Newlywed Life | When You Aren't Able to Have a Cocoon Period

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I clearly remember the hours spent on the phone with my husband-to-be during our long-distance engagement. At some point, at least several times a week, we’d express how much we missed each other, following our unintentional script: “I can’t wait until this time is over and we can see each other every day.” “Me neither. We won’t have to say goodbye anymore! Instead, it will be goodnight.”

Short of a handful of work-related trips and bachelor and bachelorette weekends each, my husband and I have been blessed with the opportunity to come home to one another almost every day of our marriage, a gift we try not to take for granted. Having friends in the military, ministry, and the corporate world, we’re aware that for some couples frequent travel and separation is the norm, not the exception.

What will your own living and time situation look like after your wedding day? Being able to insulate and fortify your marriage in its early days--a “cocoon period” wherein your relationship and its boundaries are a top priority--is an incredible grace. But if by necessity or circumstance--school, a job requiring regular interstate trips, selling a home, or otherwise--you and your spouse aren’t able to be together daily, your marriage certainly isn’t doomed. Where some opportunities are absent (namely, the ease of spending significant amounts of time together as husband and wife--and it’s alright to find this difficult and undesirable), others present themselves. But only with the Father’s hand.

I recently talked to two friends, a couple married six years who spent the first six months of their marriage living in two different states as one spouse completed her PhD and the other established his business. I find their devotion to prayer, theology, and liturgical living so inspiring, and as we chatted about their advice for married couples who are frequently separated, it appeared clear to me that some of the very habits established during their time apart later flowed into the habits they maintain still, now together each day and with their children.

Here, their tips for couples experiencing temporary long-distance marriages.

Invest in your prayer life as a couple.

My friends told me when they shared their forthcoming situation with their pastor during engagement, he urged them to develop habits of regular prayer, both individually and as a couple. Going so far as to schedule specific times to pray is very helpful for accountability--they committed to praying on the phone before work each morning, using this prayer for married couples, followed by spontaneous prayer and intentions.

If necessary, get creative with your time and schedules.

Making time to chat each day was a priority for my friends, one that involved a well-worth-it effort to align their schedules across different time zones and responsibilities. Depending on your situation, this might look like one or both spouses waking up an hour earlier or talking during meals or work breaks.

Know your limitations, however, and prioritize each other’s well-being--my friends decided to impose a rule of no evening Skype calls on weeknights, because they’d both be too willing to stay up too late.

Find things to do together from a distance.

Reading the same book, watching the same show, or even making the same recipe can help you feel connected across the miles.

Try to see each other as much as possible.

As time and finances allow, it’s worth making efforts to see one another often. This might involve certain sacrifices; my friend, for instance, decided to live with family during his time apart from his wife, and the money they saved in rent went to plane tickets, instead.

Expect an adjustment when you’re reunited.

The end of your time apart will surely be one of great joy. Bear in mind it will also be a big move for at least one spouse, with many changes: living with someone new and adjusting to a new location, job, and community. Give yourselves times to ease into the transition, in the form of taking a few days off from work and taking things slowly before overloading yourselves with social commitments.

A temporary long-distance marriage probably feels more unfair than a long-distance engagement; after all, the contentment of significantly more time together is a privilege of becoming husband and wife. Yet opportunities for your sanctification and the strength of your relationship do exist; gifts even in a less-than-ideal situation. If you have or will experience frequent separations from your spouse, be assured of our prayers, and be sure to share the practices that have helped you on your journey.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

BOOK | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Editors' Picks | Vol. 12: Favorite Love Stories

At Spoken Bride, we love a good book, a good meal, a standout statement necklace, a heel you can dance in, and the list goes on. And when we make those discoveries, we want to tell everyone. So every month or two, we're sharing our latest and favorite finds in everything engagement, wedding, and honeymoon-related.

The best romances direct our earthly emotion and longings to the Holy One, the beloved of our souls whose love is bottomless. Today, we're sharing the love stories that inspire us from literature, movies, TV, and the lives of the saints.

Jiza, Co-Founder + Creative Director

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series: Oh, where to begin?! There is something about Anne and Gil that will always give my stomach butterflies or make my heart skip a beat. I love Gil’s devoted pursuit of Anne and that he loves her for who she is, even when she is absolutely stubborn and unreasonable. From their early rivalry to their friendship to their eventual marriage, this fictional romance is one of my all-time favorites.

Chiara Corbella Petrillo and her husband, Enrico: Chiara is a young Italian wife and mother who died in 2012 of carcinoma. When you read her biography, Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy, written by her friends Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini, the beginning delves a great deal into Chiara and Enrico’s roller coaster courtship. Their marriage, too, was also not short of great suffering and sacrifice up until her death. Their relationship is real, gritty, and painful, yet still full of joy, trust, and redemption. In a world that idolizes the appearance of a curated, blissful marriage, I find great consolation in Chiara and Enrico and their absolute surrender to always serve God and do His will, no matter how much it hurts.

 

Andi, Business Director

Jim and Pam from The Office: this has got to be one of the most down-to-earth, relatable love stories out there (you know you cried at their wedding!). From the start I loved how Jim and Pam were friends; their relationship just slowly grew from there, and the show drew it out over a few seasons because real life is messy and doesn’t always happen on our schedule. Jim was so patient and it was worth it in the end!

 

Mary and Joseph: As I recently prayed the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, I was reflecting on the theological virtue of hope, and Mary and Joseph came to my mind. Saint Joseph shows us so much trust in the Lord when he decides to marry Mary, despite the unexpected news of the Word becoming flesh in her womb. They both show us hope by trusting in God’s plan for their marriage and family, even with all the unexpected circumstances they had to endure.

Ella and Kit from Cinderella (2015): I had very low expectations going into this Disney remake and ended up blown away by the tenderness and affection that grew between Cinderella and Prince Kit. So much depth, personality, and actual motivations were given to these characters, and it made them so real! I think my favorite aspect of their relationship is the purity it’s portrayed with: neither had the intent to use the other for their own purposes, and neither felt worthy of the other, allowing real love to grow.

 

Stephanie, Co-Founder + Editor in Chief

Kitty Scherbatsky and Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina: Tolstoy’s novel is most famous for its portrayal of a love story gone off the rails, via the affair conducted by the title character. So I found myself surprised, as well as incredibly moved, when I read the book for the first time and discovered that in contrast to Anna’s infidelity and emotional caprice, the story also traces the development of another relationship, one rooted in constancy and personal growth. The romance between Kitty and Levin matures as each grows in awareness of human nature and suffering, culminating in one of the most beautiful proposals I’ve ever encountered--fictional or real.

Saint Gianna Molla and her husband Pietro: Saint Gianna, to me, is a woman of vocation. She embraced all the Lord called her to in both gladness and trials; her decision to give birth to her fourth child at the cost of her own life embodied our ultimate call, as Christians, to lay down our lives. Her sacrifice is heroic, yet what stands out to me most is the ordinariness of who she was, in the best way: a 20th-century working mother, like so many of us, who desired to create a joyful and peaceful home for her family. The number of canonized married saints is few, so I am grateful for the poetry and encouragement I’ve found in the letters exchanged between Gianna and her beloved husband, Pietro. They cared for one another with a beautiful regard for one another’s spiritual well-being, with a sweet tenderness, and even a holy boldness--feeling certain of her devotion to Pietro, who was the shyer of the two, Gianna was the first to say I love you, expressing her desire for a lifelong commitment and family!

Tami and Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights: I consider myself emotional when it comes to love (read: crying over practically every Spoken Bride wedding submission), but I’m not easily swayed by shallow sentiment or sweeping gestures. I find the real and the messy romantic, because that’s who we, as humans, are. It’s what I love in the relationship between Coach Taylor and his wife. I truly can’t think of another TV marriage that is so realistically and positively portrayed: one rooted in abiding trust and good will, even when frustrated by life and work’s demands, one that doesn’t blow problems out of proportion for the sake of drama but confronts them with honesty and respect, and one with expressions of endearment and physical affection that feel so unaffected and true to life.

Did we include your favorite couple on this list? Share the love stories you love in the comments and on our social media.

Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part II | How to Plan Your Own Personal Retreat

This post is the second of a two-part series. Find Part I, our regional guide to the best retreats for Catholic couples, here.

If you and your beloved crave a respite from wedding planning or life’s busyness--quite literally, retreat--yet your time, travel, or financial circumstances aren’t suited to a more formal, sponsored retreat, it’s still possible to create your own day(s) of contemplation and fruitful discussion.

Here, our tips for planning a DIY retreat.

 Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How  He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Photography: Dominick Tardogno, seen in How He Asked | Caty + Ryan

Choose a destination.

A shrine, monastery, cathedral, or other holy site in your area (or within day-trip distance) are good potential retreat locations. If you live in or near a city, consider planning a day of pilgrimage to several shrines or chapels. This directory of Catholic sites in the U.S. is a handy starting point for your plans.

Seek out the sacraments.

In the real presence of the Lord, the sacred beckons. Allow time in your day and travels for Mass, confession, spiritual direction, and/or Eucharistic Adoration.

Bring materials for introspection and prayer.

As deeply as we all desire quiet and rest, once we find it, it’s easy to feel...restless. The fruit of our perpetually connected, phones-at-the-ready habits. It’s alright if you struggle to focus during longer periods of prayer; persist, asking the Father to remove distractions from your heart and draw you into himself.

Moreover, come prepared, and allow time to practically and spiritually renew your relationship. Plan for at least one, and up to several, periods of Adoration or quiet prayer before the Tabernacle during your day of retreat. Designate a time for structured prayer, reading, or other devotions. You might consider…

Lectio divina (read Spoken Bride vendor Liz Escoffery’s tips for praying with your wedding vows here) | Spiritual reading on love and marriage (find our recommendations here) | Beloved, a video series on Catholic marriage | The Culture Project International’s lecture series on St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility | a talk from the National Forum on the Theology of the Body | How-To Catholic, a podcast on liturgical living and the daily life of the faith, hosted by a husband-and-wife duo | Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire podcast | Leah Darrow’s Do Something Beautiful podcast | Dr. Gregory Popcak’s More 2 Life podcast, focused on relationships

Talk.

Discuss the thoughts and insights borne of your prayer, reading, or listening. If questions surface--from the fun to the serious--ask them. A Q+A book for Christian relationships, like this one from the author of The 5 Love Languages, can spark your inquiries. Should particular issues arise that invite further probing and communication, pray about whether pre-marital counseling or spiritual direction can benefit you.

Plan a date.

End your day of retreat with dinner, a long walk or hike, or favorite hobby. For movie buffs, Christopher West’s The Cor Project offers a free, downloadable guide to “Theology of the Body at the movies” when you subscribe to their mailing list.

As Christ is transfigured atop the mountain, a vision of heavenly glory, his friends desire to linger there. Yet, he gently reminds them, they aren’t meant to stay forever at the summit; it’s back on the ground, amid the world, that they’re called to be his witnesses.

And so it is with a retreat, just as with marriage: some moments are so elevated, so glorious, we never want to leave. In the times we’re back in life’s trenches, when the crosses feel heavy, when our hearts cry out, it’s those memories of transcendence that sustain us. May you find true peace and rest during your time of retreat, re-entering the world remade and brought to life.

Engagement + Newlywed Retreats, Part I | Supplementing Your Marriage Prep

This post is the first of a two-part series.

We’ve been asked recently for our tips on making your marriage preparation as in-depth and transformative as possible. Whether you’ve chosen a day-long workshop, pre-Cana classes at your parish, or meetings with a sponsor couple, consider taking time for further education and prayer, as time and finances allow, with a supplemental retreat for you and your beloved. In these days of the New Evangelization, the Church is rich with resources ancient and new that invite rest, contemplation, and time to be drawn nearer to one another as you both are drawn into the Father’s love.

  Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Photography: Mel Watson Photography

Because so many worthy resources exist for different spiritualities, devotions, and needs of the heart, it would be impossible to list them all. Your diocesan website is a good place to begin seeking upcoming events that might bear fruit in your relationship. Another is the dwellings of religious orders in your area, some of whom welcome visitors to join in their daily rhythms of prayer, work, or ministry or who host speaking events.

And think beyond the confines of topics related specifically to marriage prep: retreats with the themes of prayer, art, theology, mental wellness from a Catholic perspective, and beyond allow ample time for discussion, self-examination, and growth in faith.  Below, by region, are a series of programs and ministries that can provide the silence and deeper dive you might be thirsting for.

 

East Coast

Charis NYC: Ignatian retreats by and for Catholic young adults, with several program options centered on spiritual concerns common in this stage of life, including discernment, contemplation, meaningful living, and life’s transitions (New York City).

Given: A day-long event for engaged or married couples featuring talks, worship, and the sacraments (Baltimore).

International Institute for Catholic Culture: Founded in response to John Paul II’s call to the faithful to re-evangelize the culture and form a “civilization of love,” this non-profit educational center well-suited to lovers of theology and academics provides classical language courses, lectures on the intersection of faith and culture, art exhibits, and musical performances (Philadelphia).

Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center: An apostolate of Regnum Christi that hosts Ignatian-inspired retreats of varying length, as well as monthly reflection events. The center is particularly gifted with meeting the needs of couples, offering its own marriage prep program for engaged couples, speaking events for newlyweds, and marriage workshops. Catholic counseling and therapy are also available onsite, through the Alpha Omega Clinic (Washington, D.C.).

St. Joseph Retreat House: Serving the New England region with guided retreats inspired by St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, with time included for structured prayer, recreation, and spiritual direction (Boston).

Theology of the Body Institute: Offering a variety of 5-day courses designed to form the entire person, “head and heart,” the Institute combines academics with the sacraments while educating on Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Audiences, Love and Responsibility, and other writings, alongside topics like beauty, interior prayer, and a retreat created specifically for engaged or married couples (Philadelphia).  

 

Midwest

Love Your Marriage: An day-long event for married couples, with an emphasis on creating a holy, thriving relationship through all stages of life, including newlywed years and parenting (Denver).

Ruah Woods: a Theology of the Body education center offering study courses and retreats both on and off-site. The center also offers psychological services from Catholic professionals whose worldview informs their work with clients (Cincinnati).

St. Benedict’s Abbey: Men’s, women’s, and couples’ retreats led by Benedictine monks (Atchison, Kansas).

Tabor Life Institute: Programs and retreats that teach the Theology of the Body through the use of Scripture, writings by Church mystics, art and iconography, and the Eastern Rites of the Church. The Institute--whose staff includes a priest who attended some of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body audiences in Rome, the first time they were delivered--additionally hosts Pre-Cana weekend event for couples preparing for marriage in the Byzantine Rite (Chicago).

 

South

Alexander House: Founded by a longtime-married couple who restored their relationship from the possibility of divorce with the help of a Catholic therapist, this apostolate for couples in all stages of marriage and family life provides courses for engagement and problem-solving for troubled marriages, all in light its mission to help couples create a joyful domestic Church (San Antonio).

Casa Maria Convent & Retreat House: Offering structured retreats, including those for couples, that include talks, personal prayer time, the sacraments, and participation in the Divine Office with the beautiful Sister Servants of the Eternal Word (Birmingham).

Catholic Charismatic Center: Offering retreats for young adults and couples (recent leaders include Father Stan Fortuna), rooted in the spirituality of the Charismatic renewal movement (Houston).

Three to Get Married: An engagement retreat aimed at comprehensive formation of spouses-to-be--spiritual, psychological, emotional, and cultural--through presentations from priests, married couples, medical professionals, and trained psychologists (Nashville).

 

West Coast

John Paul II Resource Center: Providing day-long Theology of the Body retreats on a variety of topics--including those geared toward women, men, parents, couples, and educators--as well as talks for marriage preparation and enrichment (Phoenix).

New Camoldoli Hermitage: A beautiful, coastal Benedictine hermitage, offering preached retreats throughout the year by the Camoldolese Benedicitines and inviting participants into the prayer of monastic life (Big Sur).

Our Lady of the Rock: Retreat opportunities hosted by Benedictine sisters, inviting guests to participate in the daily prayer and tasks of their monastic farm life, which is largely self-sufficient (Shaw Island, Washington).

Sacred Heart Retreat House: A site run by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart, this house provides retreats for men, women, couples, and young adults, rooted in the Carmelite spirituality of leading the faithful into a deeper relationship with Christ (Los Angeles).

 

Nationwide (U.S.)

Passion and Purpose for Marriage: An initiative of Dynamic Catholic, this one-day event, hosted across the U.S. and based in California, offers talks for couples in all stages of their relationship on practical matters in the vocation of marriage, prayer and worship, and time for one-on-one discussion.

Miles Christi: Guided Ignatian silent retreats hosted by the Miles Christi brothers, offered nationwide and based in Michigan and California.

We thrive on the community you help us to grow. If a program or retreat you’ve attended has blessed your relationship outside of marriage preparation, be sure to share it with other brides in the comments and on our social media.

Next week, read more on retreats, including digital resources and how to plan your own retreat with your beloved.

Our Favorite Quotes on Fruitful Love, on the Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This week, the Church commemorates 50 years since the publication of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Humanae Vitae--translated as ”Of Human Life.” Drawing from the hundreds of years of Scripture and tradition on which the Church was founded, the letter was composed in response to a commission whose purpose was to evaluate the effects of newly and widely available contraceptives on society.

The Pope’s words praise the goodness of married love: he calls it “fully human,” involving both body and soul--the whole person--and imaging Christ’s free, faithful, total, and fruitful gift of self. Love like this reserves nothing and bears real fruit, ending not in death but in eternal life.

Life. Whether physically, spiritually, or both, all married couples are called to be abundant and allow new life to flow forth from their love.

Amid social pressure and speculation over whether the encyclical would “reverse” the Church’s directive that contraceptives are contrary to the nature of authentic love, Paul VI courageously maintained that artificial means of birth control are never in keeping with a sincere, unreserved gift of the self and exchange of persons.

After all, as he pointed out, the nature of love itself; the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary, hadn’t changed since before the commission--how, then, could human beings change their imitation of this love, without changing the definition of love entirely? His appeals to logic--and his recognition that every person desires to be loved without conditions or limitations--draw attention to the high, yet attainable, calling of our path to heaven.

If you’ve never read Humanae Vitae, engagement and new marriage are ideal times to contemplate the love spouses are called to imitate; to be the human face of the Father’s love to one another in the particular way only they, as individuals, can.

What’s more, if the demands of love, and the Church’s reasoning on contraception, are difficult for you, take time to turn inward in prayer and ask the Lord if he’s calling you and your beloved to deeper understanding or a lifestyle change. He is merciful in all things and desires nothing less than our deepest happiness.

When the love of husband and wife mirrors the Father’s love as closely as possible, we are drawn more deeply into the heart of God and that much closer to the fulfillment and true flourishing on earth that he intends for us, his children.

This list of resources, including prayers, studies, and media, from the U.S. Bishops is a rich and accessible starting point. For your further contemplation and inspiration, we’ve compiled a selection of passages, from holy men and women past and present, that make us excited and motivated to live out love’s demands.

On authentic love

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other, [the relationship between spouses] becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. - Pope Francis

Self-discipline...is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character...it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. - Humanae Vitae

For the Lord has entrusted to [spouses] the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life. - ibid

On the love of God

All love ends in an incarnation, even God’s. Love would not be love if it did not escape the limitation of individual existence by perpetuating itself...wherein death is defeated by life. - Ven. Fulton Sheen

The liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. - Saint John Paul II

Do you want to see the difference [between NFP and contraception]?...There’s nothing to fear. Trusting him is only threatening if he’s a tyrant. He’s not. He’s perfect love. Let go. Let him in. Trust him. - Christopher West

On family size, discernment, and infertility

The number is not in itself the decisive factor. The fact of having few or many children does not on its own make a family more or less Christian. What matters is the integrity and honesty with which married life is lived. True mutual love transcends the union of husband and wife and extends to its natural fruits — the children. Selfishness, on the contrary, sooner or later reduces love to a mere satisfaction of instinct and destroys the bond which unites parents and children. - St. Josemaria Escriva

I would therefore like to remind spouses in a condition of infertility, that this does not thwart their matrimonial vocation. Spouses are always called by their baptismal and matrimonial vocation itself to cooperate with God in the creation of a new human life. The vocation to love is in fact a vocation to the gift of self, and this is a possibility that no physical condition can prevent. Therefore, whenever science finds no answer, the answer that gives light comes from Christ. - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

On sacrifice and its fruits

...the seeking [of Jesus]  is a going out from ourselves. It is a going out from our illusions, our limitations, our wishful thinking, our self-loving, and the self in our love. - Caryll Houselander

Want to be happy?…Lose your life in love and you will find it. Give your life away as a gift, and you’ll come to resurrection. - Bishop Robert Barron

The various forms of sacrifice include one positive similar meaning: Life is surrendered in order to be transformed and shared.” - Scott Hahn

On charity with regard to Church teaching

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter…"the only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values." - Humanae Vitae

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. - ibid

On human nature

Our body is a cenacle, a monstrance; through its crystal the world should see God. - Saint Gianna Molla

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. - Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed. - Humanae Vitae

As always, we at Spoken Bride are here for you. No matter where you’re coming from, no matter your opinion or experiences with this aspect of Church teaching, we’re committed to truly seeing and hearing you. We welcome your thoughts, your questions on married love and Natural Family Planning, and even your reservations and respectful disagreements, so know that you have the freedom to share them in the comments and on our social media. Consider this an invitation to conversation, with our hopes of living out our mission of truth, goodness, beauty, and authenticity with charity and productive dialogue.

Photography: Alyssa Michelle Photography, seen in How He Asked | Danielle + Jeff

 

Cultivating a Heart for Your Single Friends

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

I remember the first time I felt it. I’d just helped send my sister off to prom--nine years later, her date would become her husband--giddy with admiration for her beaded dress and lack of preoccupation with her looks. Three years before, I’d reluctantly attended my own senior prom, feeling the weight of expectation that it was what you were supposed to do, supposed to feel emotional about, at the end of high school. No one asked me. My dad dropped me off.

  Photography: Kelli Seeley Photography

Photography: Kelli Seeley Photography

I felt it again the day an old friend called, breathlessly sharing the story of how she’d gotten engaged hours earlier on a snow-covered bench. At the time, I was navigating the waters of serious dating for the first time, aware my current relationship was diminishing my spiritual life and sense of who I was, yet too fearful and passive to do much about it. Where, I wondered, was the man I’d marry, and when would it be my turn?

Those stirrings in my heart had a name: an ache. My heart was beating; I was alive; and it hurt.

Sometimes, it was physically painful to sit on the floor of the chapel, eyes glazed before the tabernacle and desperate for the road to my vocation to present itself. I shared in the joy of my sister and my friends as they experienced the wonder and recognition of meeting the men they’d say yes to, forever. I was sincerely glad for them; not envious, just...sad. Something was missing. I struggled not to idolize marriage, knowing my ultimate fulfillment and truest home for my longings lay not in a spouse, but in the Father’s love. Yet all the same, I longed.

Then I found myself engaged, scarcely believing a man as sacrificial, tender, and endlessly fascinating as my fiancée was even a reality, let alone someone who would choose me. Those whispers of the ache came back, in the form of empathy for several close friends enduring recent, and very raw, breakups.

I remembered the feeling that my dating life had existed in an entirely different world than that of my engaged friends, and feared I’d now be the one inflicting pain on women I loved who were currently single.

As a result, I stayed close-lipped for a while about my excitement and planning experiences with certain friends, concerned oversharing would be hurtful. Until my best friend looked in my eyes and told me not to be worried. She was happy for me, she insisted, and my sharing the details of wedding plans didn’t lessen that happiness.

It takes a woman of great strength and selflessness to say something like my friend told me; someone of pure good will and an ability to enter into the joy of another as if it were her own. My friend gave me such a gift that evening, not only in her other-focused love for me, but in her honesty.

For weeks, I’d wondered what she was feeling as she ordered a dress, planned my bridal shower, and listened to my minimally detailed stories about registry scanners and accessory shopping, all while weathering a storm of uncertainty after what seemed like a promising relationship suddenly ended. I was anxious, constantly wondering if it was too self-important of me to even have the worries I did. As it turned out, directness was so much clearer--so obvious; so much simpler--than speculation and anxiety.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, unsure of how much of your engagement or newlywed life to share with your single friends, I recommend a heart-to-heart. The only way to be sure is to communicate. Ask your friend what sort of involvement in your plans is helpful, what’s difficult, and how she’d like to participate. Chances are, she’ll feel honored you asked, free to be honest with you, and ultimately, sincerely excited about your forthcoming marriage.

Conversations like these can be mutually uncomfortable. But on the other side lies greater comfort than ever, each of you more in tune with the other’s heart and feeling the unspoken freedom and permission to share your thornier emotions. Additionally, the practices of taking time during your engagement to spend quality time with friends who are single and interceding for them, placing your trust in the Lord’s timing with regard to their own vocations, bear only good fruit.

“...love always communicates itself, that is, love listens and responds, love is found in dialogue and communion.” - Pope Francis

About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

BOOK | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Newlywed Life | Creating a Prayer Space in Your Home

Even the most mundane daily practices, like brushing your teeth together, feel infused with newness and promise during the first months of married life. In these small matters, as well as larger ones, foundational habits and routines are formed. Because it’s such a formational period, the start of your marriage is both an easy and exciting time to choose habits that facilitate a shared prayer routine.

An oratory is a place of worship not attached to a parish. Oratories are often inhabited by religious orders, but it’s not just our brothers and sisters in religious life who have the opportunity to formally worship in this way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends creating a corner for contemplation and worship in the home, a space for a “little oratory” in family life.

Whether or not your first home has room to accommodate an entire corner for prayer, the effort of designating a space for contemplation--alone and with your spouse--pays dividends in beauty and consistency in your prayer life. Here, four tips for designing and enjoying a prayer space in your home.

Choose a space.

At minimum, one to two chairs and a small table are effective starting materials for a prayer space. If your space is more limited than a corner of your living room allows, incorporating your religious items and prayer materials into a vignette on your coffee table or choosing a seated spot (even the kitchen table) in view of a crucifix or piece of religious art are worthy alternatives.

Set the scene.

Beauty inspires worship and reverence, drawing our attention out of the everyday and toward the sacred. Fill your space with a crucifix, images or icons of the saints, religious statues, a candle, and flowers or greenery.

Store your prayer resources close at hand.

Make use of a nearby drawer, basket, shelf, or table to stash or display the items you use for prayer: journals, Rosaries, spiritual reading, musical instruments, and/or devotionals.

Create a routine.

Choose a time of day, perhaps over coffee in the morning or before beginning your evening leisure activities, to be with your spouse in your prayer space. You might pray individually in silence, do a decade or more of the Rosary together, read spiritual books together or on your own for a designated time, or pray spontaneously and aloud.

Remember that establishing a prayer routine that feels comfortable, fruitful, and well-suited to your lifestyle and personalities can take time, and that’s alright! Learning the subtleties of your spouse’s spirituality is a beautiful fruit of a holy relationship, one that never reaches a point of perfect clarity this side of heaven--it’s in the learning, and the constant unveiling of who you are, before the Lord, that joy resides.

And if you aren’t a newlywed, but have been married for longer yet have never incorporated a prayer space into your routine, it’s never inopportune to begin. We love hearing about your prayer rituals with your husband and the ways you invite the Father into your home. Be sure to share about your prayer spaces and routines in the comments and on our social media!