Category Archives: Pre-Cana

The Four Areas for Marital Communication

Some of us are good at planning. Some are good at sharing our feelings. Some good at resolving conflict. Others at having fun together. Much of the time we think, when we are communicating well in one area, especially the latter, that our marital communication is good overall. But if we aren’t communicating well in all four areas, we leave ourselves open to marital conflict.

Planning and Coordinating

Life is complicated, and when kids enter the picture, especially as the family gets larger, the complications can grow exponentially. Good planning and coordination between a couple is critical. One of you is probably better at planning, but don’t leave all the responsibility on that person. That’s a ticket to an imbalanced marriage. We plan our day every morning over breakfast, before the kids get up. We plan our week every Sunday. We plan our month at the end of the month prior. We even do yearly strategic planning, which I highly recommend. These are conversations that have to happen to keep stress at bay.

Fun Times

Fun in a marriage never stops being important. Sharing a movie or play or sporting event or family outing is a form of communication. It is shared experience, and each shared experience adds one little thread to the ties that create the marital bond. Even CNN, not the most marriage friendly organization, realizes the importance of couples spending time together.

Conflict Resolution

Hundreds of books have been written on conflict resolution. Bad conflict resolution or, worse, conflict avoidance can end up in broken marriages. One of the key skills a married couple must learn is good conflict resolution. The Marriage Book by Nicky and Sila Lee is one book with an excellent section on conflict resolution. The key, though, is not to think there is one magic technique that works for everyone. Each person, and each couple, is different. Read widely in this area. Try different techniques as long as they are rooted in respect for God and your spouse. Find the parts that work and build them up into your very own personal conflict resolution technique.

Sharing Your Feelings

I put this one last because, to some degree, it’s first. The key to sharing your feelings with your spouse is to communicate with her who you are at this very moment. We are constantly changing and growing, and we must communicate those changes to our beloved. And just as importantly, we must receive those communications from our beloved and learn who she is today.

This is the root of communication. When we know who each other is, intimately, then we can plan effectively. We can enjoy each other’s company. We can resolve our problems with love instead of acrimony. So we need to spend time each and every day in intimate communication of our innermost selves. We must hold back nothing, and we must provide a safe refuge where our beloved can share her innermost self without fear.

There is no doubt. Communication in marriage is hard. But if we approach it with respect for God and our spouse, and if we pay attention to our communication in all these four areas, we can build a strong and stable marriage.

Consoling Our Sorrowful Mother

As I was praying the sorrowful mysteries – on the fifth mystery, in fact – I found myself imagining I was at the foot of the cross, next to the Blessed Mother, attempting, vainly it seemed, to console her as her Son died before us. It occurred to me that when we pray the Rosary, or any Marian prayer, we are consoling Mary in her sorrows, by showing her how much her Son is loved. And if we console His mother, are we not pleasing the son?
Just a thought.

Marrying an Atheist

I ran across this post
Could You Marry an Atheist today and it struck home. My wife – cradle-Catholic, lector, and regular volunteer at Boston University’s Newman House – had planned to do just that – marry an atheist – the atheist in question being me. It was all set to go. We had met with her priest and fulfilled all the Church’s requirements for a mixed-faith wedding. I had agreed to raise any children Catholic, and I respected her faith just as I respected all other aspects of her life.

We had a long engagement during which I lived in Italy for almost a year. During that time, I had a “road to Damascus” moment. God made himself known to me in no uncertain terms. (That is a whole other story.) Atheism was no longer an option. On a cold night – a cold Advent night, as I would later find out – I was given the gift of faith. I returned to the states, enrolled in RCIA, and finally entered at the Easter vigil just months before we were married.
So my wife became engaged to an atheist and married a Catholic.
Not a path I would recommend.

I don’t mean that it worked badly for us. I believe ours was a relationship inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the blessings have flowed from it. But I doubt it would work for others. And most importantly, I would not want my daughter to marry an atheist.

Really, there are only two options. Either the Catholic believes that their spouse will eventually convert (and sees themselves as a catalyst for the conversion), or the Catholic accepts that they will forever be married to an atheist. Both attitudes are dangerous.

As a Pre-Cana couple, we counsel our engaged couples not to think they are going to change their betrothed. Bottom line, changes come from within – or through the Holy Spirit in the case of spiritual changes – they cannot be forced. Believing you will convert a potential spouse is a recipe for disappointment and worse.

Worse yet is the decision to live ones life not only with someone of a different faith, but with someone who actively disbelieves in God. There are more problems with that than I can possibly list, but here are a few that, having been an atheist, are prominent to me. First, each parent has a unique spiritual role in the faith formation of the children. Numerous studies show that if the father is not strong in the faith, the kids will not be either. The father is essential in that regard. Mom is imortant too. She tends to bring in the compassionate side. While Dad may be a by-the-numbers type, Mom is the one more likely to teach the children Christian charity and neighborliness. Every night I bless my children in bed. I frequently lead them in the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. They see me singing at Mass, so they assume they should be singing too. What if they were missing all that?
Second, everyone’s faith goes through difficult dry periods. In our experience, when one of us is dry, the other provides the inspiration to work through it. I know that there are times when the sight of my wife praying pulls me out of a dark place. I know I do the same for her. Without that? How hard would it be for a spouse to keep her faith when her husband is getting along just fine, thank you very much, with his secular humanism that doesn’t require all that silly sacrifice, mortification, and acceptance of suffering?
Third, atheism brings baggage. It usually means a more amoral or immoral background. It did with me. I am still unpacking and disposing of that baggage, and it has caused my lovely wife more than her share of grief. I do not want to see my children dealing with that.

Anyway, I am running out of steam. Sometimes – as in my case – God puts an atheist and a Catholic together with a grand purpose in mind. More likely, however, the marriage is according to a human plan, not God’s plan, and as such will lead down a very dark path.