As we look around us, we see signs of new life everywhere. Spring is that time of the year when we see growth and flourishing in nature as the cycle of life continues to develop.

In the same way, God invites us to experience this same growth and flourishing in every aspect of our lives. If our spiritual life has been dormant, now is the time to give it new life and new strength.

Growing As A Couple

If our relationships have been stuck due to routine, lack of enrichment or just simply boredom, now is the time to do something about it. What do we do when we see that a plant is not growing? What do we do with a tree that is not producing fruits? There are many things to do!

  • We can dig the dirt around the plant and let the oxygen enrich the ground bringing new life to the plant. In our relationship, we can do the same! Take a close look around you and look for your support structure. Who supports your relationship? Friends? family? the Church? Reach out to them and set up a time to have a conversation about how the relationship is going. You will see that soon you will experience ‘new oxygen’ and new life in your relationship.
  • When a plant is looking sad and withered, we can also add fertilizer, extra food that will bring new life to the plant. The same can happen in our relationship, sometimes we feel sad because we think our relationship is dying. There are things we can do to give our relationship that extra food it needs to flourish again. You and your spouse will need to determine what that is; is it marriage counseling? is it a couples’ retreat? is it more dates? What are you and your spouse craving for in your relationship? Remember to provide your relationship with the food it needs to flourish.
  • Some plants and trees will need a little pruning to redirect the growth of the new sprouts. In our relationship, there are times when we also need to cut whatever is not healthy for the relationship. This is the time when we need to look at relationships, attachments, bad habits, or even interests that may not be beneficial for the relationship. It is time to cut whatever is not helping the relationship to grow and flourish.

God Is The Source Of Life

“Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;9it may bear fruit in the future.”  Luke 13: 8-9.

God really wants us to flourish, both individually and as a couple. The best way to do this is by staying close to him who is the source of eternal life. He is also the living water (John 7:37-39) that our relationship needs to continue thriving and flourishing.

It is in him and in the Eucharist that we find the source and summit of life everlasting that we need to fulfil our mission as a married couple. Let us respond to His invitation to grow together as a couple!

Happy Spring!

 

Written by Claudio Mora

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!

Written by Claudio Mora

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.

Written by Claudio Mora

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? Well?

At no time should a night out break your budget, but we can understand the occasional splurge. Here is just a sample of 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 groundedness 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.

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 marriages thrive 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.

We can’t deny that there is an abundance of negative talk and images out there today. Although there may be much truth in it all, we often miss that there is truly just as much, if not more, positive all around us.

Within all of the positivity, there are many opportunities for men and women to advance to new heights, far exceeding their own personal goals. However, during each new journey, contained in our relationships (marriage, engagement, dating, or friendships) there are times when opportunities present themselves for one of us and not yet for the other.

Here are a few ways to make sure we are maintaining a spirit of support and encouragement in our interactions with one another, no matter which side of the opportunity-fence you may be on.

Ask

Whether the opportunity to achieve one of your dreams has presented itself for you to take, or for your significant other, continue to ask if there is anything that you can do to be helpful to the other.

On the other side of that coin, if there is something you know you could use some help with, do not waste another minute – just say so!

Show Up

Too often, we look for times that are most convenient for us to engage. Come on – it just doesn’t work out that way, at least not all the time. In my experience, the times that someone else has needed my presence the most, I didn’t recognize its importance before I showed up. It also turns out that those times did just as much for myself as they did for my partner.

Stay Aware

A lot of the time we think we know how our partner is doing. However, we can be wrong! (I know… ouch.) So, if there is an event we can attend to show our support, be there! If there is a chance to find out in their own words how everything in their world (outside your relationship) is going, ask! And lastly, if there is something that they have not been able to get to and you see that it needs to be done, do it!

While these may seem to be obvious suggestions, they are often the most overlooked and underappreciated. So remember: Two people are better than one, for they can help each other succeed. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)


If you enjoyed this post, we would be very grateful for your help spreading the word by emailing it to a friend, or share it on Facebook and like our page. Thank you! –Jamie D Smith, with The Marriage Group

Money is one of the most common causes of friction during the first year of marriage. When you first enter into a union it is important to discuss money matters, but you might be wondering: what kind of personal finances should I bring up?

Your ideas on investment are definitely worthy of discussion. If you have dreams of investing in properties over the years or even own real estate investments, be sure to discuss this up with your partner before you start a family. Here’s a quick guide to handling this sometimes friction-filled topic.

Start Slow

When you enter into a discussion about property investments, be sure to start things out slowly. Though you may have been interested in real estate and passive income for years, your spouse may not be as well versed as you are in the regulations of buy to lets, mortgages or the fluctuations of base rates for instance. Or, visa-versa — your spouse could know a great deal more than you and have tons of experience.

Either way, if the topic is new between you, start the discussion in a pressure-free way. Instead of presenting a property you want to buy out of the blue, start talking about friends who own and rent out properties, and see what your spouse has to say. Tell stories and keep the conversation light.

Be Honest

Honesty is essential between couples. Foster trust in your marriage by never with-holding information, which is a passive way of lying. Tell the truth by speaking about your experiences, hopes, and thoughts on the topics that are important to you.

For example, once you have established a dialogue about real estate investment, you might need to bring up the fact that you once owned a property and sold it for a profit, and that you hope to do it again. Your hopes involve your partner because you are now a team, so be sure to include them in your statement. You might want to say something like, “I would love to look at properties to invest in again one day in the future, if you are interested and on board.”

Listen To Your Spouses Concerns

Your spouse may have concerns about property investment. This could be a fear that you aren’t interested in buying real estate for investment purposes, and want to invest in other places or not invest at all. Or, his or her concern could also be about your wish to invest in property.

Your spouse will appreciate being heard. Take the time to listen to his or her concerns. You don’t even need to respond right away. Just give them space to speak what is on their mind.

Money is a charged subject, and each partner will bring a unique viewpoint into the marriage. This is one of the benefits of coming together as a couple! Learn from each other when it comes to challenging topics such as property investment and make wise decisions as a team. Start slow, be honest and open, and take the time to listen to your spouse.

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor

When you take the ultimate commitment plunge – getting engaged, there are an increasing number of deep waterways you may have to navigate together. To name a few, there’s adjusting to your new relationship status, making decisions together, planning the wedding, and navigating your future in-laws. While every couple wants to enjoy this special time, you may need a few tips to keep your head above water:

This too shall pass

Your fiancé’s bad mood, the fact that someone messed up the booking for the wedding venue, bridesmaid drama, the pressure to find the perfect dress, the never-ending wedding costs – these are all temporary stressors and it’s important to remember that you will come out on the other side. Try not to lose perspective as things get stressful during the wedding planning, and make sure you come back to the most important thing: you have each other and that’s all you ever really wanted.

Don’t go to bed angry

Not just applicable during the engagement stage, for many, this is solid marital and life advice. Going to bed, refusing to speak to each other other, and retreating in anger is not going to solve anything. It’s okay to disagree or not come to a happily ever after ending, but you can’t let your anger fester when you both go to sleep for the night. Agree to disagree or call a temporary truce until you can re-visit the issue in the light of day.

Have alone time

Set boundaries and don’t allow yourselves to get too caught up in the early love stages of wanting to always be together, always be in the same room, or always talking to each other on the phone. It is important for you both to continue to foster your own sense of self, away from the relationship, as well as maintain other friendships outside of each other. Together, these personal activities allow you to both show up better as a person and as a partner.

Be open to change

It might be as simple as a change in the font on the wedding invitations, to something as big as making adjustments to your daily routines to accommodate each other and your families. Whatever the case is, the need to be open to change is a common theme as you embark on a new relationship, a new lifestyle, and something as big as planning a wedding. Start with small steps, by simply agreeing to be open to listening to new ideas. Gradually work up to adopting, offering, and embracing change. Remember that you are changing to become better people together than you were when you were apart.

Ultimately, marriage is designed to help you become the best version of yourself, while simultaneously helping someone else do the same. Don’t spoil this special time with silly fights over flowers and cake flavors. Instead, keep perspective of what’s important to enjoy your days as you prepare to spend the rest of your lives together.

‘For richer, for poorer’…. it’s right there in the traditional marriage vows, but how many of us consider the consequences of actually living it out in the real world? The sad statistic is that up to 50% of marriages end in divorce, with finances (or lack of them) being a major cause of marital disharmony.

Feeling The Financial Strain

In a marriage where only one spouse is working there is often financial strain: sometimes the stress comes through the loss of a job and unemployment; even if the choice is a conscious one of only having one person working so that the other can stay home to raise children, it can still be hard.

After all, at the end of the day it still means less income for the family.

In either situation, the key is often a mindset shift: a mom may not be working outside of the home, but she is still bringing something equally important to the table. A father may have lost his job, but he is spending his days looking for the next opportunity – they are both working hard, just not in the traditional sense.

Communication Is Key

The key to marital harmony in so many ways is often good communication – and it’s no different when dealing with finances.

It’s a good idea to sit down together and agree on a plan and a budget. What’s right for one family won’t work for another – for some a ‘household’ account that a stay-at-home-mom is in charge of would be perfect, others see this as too limiting, and prefer one general account that both partners spend from. You may want to work out a ‘blow’ budget for each spouse – once the household bills and savings are taken care of, each person gets half of the remaining amount to do as they please. This can work particularly well if one person is a saver and one is a spender, as there’s no resentment for one person spending their cash monthly whilst the other saves up for a larger purchase.

Do What You Can With What You Have

If finances are a strain with only one parent in work (for whatever reason), then it is a good idea to make sure you are getting all the financial help you are entitled to – this will vary by state, so make sure to check your local government website. Think outside the box too – there are creative ways you can earn a little extra money from home, from taking online surveys to selling unwanted or outgrown items on eBay, any of which can be fitted in around nap times or school runs, giving a little extra wiggle room in the budget.

Your Family, Your Rules

Remember that what works for one family will not be right for another – communicate well, make a plan, ensure you are getting all the help you are entitled to, and think creatively to ensure the family finances are in good shape to help keep your marriage strong.

 

Article provided by: Jackie Edwards, Freelance Contributor