Everyone has advice for engaged couples. Some of it is good; lots of it is bad. Below are four tips for creating a sound foundation for the rest of your lives together, from someone who went to the altar not long ago.
Human nature being what it is, sex is often treated like the Holy Grail of marriage, especially for chaste engaged couples. The Catholic Church considers it a renewal of wedding vows, but Hollywood makes sex out to be the culmination of physical pleasure between two people (married or unmarried).
While sex is important, what makes it valuable is the motivation behind it. To quote St. John Paull II:
“Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love. For chastity frees their association, including their marital intercourse, from that tendency to use a person.”
In other words, a truly loving couple puts each other first before the sex — and thus children are brought into a loving environment and the couple becomes closer.
Only through God can this love be paramount. Without God foremost in the picture, a couple will absolutely fail to have the most loving relationship that they can.
And without a loving relationship based on God, many men turn to pornography in marriage, and many Christians ignore Christ’s decree against divorce.
It’s better to ensure that pornography and other sexual barriers to marriage are eliminated from the picture before taking vows, so that you can focus on each other in the best way possible.
My wife and I were fortunate. Our open communication before marriage and the guidance of others meant that we entered marriage with no sexual expectations. We simply trusted God to guide us and help us grow together.
Your small flaws, quirks and foibles are not so small once you decide to make someone else’s happiness more important than your own. To quote Venerable Fulton Sheen, “Each instinct and passion of man is amoral; it is only the abuse of these passions that makes them wrong.”
In marriage, the “abuse” of an instinct or passion may be as simple as not ensuring that you know how your quirks affect your spouse. This is an opportunity for growth, as long as you have open communication.
For example, I’m a radical extrovert, while my wife is an introvert. This difference has been a subject of much entertainment for us and others. It has also forced us to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these characteristics in light of our spousal commitments.
Effective communication creates a plan for life together.
My wife and I are working through some financial challenges that have required us to be even more open with each other. While it’s difficult at times, it has ensured that no resentment or misunderstanding develops.
Additionally, that open communication has led my wife to better understand my struggles with trusting God during some tough times, which means she is able to play a key role in keeping me on the path to greater trust.
Love is often misconstrued in America to mean “making someone emotionally happy.”
In fact, however, love is doing what’s best for the other — especially, in my opinion, when things are hard.
That could mean working extra hard at one’s job or even ensuring you and your spouse say your daily prayers.
And it is important to remember that “in-love” feelings of infatuation, etc., don’t last.
Putting one’s spouse first — through practice and then through habit — is key to love in action.
Again, as Archbishop Sheen noted, it’s putting the best version of yourself into what you do that allows neutral characteristics to be positive.
My wife’s loving sacrifices come in her willingness to attend social events on multiple days in a row. Her sacrifices also often involve getting my clothes ready in the morning. I’ve shown her love by skipping many social events and ensuring that her breakfast is on the table.
These are only small acts of love. But they are tokens of fidelity that, according to our priest, will keep us on the highway of marriage and out of the ditch.
My wife and I have not prayed together as much as we would have preferred, but one of the best pieces of advice I can give engaged couples is to ensure that you stick to a prayer plan.
While we don’t have little ones running around yet, the adjustments to marriage have been challenging enough with just two — and a little blessing on the way!
Hopefully, a recent job change and our own efforts will ensure we attend more daily Masses and have a renewed focus on daily prayer.
Again, without God, marriages won’t be all that they can be.
“Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put into the soul of men and women,” according to St. Gianna Molla, and that love can only happen when God comes first.
Even when we don’t pray enough, my wife and I know that God is the foundation upon which we build our family.
And when disagreements or misunderstandings happen, prayer has been a time for forgiveness.
Put prayer first. It will lead to better communication and truly sacrificial love.
As Venerable Fulton Sheen noted, “Marriage is a vocation to put God in every detail of love.”