The Fix to Marital Unhappiness: It’s Not What You Think

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To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.[1] St. John Paul II

More often than not, the engaged couples we meet in our marriage preparation ministry were raised in broken families. They witnessed dysfunctional family dynamics growing up. Consequently, they have no idea what a good marriage looks like.

In his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II said, “Marriage preparation has to be seen and put into practice as a gradual and continuous process. It includes three main stages: remote, proximate and immediate preparation.”[2] Marriage preparation starts in the family through the example of the mother and father to their children, continues through adolescence right up to the actual marriage. The Pope stressed that this training is “more urgently needed for engaged couples that still manifest shortcomings or difficulties in Christian doctrine and practice.” This is even more critical today when young engaged couples’ marriage preparation was the emotional trauma of their parents’ divorce.

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Cohabitation: Perception vs. Reality

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Marriage vs. Cohabitation Rates in the U.S.[1]

During the last five decades, marriage rates have steadily declined while cohabitation rates have exponentially increased. Americans have become less likely to marry. From 1970 to 2010, the marriage rate declined more than 50 percent (figure on the left above). Between 1960 and 2010, the number of unmarried couples in America increased more than 17-fold (figure on the right above). More than 60 percent of first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none 50 years ago.[2]

Equally shocking is the growing acceptance of cohabitation, even among Catholics. This week, the Pew Research Center published a study on Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S. Only 14% percent of those surveyed believe that it is never acceptable for two unmarried adults in a romantic relationship to live together. About half (48%) of people surveyed say that couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to have a successful marriage. About six-in-ten (59%) say that cohabitating couples can raise children as successfully as married couples. Surprisingly, the study found that about three-quarters of Catholics (74%) say it is acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together even if they do not plan to get married.

Perception does not equal reality.

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Men and Women: God’s Wonderful Design

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I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! Psalm 139:14

God’s design of the human person is magnificent to behold. On a biological level, the human body is a remarkable machine with many systems working together to allow for life, movement, cognitive function, growth, repair, reproduction, and much more. These systems include the central nervous system, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the digestive system, the immune system, the reproductive system, the skeletal structure and muscles.

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A Love Letter from Jesus

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In our ministry to married couples, we see the daily struggles couples face in their relationship and in their families. People are broken and hurting. They need hope and encouragement as they face these struggles. Jesus is the Divine Lover and Healer. He is the perfect spouse who will never stop loving you. Let Him into your heart so that He can heal you and make you whole.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

I Thirst for You[1]

Attributed to St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

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Sacramental Marriage in the Catholic Church

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How many couples fully understand God’s plan for marriage when they say “I do?”

At Calling Couples to Christ Marriage Apostolate, one of our greatest desires is to help couples understand what constitutes a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, many couples have little or no understanding of the vows they make to each other on their wedding day. These are not mere words but have deep spiritual meaning.

So, what constitutes a sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church? According to the Code of Canon Law:[1]

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Marriage and Family: God’s Divine Plan

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We find ourselves facing a firestorm that is apparently global about the biblical plan for sexuality, marriage, and family. How are we to act in relation to this disturbing phenomenon? Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap

Capuchin Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is the preacher of the Pontifical Household. In a homily a few years back, he reflected on Gaudium et spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. He says that this document addresses many social issues; the most relevant and problematic is marriage and family.

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Competition in Marriage

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Are you a competitive person? Do you like to compete with your spouse? Here are some signs of competition in your marriage:

  1. You will do whatever it takes to win an argument.
  2. You always have to be right.
  3. You take winning a little too seriously, even in fun activities like board games.
  4. Everything becomes a contest.
  5. You gloat when you win.
  6. You are a sore loser.

Competition in marriage is deadly. In our coaching ministry, we encourage couples with weak conflict resolution skills to work together to brainstorm win-win solutions to their disagreements. When both spouses in a marriage feel that their needs and desires are being met, they work together to identify and implement a solution.

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Satan Hates Marriage

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Throughout Scripture, God uses marriage as an analogy of His love for us. God created us for friendship with Him. His plan is for us to share in His divine life for all eternity. Everything that God created is good; it was created out of love. God created man and woman, instituting marriage as a sacrament to bless them. Through marriage, He commanded them to be fruitful and fill the earth.

One of His creatures, an angel, rebelled out of envy of us. Through “the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Because the devil couldn’t defeat God, he went to battle with the creatures that God loved most, human beings created in His image and likeness.

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The Greatest Enemy of Love

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The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort, and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish. [1] St. John Paul II

St. John Paul II said that the greatest destroyer of love in marriage is selfishness. It is one of the 12 marriage killers described by Richard Fitzgibbons in his book Habits for a Healthy Marriage: A Handbook for Catholic Couples.[2] Fitzgibbons says that developing virtue is the antidote to these unhealthy habits in marriage.

“Selfishness is the major enemy of married love and of life-long commitment in marriage” (57), says Fitzgibbons. St. John Paul II warned about selfishness in his 1994 Letter to Families Gratissimam Sane

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The Role of the Holy Spirit in Marriage

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Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy…he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 1 Corinthians 14:1, 3

The Sacraments are an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present in all of the Sacraments. At baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit; we are immersed in Christ’s death and resurrection, freed from the stain of original sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other sacraments” (CCC, 1213, emphasis added).

Have you ever wondered why couples who marry in the Catholic Church have to be baptized? It is because the Holy Spirit is imparted at baptism and this is a requirement for the marriage to be sacramental. In “this sacrament the spouses receive the Holy Spirit as the communion of love of Christ and the Church. The Holy Spirit is the seal of their covenant, the ever available source of their love and the strength to renew their fidelity” (CCC, 1624, emphasis added).

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