With World Marriage Day earlier this week, and National Marriage Week USA being observed during the seven days leading up to Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 2019, I asked five Catholic leaders involved in helping others with their marriages to share their thoughts on marriage and to offer tips for a good marriage.

 

Matt and Mindy Dalton, founders of Marriage Missionaries

What are some common traits you see in healthy marriages?

There are several key traits that we see that make up healthy joyous marriages, including high regard for one another with great value placed in each other.  Couples that are a united front on most all of their dealings – faith, finances their expectations of raising children—are happy. Couples that respect each other’s differences and celebrate their similarities are also very healthy. And finally, married couples that strive to keep the proper order in the vocation they said “I DO” to are quite strong—God, Spouse, Children, Work to provide for family, extended family, friends and hobbies—in this order, helps to bring peace into the home.  If couples again help each other to make all their decisions through the lens of their vocation of marriage, their marriages and families thrive.

 

What are some harmful traits you’ve observed which can destroy marriages?

At the top of the list is “unforgiveness” that leads to hardened hearts, that then brings about isolation if left unchecked or reconciled.  Hardness of hearts has all kinds of symptoms that bring about division and then isolation.  In this trajectory, married couples end up “spiritually divorced.”  Their relationship is reduced to “Escapisms.”  We have even seen one of the spouses get so involved with their parish life—at the expense of their marriage—because it is easier to volunteer than to work on their marriage.  In other words, their hearts become off limits to each other.  At the minimum their communication is reduced to schedules, logistics and busyness (B.U.S.Y. Being Under Satan’s Yoke).  Their houses may be efficient but they aren’t very effective when it comes to connection— “An authentic LOVE Connection.”

Another big thing that we see, in this day and age of technology ruling our lives, that people have forgotten self-discipline and therefore this can add to using each other in marriage instead of loving each other.  Our spouse is not an object, something to be used and then sadly discarded.  We as married couples can get caught up and forget that love is a verb—acts of service to our beloved… We have come to see that people, and yes even married couples, love their THINGS and USE people­—even their spouse.

 

What are some tips you’d offer to promote a strong marriage?

We recommend praying together, not only as a family, but as a married couple both with and for each other.  In addition, couples that set aside 15 minutes a day to communicate their hearts as a couple are strengthened.  Sharing their thoughts, feelings and desires with our spouse—set apart from any and all other communication—on a consistent basis puts each of us in a mode of receiving where the other person is coming from.  This healthy communication can be the fruit and glue that holds marriages together.  If our verbal communication is beautiful and joyous then so should the coming together in the one flesh union.  Successful married couples realize these things and the marital embrace becomes a constant renewal of our wedding vows.  The two truly become one in marriage.  Then this love that God has raised to a sacrament becomes a light first to one another, to our own children and the community.

 

Edward Trendowski, director of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, Faith Formation Office, which oversees the diocesan marriage preparation program

What are some common traits you see in healthy marriages?

Healthy marriages are ones that put God first. In my own experience here in the U.S., it is those husbands and wives who put the Triune God at the center of their marriage who are able, with God’s grace, to weather the storms brought about by the world, the flesh and the devil.  Married couples need the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to receive the grace to persevere and to remind them of the sacrifice which marriage requires, in imitation of Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33).

 

What are some harmful traits you’ve observed which can destroy marriages?

One of the most harmful traits that I have seen in marriages is husbands and wives attempting to make marriage what they want it to be, and not submitting their will to God’s will for marriage and their lives. For example, widespread rejection of Humanae Vitae and contraceptive use underlies a bigger problem. The problem is that using contraception, intentionally or unintentionally, makes the claim “I am not willing to make the sacrifices which marriage requires” or worse “I don’t trust God enough with my own life.” These sentiments mimic the disciples who walked away from Jesus after His Bread of Life discourse (John 6:60 and 6:66).

 

What are some tips you’d offer to promote a strong marriage?

First, invite Jesus Christ to your wedding day and into your marriage. Also, all Catholics, especially engaged couples, need to understand that the Sacrament of Matrimony involves a husband giving himself completely to his wife, and she giving herself completely to her husband. Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship but a 100/100 relationship made possible with the help of God’s grace and one’s commitment to the vows they exchanged on their wedding day. We encourage engaged couples to reflect on their wedding vows before the day of their wedding. It is in the exchange of the vows where the couples promise before God and His Church to be faithful to their spouse in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love the spouse and to honor the spouse all the days of their lives. I don’t see any “escape clause” in those vows, so do your best to live them every day, and never let the sun set on your anger (Ephesians 4:26).

 

Peter and Cynthia Lemieux, marriage coaches (www.sayyestoforever.com)

What are some common traits you see in healthy marriages?

We have been involved with Marriage Preparation and Marriage Enrichment programs for almost 40 years. Over that time we have worked with and observed many marriages. Several of these marriages have rebounded from great difficulties to develop into wonderful marriages. There is no way to shortcut the truth that marriage takes commitment and work. Healthy marriages demonstrate appealing traits like healthy humor, caring, forgiveness and faith. However, beneath all of that is a mutual commitment to the vows especially “till death do us part.” With that mutual vision, we find the couple much more willing to make changes in individual behavior for the good of the marriage and family. Finally, a couple needs to share common values. We believe a couple planning for marriage needs to be able to express their common values and that a commitment to Christ should be at the core of those values.

 

What are some harmful traits you’ve observed which can destroy marriages?

There are so many harmful traits today that people see as “normal.” There are many addictions that seem to show up a few years into the marriage. Addiction to video games, porn, and electronics are just a few of these. Many of these addictions seem to show up after the couple have been married for a few months or years. We also have observed after several years of marriage that couples tell us that they have grown apart.

Couples are so busy today with jobs, trying to take care of children. That focus on their marriage, and making it a priority seems to take the backseat. The proliferation of pornography has ripped many marriages apart. There is an acceptance of materialism and consumerism which drives families into unmanageable debt. In that environment, we see families having values based in material goods and possessions putting little emphasis in relationships. People will think nothing of spending large dollars to get the newest gadget, but are reluctant to put time and finances into improving their relationships. This often leads to expensive counseling sessions which, we have found, often encourages separation and divorce rather than reconciliation. There is an emphasis in our culture on the importance of “self.” Do what makes YOU happy. This attitudedestroys the sacrificial nature that is necessary to build a marriage and a family of committed and generous love. Finally, we often see it is the women that are coming forward to ask for help to save the marriage and many of their spouses are reluctant to go forward. While by no means is this universal, we can see the need for revival in the faith of men today. All programs that are building up the faith of the men are a great hope for the future of marriage in our culture.

 

What are some tips you’d offer to promote a strong marriage?

It always starts with the basics. We ask couples to pray together daily. We remind them to go to Mass as a couple every week together and to plan this in advance. Renewing their Marriage Vows by attending Mass together strengthens their Marriage Spiritually for the daily living that they as a family have. The Eucharist and frequent confession are available to all of proving grace and nourishment for the challenging journey that we travel. Our faith offers the sustenance for all of us to get through the very difficult times that every marriage encounters. That is dwells in the Lord Jesus.

We have found that the Rosary is a source of great strength for us. At Fatima the Blessed Mother asked us to pray for our families and especially those who have left or are considering leaving the faith.

So often the solutions to our worries are right in front of us with the fundamentals of being a good Catholic. In order, a person should love God, then love your spouse. This is not the emotion of love. It is the decision to love regardless of our emotion. It is God who gives us the strength to do this. Gazing at a crucifix when we pray is the great reminder to all of us that love is not about “making sure we are happy” but it is in giving all we have for others.