Cherishing your spouse also involves your intent to invest in your marriage. If you are experiencing difficulties, seeking council and attending couples therapy is always recommended by the leading experts. But you shouldn’t only invest in your marriage when the rough waters begin to rise. When it comes to finances, you generally invest when times are good and when money is flowing. The same goes for your marriage — invest while your marriage is hitting its high notes. If your church or parish offers marriage enrichment classes, attend them! Find programs within your community or purchase programs to do together, at home.

Growing in love also includes the spiritual health of your marriage. Are you praying with and for each other with regularity? Do you attend church together, as a family, with regularity? Do you volunteer to serve your community? Practicing any of what we mentioned helps to develop your family spirituality, bringing the two of you closer together on a tremendously deep level.

Reconnecting by Scheduling Date Nights

Schedule your date nights. Plan them out. Even if your plans include pajamas and unhealthy, delicious snacks while you binge watch The Office, plan it out! The act of planning out and scheduling your date nights will get you both excited at the prospect of spending time together.

We even have an article on Affordable Out of the Box Date Ideas to help get you started.

Your Call to Action (In Conclusion)

As you are planning your year out, have a meeting with your spouse to review your relationship. Put it on the calendar, even. Be deliberate with the meeting. It is vital to review your marriage from time to time if you both intend to be in this for the long haul.

So that’s your homework.

Be renewed by this exercise. Pray together as you meet about this, and have fun!

Read Time: 3 minutes

In the last article, we provided questions to spark discussion between you and your spouse and the challenge was to come up with new traditions of your own, as a couple.

So… Did you do that?

If so, we hope your conversations led to fruitful results with the exercise! If not, don’t worry! These conversations don’t happen overnight, and honestly, they shouldn’t.

Either way, we had a blast putting together this article to provide you with some fun, out-of-the-box ideas for the Christmas season to help get you started.

Ideas for you as a couple:

Arguably the biggest challenge with making plans around the holidays is the finite amount of time that you actually have. In fact, we’re convinced that time somehow moves faster during the holidays! The good news is that our suggestions might actually help you to feel like you can slow down just a bit amidst the hustle and bustle.

The Mystery Christmas Movie Randomizer

This one’s a whole ton of fun! All you need to do is wrap your Christmas movies in Christmas wrapping paper, and each night that you can dedicate to a movie night, unwrap a movie, grab some popcorn or other snacks, and cozy up on the couch together. The best part about it is, even though you know your library of movies, it will still be a surprise for every movie night.

If you are digital-only folks, you can still make this work! Simply write down the movies you have or can rent on pieces of paper, and draw one from a jar instead.

Quick note from everyone here on our team in case there is still any confusion: Die Hard absolutely counts as a Christmas movie. Probably the best Christmas movie ever made.

Moving on…

Make Christmas Cards

This one isn’t a “new” idea by any means, but making Christmas cards together is always a good time. Get creative! Design your own together, or buy a pack from Target. Either way, hand-written notes to loved ones wins every time!

Attend Mass Together

If attending the Christmas Mass is not or hasn’t been a tradition of yours, we highly encourage it. Even though you may be faithful members and attendees of your local parish, there is just something special about joining your brothers and sisters to observe and celebrate the beauty and holiness that this season brings.

Ideas for celebrating with your new family:

Now that your married, your family becomes your spouse’s family and vice versa. Assuming you both have good relationships with your families, it can be fun to blend some Christmas traditions between both parties.

Hot Chocolate Bar and Game Nights

If you really want to surprise your in-laws, schedule a fun hot cocoa and game night on another day that isn’t the expected family Christmas party. This helps to show them that you are intentional about getting to know them better, and to help your in-laws and parents get to know each other better as well.

Bring over ingredients for hot cocoa, including the toppings (marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, sprinkles, etc.), and get the board games out. If you really want to see everyone’s true colors, crack open Monopoly and let the good times roll.

Attend Mass Together, as a Family

As we mentioned before, if this hasn’t been a tradition of yours, or your family of origin’s, we highly recommend it. If either your in-laws or your own parents aren’t necessarily churchgoers, inviting them to Christmas Mass may have a higher probability that they will accept the invitation.

In conclusion…

As we wrap up (see what we did there?) the year 2021, our prayer is that 2022 is abundant in blessings for you and your spouse. We hope that you were able to make wonderful memories during the holidays, and that you continue to make more, as you build upon your traditions.

The most important point that we can make with all of these traditions and fun celebrations is, be present (see what we did there, too?).

In all seriousness, we can all become so busy with all that this season brings that we lose sight of the important things. “Trying” to be present with family and friends becomes a paradox in and of itself. The only advice we can give is to see each moment for what it is — temporary. That’s what makes a moment special. If it could last forever, it would become boring.

With all of the love that we can muster, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Read Time: 2 minutes

The moment you say, “I do,” you and your partner begin your adventure of intentionally getting to know each other at deeper levels. The mystery of who you and your spouse are and how you and your spouse came to be is a gift for you to both unwrap together!

One thing that you will learn about your partner is the traditions that they had in their family of origin when it comes to the holidays.

You may be wondering… What is a Family of Origin?

The family of origin is the family in which we come from — the home where we were formed into the person that we are today. We all have a family of origin and they all look different.

As the saying goes, we are a product of our environment. While we can drill down to many different nuances within this topic alone, we are going to focus on traditions, specifically for this holiday season.

Each family celebrates the holidays in a different way. Some families don’t even celebrate at all!

As you continue getting to know your spouse, it is important that you also get to know his/her family of origin’s traditions when it comes to the holidays. The best way to do this? Simply ask!

We suggest that you ask your spouse the following questions:

  • How did your family of origin celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • How did your family of origin celebrate Christmas? 
  • How did your family of origin celebrate New Year?
  • What other family traditions are celebrated during this holiday season?

The end of the year can be a challenge for many couples. We often have our own expectations about how the holidays should be celebrated.

However, this may call for a time of adjusting expectations, now that you have a new family — and that is a good thing! The end of the year allows us to share with our spouses how we enjoy celebrating them, and also to participate the different traditions that come with our spouse’s way of celebrating.

Our suggestion on achieving this mutual enjoyment of celebrating within each other’s traditions is to have open and positive communication together. You might even be surprised that your traditions go hand-in-hand with one another, or even compliment one another.

Our challenge for you and your spouse:

 

The four questions previously mentioned in this article are intended to be a starting point in the conversation, and it all leads up to this final challenge.

Once you establish clear expectations, you can come together as a couple and make your own plans. Create your own traditions together! These new traditions can be a mix of what you and your spouse experienced in your own families of origin, plus a dash (or several dashes) of what makes your relationship unique. Remember — This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

This is what the beauty of marriage is all about!

We hope that you find this article to be helpful as we begin to dip our toes into the holiday season. From all of us at The Marriage Group, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Read our next article to help spark ideas for the Christmas season!

Read Time: 4 minutes

Fall in love… Ha! See what we did there?

Fall, or Autumn, is a beautiful time of year for most of what’s significantly north of the equator. It happens to be my favorite time of year, as well! I may be a little biased, but Michigan has some of the most beautiful explosion of colors as soon as it consistently dips below fifty degrees.

Fall is a great time for those of us who love anything pumpkin, cooler weather, and apple orchards. It is also a great time to reflect upon the time we’ve spent for the past several months, as the year begins to wind down.

Comfortable vs Complacent

For some, you may have been married a few years, maybe you’ve been married a few months, or maybe you’re in the middle of preparing for your marriage.

Regardless, any married person will be the first to tell you how easy it is to start to sway to the rhythm of the day-to-day symphony of wedlock. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either! Routine and rhythm just means you are getting more and more comfortable with each other. You are getting more and more comfortable with the idea and implementation of actually being married. It’s pretty cool.

The challenge here is to not allow yourselves to become complacent. When that happens, and when left neglected, it is easy to simply become glorified roommates as time goes on.

How to Overcome Complacency in Marriage

We don’t claim to have all the answers here, and we recognize that every marriage is different, but we do have some suggestions that seem to work.

1. Remember the Magic

It’s safe to say you both had butterflies at some point in your relationship. Reminisce with each other. Talk about your first few dates. Talk about the moment you knew you fell in love with each other. Life may have turned out a little different than what you both dreamed up at the start of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean those butterflies are gone.

It may seem easier said than done, but making this part of your “reconnecting routine” will begin to feel natural, not forced.

Honestly? What has worked for my wife and myself is to bring up our favorite memories with each other over a rousing game of Uno. In the middle of getting bombarded with 30 “Draw Two” cards, the fond memories are a nice buffer.

Which is a GREAT segue into………

2. Do Things Together

Please excuse the broad brush here, but really think about it — how many things have you done with each other lately? No, scrolling through your phone while being in the same room as each other doesn’t count.

When is the last time you really connected with each other?

We’re not saying you need to go to a five-star restaurant… In fact, we recently published another article with some great, affordable, out-of-the-box date ideas to help you get started (shameless plug).

What are some things that help you and your spouse easily connect?

Do you find yourself only being able to connect with the logistics of planning out your daily or weekly schedule?

On date nights, do you find most of your time spent talking about the projects you’re in the middle of at work, what projects you have open around the house, or what groceries you need for the next week?

Like we said before, it’s easy to slip into motions of everyday life after you’re married, not knowing how or when it happened. It just… happens.

Find that spark again. Have fun together. Turn on some smooth jazz and wash the dishes together in a dimly lit kitchen. Do things together.

3. Talk About It

Simply bring it up in conversation. Some of the most damaging things that greatly impact a marriage are the things left unsaid. I may sound like a broken record here, but slipping into the monotony of everyday married life is easy — and most of the time you don’t realize it has happened. Identify that elephant in the room and embrace the conversation together.

Is it scary to be vulnerable? Of course!

We’re taught from a very young age to bottle, and some of us are pros at it (talking to myself here… I’m a textbook recovering bottler).

This might be the simplest yet most difficult suggestion on this list.

It can also be the most profound, if you let it.

Ask your spouse these questions:

  • Are you happy? What does that mean to you?
  • Are we on the same page on X, Y, and Z?
  • Is there anything weighing heavily on your mind?
  • Are you bored? If so, why? How can I help you to feel alive in our marriage again?

Those are just some suggestions for questions to help spark conversation. Use your and your spouse’s language along with the standard methods of communication you’re used to if it helps make you more comfortable — but have these conversations. You don’t know what you don’t know, so talk about it. Bring it to the light.

How Do We Start?

To summarize, start small, yes, but start somewhere.

If you noticed, all three suggestions work very well together. It doesn’t have to necessarily be in order.

Our action item for you is:

Schedule a date night (do things together).

On that date night, ask those questions, especially if you don’t want to (talk about it).

And finally, reminisce about your life together so far — the times where you were your happiest (remember the magic).

See? That’s not so bad now, is it?

 

Read Time: 5 minutes

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 and setting goals in your marriage.

Ten, Five, and One

When thinking of setting goals in your marriage, inherently, initial thoughts may be 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 so overly-vigilant 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 of setting goals in your marriage!

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 when setting goals in your marriage, 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.

Read Time: 4 minutes

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.

Affordable Out of the Box Date Ideas:

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.

Date 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 affordable out of the box date 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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

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 in the Catholic Church: 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.”

Read Time: 2 minutes

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! So how does Holy Week, Easter, and the reality of marriage all work together?

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.

That is how Holy Week, Easter, and the reality of marriage all work together.

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

Read Time: 2 minutes

Lent in our lives 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 in our lives 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.

Read more about getting married during Lent here.

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 in our lives 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!

Read Time: 2 minutes

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. Balancing new marriages, the holidays, and the extended family can be difficult. 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.

New Marriages, The Holidays, and The Extended Family • Together, as One

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.