How to Connect with Your Spouse While Postponing Pregnancy

CARISSA PLUTA

 

When using Natural Family Planning, married couples must frequently pray about and discuss their desire and plans for having more children. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:    MADI MYERS-COOK

PHOTOGRAPHY: MADI MYERS-COOK

And in some circumstances, through prayer and discernment, husbands and wives may make the decision to postpone a pregnancy (or another pregnancy). 

Abstaining from sex during periods of fertility can prove challenging for couples, and they may find themselves having difficulty connecting with one another during these times. 

But there are so many ways to feel intimate with your spouse even when you can’t be intimate. 

Communicate

Communication is key for couples trying to avoid pregnancy. Couples should not only remind each other of their “why” for avoiding, but should also discuss the challenges that may arise in doing so. 

But even more importantly, take this time to grow in emotional intimacy. Share your feelings, dreams, and interests with your spouse and actively listen to his.

Prayer

Praying with your spouse during this time strengthens both your individual relationships with God as well as your marriage. 

Prayer fosters humility, vulnerability, and trust. It calls husband and wife to look outside of themselves toward the other and Christ. 

Physical Affection

Just because the night can’t end in sex doesn’t mean you have to avoid all physical contact with your spouse until you’re back in your infertile time. 

Couples should focus on physical touch that affirms each other rather than arouses. Hand holding, hugging, even kissing can help couples feel intimate during times of abstinence. 

But if you have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy, you should know what physical contact you can handle and which will only make the avoiding harder. 

Get creative

You can get creative with how you and your husband can spend your free time together during times of abstinence. 

Carving out quality time with your partner can help you to connect in a new and fun way. Go bowling, play a board game or try a new hobby. Enjoy one another’s company. 

Laughter

Find ways to make each other laugh. Laughter releases tension and can really help couples during times when facing the challenges of abstaining. Not only that, but sharing jokes and laughter will draw you and your spouse closer together. 


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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Questions to Foster Emotional Intimacy

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Early in a relationship, couples often have an easier time asking probing questions to get to know their significant other in a deeper way.

But after the honeymoon phase has waned, couples can easily default to questions that require a simple response like: “How was your day?” or “How was work?”

Asking thoughtful questions and then actively listening to the answers your spouse gives can do a lot to foster emotional intimacy and connection between a husband and wife. 

Not yet married? Read more here on developing emotional intimacy during engagement.

Try asking your husband one (or all) of these questions on your next date night, or around the dinner table to get the conversation started. 

What are your dreams?

Dreams can grow and change over time as a person discovers more about who they are. So even if you knew your spouse’s dream during the seasons of dating and engagement, his dreams (and yours) may look different now then when you met. 

Asking your husband to share his dreams with you makes him feel known, while also revealing ways in which you can encourage your spouse in pursuing them. 

This question often generates discussion about dreams that you as a couple have for your family and future together.

What have you been thankful for recently?

As marriage move past the honeymoon stage, it is very easy for couples to take each other for granted; however, gratitude is an integral part of healthy relationships. 

Asking your spouse what he is thankful for gives him the opportunity to intentionally practice gratitude, enforcing it as a more regular habit. 

It can also help you, personally and as a couple, to focus on the present moment and all the gifts God has blessed you with. 

What has Jesus been saying to you in prayer?

This question goes even deeper than the classic “How is your prayer life?” 

It invites the listener into this innermost part of their spouse’s heart and may even help your spouse process the ways in which God has worked in their lives. 

Plus, it opens up the possibility for a longer conversation on spirituality and prayer which can be edifying for both people. 


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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Stewardship in Marriage

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Time and time again we see in Scripture the call to be good stewards of the spiritual and temporal gifts God has given us.   

Christian stewardship means more than generously sharing our time, talent, and treasure. It means that we “... receive God's gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.”

Stewardship looks differently for each couple, and husbands and wives should take time to pray about and discuss what it means for their particular family during this season of their life. Here are some ideas to get the conversation started: 

Budget prayerfully

When couples create a budget, they generally form it around a particular goal they want to achieve or a vision they have for their lives. For example, paying off student loans, buying a house, or saving for college. 

Creating a budget in this way makes sense, and will help your family use money prudently and intentionally, but consider inviting God into the process. 

Instead of simply asking the question “What do we want to do with our money?” ask God what He wants you to do with it. 

His plan might look a bit different than your plan in the beginning and it will probably require you being more intentional with your finances, so you can make room for the more important things.

Tithe

The idea of tithing goes back to Old Testament days, but it remains an important responsibility of members of the Church today. The Catechism states: “The faithful have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.”

Traditionally this meant giving 10% of your income, but the Catholic Church does not mandate a specific percentage. However, the spirit of the tithe has remained over the years. We should return the first-fruits of our labor to the one who ultimately gave them to us.  

You can choose to tithe to your local parish, and/or to another Catholic charity. Pray and discuss with your spouse how much you can tithe each month, and where you feel called to donate.

Give from your need

Remember the widow in the gospel of Mark who gave two small coins into the temple treasury? Of her, Jesus said: “This poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” 

Of course we should be prudent with our finances, but too often we use our lack of money or resources as an excuse not to give. 

But true generosity requires sacrifice. It’s easy to be generous with our excess but it takes virtue to give from the little we have. This might look like forgoing our daily cup of coffee from the nearby shop, or inviting people to your home to share the meal you prepared. 

We practice stewardship when we take what we have been given and joyfully share it with others.

Practice gratitude

Stewardship means recognizing that all of the gifts in your life come from God, and involves giving from that gratitude instead of from obligation. 

Take some time each day with your spouse to think about the gifts in your life and thank God for them. 

Recognizing the generosity of God in turn helps you to show generosity to the people you encounter each day. It also helps you find satisfaction with what you have so you can live a more intentional life.


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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Am I Called to Marriage? How to Discern Your Vocation

CARISSA PLUTA

 

When I was in college, hours were spent in the chapel trying to navigate the life given to me and to determine the exact plan God had for me. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:    DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

I often prayed novenas to find my spouse, and found myself wondering if that cute guy in my English class or at the coffee shop was the one. Or wondering if maybe God was actually calling me to religious life instead. 

I spent a lot of time worrying that I would never figure out the path God had planned for me. I remember many anxiety-filled moments, afraid that I would spend the rest of my days alone.

Maybe this sounds familiar?

I treated my vocation like cheese at the center of a maze. Looking to it as the ultimate goal in our relationship with God, or as my one-way ticket to happiness. 

God does have a plan for our lives. He desires to fulfill the deepest longing in our heart. Our joy lies in spending eternity with Him.

Discernment helps us distinguish what brings us closer to that plan.

As Catholics, we know Christ should be at the center of our decision-making, especially when it comes to big decisions like who, if anyone, we should marry. But we often want a step-by-step map for figuring out what God wants us to do. 

Discernment, however, looks more like a process than like a to-do list and here are a few suggestions for starting that process:

Open your heart

I’ve heard many young women express fear over their vocation: “I don’t want to be a nun” or “I won’t make a good wife.”

While you shouldn’t immediately dismiss the idea of marriage or religious life simply because it seems less appealing in this current season or out of fear, you can trust that God will not force you into a vocation. He will not call you where you can’t flourish. 

He will either call you where you already feel lead or He will transform your heart. Allow God the opportunity to flood your heart with His wisdom and grace and leave fear behind. 

Work on your relationship with God

Every healthy relationship involves frequent communication, so unsurprisingly, to hear God’s voice we need to have a healthy and intimate relationship with Him. We can do this by praying everyday and receiving the sacraments regularly.

Try praying with scriptures, attending Mass at least once a week, frequent confession, or doing a daily examen to help deepen your relationship with God and allow Him opportunities to speak to you.

Make room for silence

Cardinal Sarah in his book The Power of Silence writes: “There is no place on earth where God is more present than in the human heart. This heart truly is God’s abode, the temple of silence… The Father waits for his children in their own hearts” 

You won’t hear God’s voice if you have filled your life with noise. 

Cultivating silence in your life and in your heart will help you grow more in-tune with the movements of the Holy Spirit. So try removing unnecessary distractions, especially when you pray. 

Pursue excellence in your current state in life

You don’t have to find your vocation to begin your life. In fact, throughout history, God has called men and women in the midst of their daily life. Abraham, Moses, Mary, the Apostles were all called on what was an otherwise ordinary day.

God has given you this life, and He wants you to live well and trust Him to take care of the rest. So, if you’re a student, work diligently. If you are a young professional, do your job to the best of your ability. 

Find a spiritual director

If you were going on an arduous journey, you would probably want a guide to help you navigate the difficult terrain. 

Similarly, we might need help finding (and following) the path God has laid out for us. Seeking guidance from a trained spiritual director can help you interpret what God has revealed to you in prayer. 

Act

When it comes to discerning our vocation, we often get so caught up in making the “right” choice that we become paralyzed with fear and anxiety. We don’t feel confident enough to move, so we stay put where we can’t fail.

However, you can’t use the process of discernment as an excuse to not pursue God’s will for your life. 

If you think you might be called to the religious life, go on a “come and see” retreat with your favorite order. Or if you think you might be called to marriage, consider saying “yes” next time you’re asked on a date. 

By making the decision to act, you allow yourself to learn and grow in ways that will only help you discerning God’s plan for your life.


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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How to Find a Mentor Couple

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Many couples enter into marriages without a clear understanding of what this vocation should look like when lived well.

We need help to navigate this sacred call but many of us come from broken homes or lack examples from which to learn. For this reason, mentorship can benefit many engaged or newlywed couples.

A mentor couple acts as this example while also providing support and encouragement to couples as they pursue holiness in marriage.

Finding the right mentor couple may take some time and prayer but here are some tips to help you get started.

Find a couple living the life you hope to live

Every couple has an idea for how they envision their future together. What do you hope your life together will look like in 5 years? 10 years? What are some challenges you might face?

Given the unique marital pressures brought by certain lifestyles or careers (like military, missionary, or doctor) having a mentor couple who could understand and relate to the joys and challenges you’ll face can help you navigate the ups and downs.

Get involved in the communities you are (or would like to be a part of). Getting to know the other members will help narrow down potential mentors. 

Find a couple who loves like you hope to love

Can you think of a couple whose marriage inspires you to live and love well? Chances are, this couple probably has been married a bit longer than you and your significant other. 

While having friends in the same state in life is important, your mentors should have more experience in living out their vocation. 

That doesn’t mean your mentor couple needs to have 50+ years of marriage experience, but they need to have already walked where you’re walking to be able to provide you with their wisdom to help you on your way. 

Find a couple you both trust

Since they will share more intimate thoughts and prayers, mentees should trust their mentors. That means, both husband and wife should find it easy to confide in the couple chosen for mentorship.

Again, this may take time and may take a little bit of searching but this will ultimately allow for more fruitful conversation between the couples. 

Make a Plan

When you and your spouse find the right couple for you, you should formally ask them to be your mentors. Then you will need to make a plan to help make your time together more intentional and productive. 

You can meet, in person or on Skype if your mentors live far away, as often as you and your mentors would like. However, meeting once a month is probably a good place to start.

You can make your meetings more formal by using resources such as these discussion questions or by reading a book together, but you don’t have to. Just grab some coffee or a meal and talk about how your marriage looks during the day-to-day. Ask questions and learn from one another. 


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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Actively Listening to your Spouse

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Communication does not merely involve verbalizing our own thoughts and feelings, but listening to those of our spouse. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:    AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

PHOTOGRAPHY: AN ENDLESS PURSUIT

Listening well helps couples communicate more effectively, and ultimately deepens intimacy between the individuals. But it can be difficult to do, especially when discussing a sensitive subject.  

Here’s how to make listening a less passive (and more fruitful) process.

Pay attention

This first tip should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how often we listen to our spouse without giving them our full attention. 

Put down your phone, close your laptop, or turn off the television. Even if you aren’t looking directly at your various devices, it can be hard to listen when distractions lie just within arms reach. 

Watch your body language

Not only does our body communicate messages to the people we interact with, but it also affects how we perceive a situation and receive others. 

If it is a heated topic, don’t scowl, roll your eyes, or cross your arms. These bodily cues communicate a negative message to our spouse, and can even influence us in a harmful way, hardening our hearts and preventing us from listening with compassion.

Sit upright, face your spouse and look him in the eyes. This will help you pay more attention to what is being said, and will show your husband that you hear him. 

Don’t interrupt

When we aren’t actively listening, our mind begins to craft our response or argument before the other person finishes speaking. This can lead to us to jump into the conversation and interject with our own thoughts

Don’t dominate the conversation and don’t interrupt, even with well-meaning advice. You aren’t listening if you are speaking, so be patient and honor them by giving them a chance to express their thoughts and feelings. 

Reflect and rephrase

When they are done speaking, help your significant other know that you understood what they said by restating their point. Avoid jumping to conclusions. 

If you aren’t sure what they said or what they meant, ask for clarification. Make sure you listen and then respond appropriately. 

Be Empathetic

Try to understand where your spouse is coming from, especially if he shares a problem, concern, or difficulty. Validate their feelings; even if you don’t totally agree, look for some truth in their words. 

Sometimes your spouse just needs a listening ear. So seek first to understand your spouse, before offering advice. 


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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How to Avoid Fights about Money

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Much stress and many arguments in a marriage often result over money.

In fact, studies have shown that money is the number one issue couples fight about. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some ways to help you and your spouse avoid those dreaded money fights.

Talk about your financial history

Many marriage prep programs include discussion on finances but they don’t always dive as deep as they should. You and your partner should not only talk about how much debt you might be bringing to a marriage, but also about each individual’s “money mindset.”

How was money talked about in your home growing up? How do you feel about how it was talked about? Are you a spender or a saver?

Getting to the root of your money mindset can help them better understand their significant other, and help you as a couple to make adjustments.

Share your expectations

Many arguments in marriage result because of misunderstandings. If the couple does not clearly communicate their expectations when it comes to finances, it will likely result in an argument.

Will you have a joint bank account when you get married? Will you need to discuss with one another before making large purchases?

Sharing your expectations when it comes to money with your spouse or fiancé can help eliminate any confusion between the individual philosophies. It also allows the couple to have more meaningful conversations about finances, that will help avoid potential future arguments.

Set financial goals together

When my husband and I got married, we had several large student loans that we needed to pay off so getting out of debt became our major financial focus. But as we near the end of our student loans, we have shifted our focus on saving for the future.

What do you hope to accomplish in the realm of personal finances? Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to buy a house? Save for your kids to go to college? Discuss your hopes and dreams with your significant other.

Laying out your desires will motivate you and your spouse to achieve them and help you create a more organized plan to meet these goals.

Create a budget and stick to it!

Whether you are trying to get out of debt or trying to save, making a budget with your partner can help.

After calculating your monthly income, create a budget that reflects your goals and family’s vision. How much will you save? How much will you tithe? Will you put aside money for a date night out or for a child’s birthday?

Be sure to revisit this budget monthly and adjust it to meet your family’s needs. A monthly finance meeting can help keep communication about money between spouses open, honest, and stress-free.


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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