Newlywed Life | Supporting Your Spouse During Pregnancy

Preparing for married life is its own journey of knowledge and experience. Preparing for parenthood, a great gift and invitation into the Father’s own creative genius, isn’t so different: there are plans, anticipation, the sense that your life is on the precipice of permanent, formative change.If you and your spouse find yourselves expecting early on in your marriage, how can you support one another?

Here, five suggestions for deepening your relationship and growing in self-gift during the season of pregnancy.

Express your needs clearly.

In these weeks and months of physical and emotional change, any fatigue, sickness, and nesting-induced desires to remain at home more often are normal. As you and your beloved navigate these changes for the first time, communication--just as in so many other dimensions of a healthy relationship--goes a long way in keeping the both of you on the same page. Rather than assuming your spouse knows your current physical and mental states or expecting certain acts of service or help, voice them! A loving spouse will be more than happy to serve you when expectations are communicated clearly.

Are you expecting a “honeymoon baby?” Insights into the joys and challenges.

Know how much--or how little--practical preparation is healthy for you and your beloved.

Some couples devour as much literature on marriage as possible before their wedding day; others prefer more practical wisdom and experience over the written word. Neither approach to preparation is right or wrong, but simply a matter of preference and personality.

In the same way, the world of baby and parenting books is vast. If you find yourselves overwhelmed by information or in disagreement with certain principles you encounter, know you’ll be no less loving or capable parents if you choose to step back from reading and education. As an alternative to intensive reading and research, try simply talking with your spouse about the birth experience, career plans, education possibilities, and family culture each of you envisions.

Develop habits of sacrifice.

The family is built on self-gift and service. Each of our domestic churches is a school of loving sacrifice, and this call is particularly evident in the demands of caring for a newborn. And yet, even before your child is born, you and your spouse can strengthen yourselves in self-giving; willing what is best for another person even when it’s inconvenient and when the feelings aren’t there. During these months of preparation for parenthood, identify concrete ways each of you desire to grow in sacrifice and self-discipline and help one another put these ways into action. Consider practices like fasting, avoiding your snooze button, or limiting screen time.

Find ways to stay connected to your spouse while raising young children.

Seek compromise in all things.

Another milestone, another registry. As you and your spouse choose the items you’ll use to care for your baby, you might find yourselves in varying states of excitement and disagreement, just as you did while creating your wedding gift registry. Strive to see and listen to one another and communicate your priorities.

Compromise in parenting, of course, extends beyond material matters. Know that it’s alright not to be in complete agreement over every matter of sleep, discipline, feeding, and more before your baby’s birth. As you and your spouse enter into your roles more fully after baby arrives, you’ll find greater freedom and flexibility in making decisions best suited to your child’s temperament and to each of your needs. Your child’s life is eternal, allowing you more than enough time to determine your outlook on parenting!

Do decisions about the future stress you out? Read about finding rest in the unknown.

Invite each other in.

Although men and women experience pregnancy in distinctly different ways, there’s no denying the deeper closeness that arises from sharing an intimate, particular love for your child; your love for one another, made embodied and visible. So savor this sacred time, and embrace the gift of being revealed to one another in a new way. Check in frequently on one another’s feelings, meet any fears with hope and sensitivity, and pray together for your child as he or she grows and as you choose a name.

If you and your spouse struggle with infertility, you are seen and aren’t alone. Read past pieces on infertility here.

We love walking beside you in your vocation. Are you currently expecting? Share in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media with your best tips for nurturing your marriage during pregnancy.

Creative October Feast Day Celebrations for Couples

The feasts and rhythms of the liturgical year are a great gift to our faith, building in natural occasions for prayer and community. The forthcoming month of October, in particular, celebrates many Spoken Bride favorites whose lives and spiritualities resonate with the vocation to marriage.

Here, a selection of October feast days, suggestions for entering into them, and some favorite fall date ideas from the team.

October 1, Feast of Saint Therése of Lisieux

Pray: Read a passage from Therése’s autobiography, Story of a Soul, or from Fr. Jacques Phillipe’s The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Therése of Lisieux. Remembering Therése’s “Little Way,” offer the tasks and inconveniences of the day for the glory of God.

Celebrate: Therése promised to she would spend her eternity showering down roses upon the earth from heaven, and is particularly associated with the flower. Bring home a bouquet of roses for your table.

October 2, Feast of the Guardian Angels

Pray: Give thanks not only to your guardian angel, but to your beloved’s, asking that he or she be protected, fulfilled, and led closer to the Father on this day and always.

Celebrate: Make an angel hair pasta dish or angel food cake! If you and your beloved don’t have a strong education in or devotion to the angels, seek out media that can spark your knowledge. Formed, available through most parishes, offers a variety of quality video and book resources.

October 4, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

Pray: Franciscan orders take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Discuss and identify ways to live out these virtues in your relationship.

Celebrate: Francis was a lover of God’s creation. Go on a hike or walk together.

October 5, Feast of Saint Faustina

Pray: Read a selection from Faustina’s Diary and pray or sing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

Celebrate: In thanksgiving for Christ’s gift of endless mercy, plan a date night that begins with going to confession. Saint Faustina frequently described water imagery in her conversations with Jesus, calling his mercy “an ocean,” with our sin but a single, insignificant drop in comparison to his vast love and forgiveness. If you live near an ocean or lake, consider spending an afternoon or evening there.

October 7, Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary

Pray: Say a decade or more of the Rosary with your beloved. If you’re unfamiliar, research the origins of this feast day, on which Our Lady came to the aid of Christian soldiers in battle.

Celebrate: Pick out new rosaries as gifts for each other.

October 15, Feast of Saint Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila)

Pray: Teresa, a great mystic and doctor of the Church, is famously depicted in a state of divine rapture in Bernini’s sculpture The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Meditate on the sculpture and on the nature of earthly and divine desire--this piece provides a welcome starting point.

Celebrate: Make or go out for a Spanish meal, in honor of Teresa’s heritage.

October 22, Feast of Saint John Paul II

Pray: One of the most prolific popes in recent history, John Paul’s writings illuminate the human heart. Choose a selection from his writings, including his World Youth Day addresses, Letter to Women, Letter to Artists, or the Theology of the Body Audiences, to read and discuss together.

Celebrate: John Paul was a man of many hobbies who strove to be fully alive. Spend time together engaged in one of his favorite pursuits, like theatre, hiking, or skiing.

Fall date suggestions from the Spoken Bride team:

Pumpkin picking and carving, and baking pies. - Carissa Pluta, Editor at Large

Wineries, foliage tours, or hiking. - Jiza Zito, Co-Founder & Creative Director

Apple picking, volunteering at a food shelter, or a cooking class to anticipate Thanksgiving. - Andi Compton, Business Director

Brunch and consignment shopping. - Stephanie Fries, Associate Editor

We love hearing your stories and traditions. Share your favorite liturgical living traditions and seasonal date ideas in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Laurel Creative, seen in Jamaila + Andy | Nature-Inspired Wedding

Wedding Planning | Saying the Vows

 

While considering all of the aspects of a wedding day, attention quickly focuses on decisions regarding location, menus and color schemes. The wedding ceremony itself provides many more opportunities for a bride and groom to make personal and intentional decisions. 

When it comes to saying the vows, there are two primary options—and other variables—for couples to consider. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   HORN PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY: HORN PHOTOGRAPHY

Called by name 

At the moment of exchanging “The Consent,” or the marriage vows, both the bride and groom receive their calling from God and say “yes” in committing their lives to another in an eternal act of love. The priest initiates the consent by calling first the groom, then the bride, by name. 

When you meet with your priest or deacon  in preparation for your wedding ceremony, clarify how you would like him to address you on the Altar. Should he only mention your first name? Would you prefer if he referenced your first and middle name? Is it significant for your Confirmation name to be included?  

After the presider calls attention to the bride and groom, it is the moment of consent.

Say “I do”

The first option is for the marriage minister to offer the vows in the form of questions, so the couple will individually respond “I do.” This is the format and language used for other sacraments in the Church, beginning with Baptism. 

Recite the Vows 

The second option is for each individual to proclaim recite your name and the vows to the other. You may recite the vows from memory, read them from a printed card, or echo the promptings from the priest or deacon. 

Determining the right option for your wedding day is a personal decision—and there is no right or wrong. Have you and your beloved imagined this moment of exchange in your imagination? When you visualize your wedding day, what do you hear yourself saying? 

If you don’t initially have a strong opinion, your presider may be able to offer insight from his past experience at weddings. Prayerfully invite God into this decision and follow the direction he leads your heart. Perhaps it would also be inspiring to speak with your parents or grandparents to learn about the decisions they made for their wedding day. 

Decisions about the visible environment and logistics of the wedding day are vital and create a lasting impact for everyone present. In a different way, the words you speak in the Consent may be the most important and impactful words you say in your life. This is the moment you offer yourself freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully to your spouse. Prepare with intention and joy as you journey toward your vocation. 

Newlywed Life | A Responsibility to be Obedient

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The first sin in the Garden of Eden was the sin of disobedience. Baptism is the initial sacrament in our Christian journey which cleanses the stain of original sin. 

At the moment of our baptism, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we “belong… to him who died and rose for us.” With the grace of the sacrament comes a responsibility to live in service, obedience and submission to God and the Church. The stain of original sin predisposes us to temptation, to fall away from God throughout our lives.

Throughout the lifespan, every sacrament, including the Sacrament of Matrimony, is a gift from God to empower men and women in their journey of service, obedience, and selfless submission.  

PHOTOGRAPHY:     DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

Obedience is about responding to a call or a command. Children learn obedience in the home through the instruction and discipline of their parents. An obedient child is one who hears an instruction from a parent and responds appropriately and respectfully. In much the same way, our “grown up” responsibility requires adults to hear the command of God the Father and respond appropriately and respectfully. 

When the two become one flesh, man and woman are called to obey for the sake of their beloved, either in protection of or nurture for the other. And through marriage and family life, spouses collaborate to fulfill God’s commands and live as visible signs of his unconditional love. 

One must first discern the will of God before exercising freedom and choosing to obey him. 

Do you know the call God is asking you to obey? As it may relate to you in your individual life or within the context of your marriage, God yearns to be heard. He speaks through the big moments of our lives as well as the quiet movements in our hearts. In order to discern his will, we must create a space to ponder him--in the Mass, prayer, confession, and personal reflection. 

In the chaos of our lives, the will of God can be muffled amidst external responsibilities or expectations from others. 

Work can be a source of complication; for example, ‘I am confident God called me to this job, but my employer is asking me to sacrifice family dinner in order to meet a deadline... is God asking me to surrender family time for this job?’ 

In another context of extended family life, ‘I strive to honor my mother and father, yet they expect me and my husband to abandon our weekly date-night in order to spend more time with them; is God asking me to abandon intimate time with my husband in order to obey my parents?” 

These questions—and the decisions we must make—are complex and complicated. There is not often a clear “right or wrong” answer. Returning to a process of prayerful discernment and an examination of conscience may provide clarity in making the best choice.

Woman and man were created as reciprocal helpmates for each other. Through the gift and grace of marriage, couples can discern, discuss, and set boundaries for decision making in accordance with both God and their personal family values. 

Making a decision to protect personal intimacy with God and spouse may not be understood by others. Such unpopular boundaries may parallel an experience of Christ’s carrying of the cross; by fulfilling God’s design for his life with obedience, he received blows to his body from his peers and community members. 

An act of obedience, as established through Baptism, is to obey the will of God. As established through Marriage, holy obedience is a means for joint sanctification of both spouses. 


“Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.”


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Infertility is More Than Physical. Research-Based Advice for Engaged + Newlywed Couples.

In the heady first days of engagement and marriage, it’s hard to imagine the possibility of anything but lifelong joy.

Though the head knows marriage calls spouses to suffering and purification, the heart is frequently focused only on the blissful--and in many ways, rightly so.

Where, then, does that leave you and your spouse the first time you face a major cross or struggle? How can we live in the tension of suffering and hope while seeking to support and understand one another?

Marc Sherman and his wife Erin struggled to conceive for nearly a decade after their wedding day. With all glory to God, they are now parents, yet their personal journey illuminated a deep need: while science and medicine offer a wealth of physical support, where were emotional and psychological resources for spouses experiencing infertility?

Marc and Erin set out to meet this need, working with research psychologists to produce qualitative and quantitative research pertaining to husbands and wives’ individual and interpersonal experiences of infertility. Their business, Organic Conceptions, was founded in 2015, offering online education designed to develop couples’ emotional awareness, communication, healthy thought patterns, and understanding of the holistic relationship between mind and body. 

Whether infertility is or is not a part of your current season, the principles of communication and understanding are relevant to all couples. Marc chatted with us to share his advice and perspective for spouses-to-be and newlyweds.


Organic Conceptions is rooted in you and your wife's personal journey with infertility. Can you share a bit of your story, and how your struggles impacted your marriage and spiritual lives (for better and for worse)?

We often see life evolving and sequencing in a particular way, and “struggle” is such an understatement in terms of what’s happening behind the scenes. Within just several months, that anxiety, worry, and concern over did we wait too long? And what’s wrong with my body? Becomes so emotionally difficult.

For my wife and I, after many, many years struggling, we were prepared to adopt and then conceived naturally--not once, but on two occasions. When you’re struggling, these are the most frustrating stories to hear. Friends and family try to encourage you, but it’s such a sensitive space. 

After living this twice, it was very clear that things were different in each of our experiences. For my wife, it changed her perception of herself, her body, our relationships, past decisions leading to this journey...that led to the start of Organic Conceptions. We hired research psychologist Dr. Kate Webster to look into the patterns that emerge in [couples’ experiences of] infertility. From a marriage perspective, this is potentially one of the first major [challenges] you face as a couple. Everything you do is called into question, including your faith.

Dr. Webster’s research ultimately showed every couple’s story would map to the same set of emotional transitions through grief, pain, and worry. These emotions are validated through the research, and then we can start to empower and support couples to stay married and close through these difficulties. 

There is a way in which a woman experiences this differently than her husband. We tell our couples, neither is right nor wrong. It’s about emotionally coming closer together and leaning on each other. Like any issue in a marriage, there’s middle ground that, through this research, can bring them to that place. Couples begin understanding how to engage and stay connected in the light of uncertainty--and there are other instances of pain and uncertainty in marriage [in addition to infertility; this provides a solid foundation for future difficulties.

For recently married couples bearing this cross of infertility, what practical advice you can share?

I want these couples to know: your emotional health and well-being matters. Research speaks to what happens in the month-to-month devastation of hope to despair.

At the highest level, our emotional and reproductive health aren’t entirely separate systems. We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings.

[I encourage couples to not be] be too quick to jump only to fixing the physical and seeking answers; give meaning to emotional processing and experiences, as well.

Individually, couples need to make sense of this journey, but it does need to be entered into together. At the root, it’s about building a marriage, family, and life.

JacoleEngagement-0901.jpg

What about engaged couples? How can they work through fears or preexisting fertility issues in a productive way? 

Erin and I often say, Wouldn’t it be great if someone got to us sooner and made us feel we matter as individuals and as a couple; that our faith matters and that [conception] is more than a to-do list item? This is a wonderful time in couples’ lives, and for some it might not go exactly as planned--wouldn’t it be great if a couple actually puts on the table early on, asking, if this doesn’t go as planned, what options or treatments are we open to as alternatives? What a healthy conversation to talk about the timing and methods you each are open to. It’s a conversation that needs to happen earlier on than it typically does.

Marriages are damaged by the journey, not the outcome.

If a couple’s journey wasn’t made in a connected, intimate way while making decisions together throughout an infertility experience, it can carry over into family life.

The ache for children and family is a natural and human desire. How can Catholic couples respectfully, lovingly answer friends and family who suggest they pursue infertility treatment options not in line with the Catholic faith?

I suggest couples focus on connecting emotionally, share their thoughts as a unit, and remember their faith. IVF and fertility treatments emphasizes the physical, treating it as a problem to be solved, and leaves out the emotional and spiritual pieces [of who we are]--we need to make room for all three.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many NaPro doctors about getting to the root of what the body is telling us: are we brave enough to listen to what our bodies are saying? In my mind, these are the most logical first steps: learning and having confidence in our bodies. Rather than leaping over and dismissing it, let’s pay attention to it. Couples can use this language of the body and the logic of fertility care in their conversations.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Her Witness Photography

An exclusive offer for Spoken Bride readers

If and when you feel called to sign up for Organic Conceptions’ programs, fill in “Spoken Bride” at checkout in response to “How did you hear about the program?” to receive the program workbook and journal for free. Questions may be directed to Organic Conceptions.

Catholic Gift Ideas for the First Five Anniversaries

CARISSA PLUTA

 

I’ve always loved the traditional “themes” that go along with your wedding anniversary and enjoy the challenge of coming up with a gift idea to go along with it.

PHOTOGRAPHY:    HER WITNESS

PHOTOGRAPHY: HER WITNESS

Finding the perfect gift for your spouse isn’t always easy, so here are some thoughtful and uniquely Catholic ideas for the first five anniversaries:

First Anniversary: Paper

Spiritual bouquet: This gift idea is a favorite of mine. This thoughtful idea allows you to physically show your husband your prayers and sacrifices for him. There are several ways you can go about putting your spiritual bouquet together and you can even invite your family and loved ones to join in.

Framed Print: Beautiful Catholic prints and artwork like this St. John Chrysostom Print or this St. Josemaria Escriva print from our shop, would perfectly fit this theme for your first anniversary and fill your home with even more beauty.

More Here: First Anniversary Gift Ideas

Second Anniversary: Cotton

T-Shirt: Cotton shirts make a laid back but fun gift for your significant other. You can buy functional, everyday shirts or switch it up with a cool (and Catholic) graphic t-shirt like the Beloved and All the Days of My Life tees in the Spoken Bride Shop. 

New sheets or a quilt: Your bed shouldn’t just be the place in which you go to sleep each night, but a sacred space. It is where your vows are made flesh and should be adorned in a manner fitting of such a high honor. New cotton sheets or a custom quilt would help turn your bedroom into a sanctuary.

Third Anniversary: Leather

Leather bound Bible or Liturgy of the Hours: I love leather bound books, don’t you? You can buy a leather bound Bible or the set of Liturgy of the Hours for your spouse (and you) to use daily. These sturdy books will hold up well over the years and would make a great addition to your family’s sacred space.

Leather prayer journal: Does your spouse like to journal as a form of prayer? Buy a leather journal for him to take with him to the chapel for holy hour. 

Personalized Leather Tray: A leather tray to hold your wedding bands, keys, or spare change would make another good option for your third anniversary. You can even have it personalized with a meaningful quote or verse from your wedding mass readings. 

Fourth Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers

Custom painting of your wedding bouquet: If you have a photo of the bouquet from your wedding, you can find an artist to make a custom painting of it for your home. It serves as a beautiful reminder of that special day (and would last much longer than real flowers would). 

Marian Garden: Clear a spot in your yard and plants flowers around a statue of Mary. While this isn’t exactly a simple, one-time gift, it gives you something to watch grow and flourish as the years go on.

Fifth Anniversary: Wood

Crucifix: A wooden crucifix would remind you of your call in marriage to self-giving love, and make a beautiful and meaningful addition to your bedroom or sacred space. 

Wood beaded rosaries: Wooden rosary beads are also a good (and spiritually edifying) option for this anniversary. 

The Spoken Bride vendor guide features many talented Catholic artists and craftsmen and can help you find other gift, art, jewelry, and photo options for your upcoming anniversary. 


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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The Art of the Apology

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Learning how to apologize has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned so far in my marriage. 

I thought I knew how to apologize well. Isn’t that one of the earliest lessons we learn when we reach school age?

However, early in our marriage, I noticed that my apologies (if I apologized at all) often lacked humility.

A genuine apology and a swift forgiveness positively affect the whole dynamic of your relationship with your spouse. 

Take responsibility

Very few marital disputes are the sole fault of one of the parties, so you first must acknowledge your role in the problem or dispute. If you don’t your apology will lack sincerity. 

Step into your spouse’s shoes and see how your words and actions may have negatively affected or hurt him. Show him that you respect how he feels.

This first step takes humility, which can prove difficult for many of us, but will help build trust and love in your relationship with your partner.

Watch your words

Words have power and can affect the sincerity and validity of your apology. 

When struggling to overcome our pride, we often word our apology in a way that places the blame primarily on the other person.

“I’m sorry you feel that way” or “If I offended you, I’m sorry” are not apologies. And instead of reinforcing the connection between you and your spouse, further divide you. 

Use more “I statements” when apologizing like “I’m sorry I said…” or “I’m sorry I…” and use specifics. Show your spouse with your words that you actually know why you are apologizing. 

Ask for forgiveness

Honesty, this is the part I still struggle with. Asking for forgiveness is incredibly humbling often making it the most challenging part of an apology. But I promise, that it will become easier over time. 

You may be tempted to write it out or send it in a text, but it’s important that you verbally ask your spouse for forgiveness. Doing this offers release and closure for both people, and can help you grow in virtues that will benefit your relationship. 

If you struggle with this step, ask yourself why? What is preventing you from doing this? Take it to prayer and allow God to show you where you need to grow. 

Create an action plan

What steps can you take to prevent this mistake from happening again? What steps will you take to change? 

You can ask your spouse what he thinks could be done differently if the situation arises again. 

But don’t just tell your husband your plan, put it into action. Allow him to see your resolve to love him better. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so show yourself some kindness as you learn and ask God for the grace to help you were you still struggle.


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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