Marriage Prep | Identifying Sources of Clutter in Your Lives

Are you and your beloved in the season of preparing for marriage?

Just as our very nature as human persons is both material and spiritual, so too is every vocation. The call to marriage has a particularly tangible material element, as you and your fiancé prepare to combine two sets of possessions into a shared life.

Depending on your age, locations, and current situations, you might be living at your family home or with roommates, or one of you might even reside already in the rented or owned space you’ll soon share as husband and wife.

Have family and friends asked why you aren’t yet living together? More here on ways to talk about cohabitation.

Your home together will be your own domestic church; your source of rest and renewal. In our KonMari-friendly culture, there’s freedom in evaluating the physical items that might be hindrances to a beautiful, peaceful living space. As you anticipate and prepare for your first home together, consider evaluating not just the material, but the spiritual and emotional “clutter” you might be carrying. 

Here, questions to discuss with your beloved, intended to help you identify sources of clutter in your lives and determine fruitful ways to minimize or move past them. 

What’s our personal motivation to declutter?

Ridding yourselves of anything weighing you down (whether physical, spiritual, or emotional) prompts you to ask what exactly it is you hope to make room for.

A family mission statement can act as a touchstone and source of grace, clearly stating your hopes for your marriage. Read more about creating your own.

Consider, then, the habits, routines, and leisure the two of you hope to prioritize and pursue in your married life: is it a designated part of each day for prayer? Time to develop a hobby? Hosting and hospitality?

As you identify your hopes for your marriage and your family culture, you’ll grow in motivation to get rid of elements that detract from those hopes--if, for instance, you and your beloved desire a solid prayer routine as a bedrock of your relationship, you might feel more determined to commit to consistency, less phone time, and other distractions. Having a goal helps you remain focused!

What are our actual sources of clutter?

As you take stock of and pack your belongings for your newlywed home, identify physical items that are rarely used, in poor condition, or that you’ve brought with you from place to place “just in case” you’ll one day need them. Recycle, donate, or give items in good condition to a friend.

Consider what emotional and spiritual items you hope to move past, as well. Matters like family boundaries, wounds from past relationships, and mental health issues aren’t eliminated the moment you say your vows, yet taking active steps now toward resolving them in a healthy way will strengthen your relationship, for the remainder of your engagement and on into your marriage.

Have you experienced difficulty in resolving past relationships? More here: Healthy Ways to Talk About You and Your Beloved’s Pasts | The Benefits of Premarital Counseling

Lastly, identify sources of mental clutter in your life: are there areas of planning, scheduling, and priorities in which you could grow? Consider what tools and conversations you and your beloved can implement to keep your expectations and plans on the same page when your social calendar and career responsibilities become a shared effort.

What habits or commitments are drains on our time and goals?

From screens to overscheduling to general aimlessness, it’s easy to feel your time is limited and easily eaten away. And yet, we often choose to do what we really want to do, for better or worse. 

If you sense that there isn’t enough time to pursue the goals you have for your home life, ask—with honesty and charity—what habits distract from your priorities throughout the day and what social involvements might not be an ideal fit for this season of your lives. Talk about ways to support each other in your individual and shared goals, to keep each other accountable, and to use your time fruitfully.

The desire for a beautiful, peaceful home is good; a reflection of our heart’s pull toward our ultimate heavenly home. While entering into marriage doesn’t eliminate all sources of clutter, the effort of dealing with the cluttered areas of your lives brings about a shared, united outlook on your vocation and a sense of deeper freedom. And freedom is for love.

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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Is There a Definition of a "Catholic Wife?" How I Found My Identity in the Feminine Genius.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

So many of us pray throughout engagement and marriage to be good and holy wives. What does that actually mean, and how does it look in each woman’s life? For several years, I struggled to define who a holy, truly “Catholic” girlfriend, fiancee, and wife actually was.

I first heard the term “feminine genius,” as coined by Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter on the dignity and vocation of women, on a summer retreat. The retreat introduced me to the letter and to Love and Responsibility, John Paul’s work illuminating the dignity and purpose of the human person, particularly as it relates to sexual ethics, the complementarity of men and women, and the real-life implications of how men and women relate to one another. 

These texts wrecked me, in the best way. My simpler, more youthful deas of love as feelings and gestures were torn down, replaced with the principles that love is an act of the will. Self-gift.

I attended the retreat with my college boyfriend. To be in a serious dating relationship, while reading a book about dating and all the potential obstacles to authentic love, struck me with insecurity. All of these ideas--love over utility, sincerity, honesty, chastity--grabbed my heart and made so much sense, yet they seemed like impossible standards. 

As a result, for several months I overanalyzed the nature of complementarity: I wondered if my actions communicated a sense of receptivity that the Pope said was integral to womanhood,while letting my boyfriend take a more initiating, leadership-focused role. I frequently questioned if I was living in a way that was truly “feminine.” 

My heart lived in a tension: I desired to be what I mistakenly perceived as the holiest type of Catholic woman, while also resisting passivity or weakness. When I was so concerned with whether I was being feminine in the right way, I wasn’t free.

Have you ever had a similar experience, wishing to be a prayerful, feminine, holy wife who is also a woman of strength and conviction? I found freedom in looking to Our Lady.

As I returned to school after the retreat and began attending a Marian prayer group, I delved into the mysteries of the Rosary for the first time. As I grew in devotion to Our Lady, I realized there is no single “type” of feminine genius, nor type of Catholic spouse, I needed to live by or fit into, because it is already there, integral to who we are. 

Within the term feminine genius there are as many ways to express femininity as there are unique, unrepeatable women in this world. Each of us is loved and willed into existence so specifically, with our own particular gifts.

If you find yourself looking for your purpose, particularly in preparations for marriage, I invite you to contemplate Mary as our ultimate womanly example. In her Magnificat at the Visitation, she joyfully proclaims, “my soul magnifies the Lord.” 

As women, we deeply desire to be seen. We can also help others to see the presence of the Lord. Mary proclaimed God’s love--magnified it--with her life. A prayer to do just that--to reveal God’s love to your husband, in body and spirit--radiates the Lord’s love. 

Where I used to mistakenly believe femininity meant a singularly calm, pious womanhood, I now know, through Mary’s making visible God’s love, that in reality the Father wants and needs women of all temperaments, spiritualities, hobbies, and strengths to make known his kingdom through their vocations. Only you can tell your story and share the love of God in a particular way; can love and sanctify your husband and future family in the ways they most deeply need.

The only true definition of a “Catholic wife” is the one specific to who you alone were created to be.

When I met and began dating my husband, there was an immediate ease. I saw “...that femininity doesn’t mean one thing only: it’s not always being the asked, never the asker; always the pursued, never the pursuer; always the comforted, never the comforter. It doesn’t mean being afraid to argue or voice strong opinions. It means loving my husband, in his uniqueness, and every person I encounter, in the specific way only I can.” 

My favorite Adoration chapel has a monstrance in the form of a wooden sculpture of Our Lady, holding out her arms. In her arms is the space for the Eucharist. We see how a woman is both holding--receiving--and magnifying her for all to behold. If we look to her, we can constantly revisit what it means to reveal him to others and bear his face, not our own, to the world.

In our identity as brides, the feminine genius calls women to be like a monstrance: only a vessel--a beautiful one, in soul and body--for revealing the Lord to our beloved, magnifying his love and presence to others. 


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

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What are the Non-Negotiables in Your Relationship?

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

Do you and your fiancé or spouse ever experience a desire for order and ritual within your relationship?

As someone who resists the feeling of being boxed into any one identity or image, and who struggles with personal accountability in schedules and routines, I used to think living by a set of particular daily practices or principles--in my mind, a set of “rules”--were a limitation.

After seasons of struggling with purpose, intentionality, and motivation, I’ve begun to realize that incorporating an appropriate degree of order into my daily life and my marriage aren’t limiting: in reality, they create a greater sense of freedom.

Freedom, for my husband and I, has felt tangibly, practically real in the experiences of not feeling enslaved to household responsibilities or to self-focused desires. It’s felt like our time can be used well and for the service of each other and our family. Our growth in this area is the fruit of a recent discussion in which we talked about our individual and family priorities; what we deemed “non-negotiables” in our life together.

Read the Spoken Bride team’s experiences with and tips for designating household responsibilities with your spouse. 

The non-negotiables my husband and I identified for our marriage are: family dinner, daily walks together with our children, going to bed at or close to the same time as each other, and providing each other with time alone for prayer (the daily readings, Holy Hours or daily Mass) and renewal throughout the week (for my husband, it’s a weekly hockey league he plays in with his brothers, and for me, it’s time for journaling and running errands on my own).

I encourage you and your beloved to communicate about your own non-negotiables, whether you’re in the state of anticipating your future marriage, whether you’re adjusting to the new habits and closeness of newlywed life, or whether, like me, you’ve been married several years and are eager to refocus on your priorities as a couple. Recognizing one another’s love languages can provide great context for identifying your needs. 

Here, suggested starting points for creating your own list. You might create a list divided into different areas of your life, as cited below, or into daily, weekly, and monthly priorities.

Spiritual

Identify concrete times and ways to pray together. Consider incorporating daily prayers like the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours, committing to confession, Adoration, and/or daily Mass several times per month, celebrating particular days in the liturgical year, or a establishing a continual practice of reading and discussing the same spiritual book.

Find spiritual reading recommendations--including Theology, literature, and books on love and marriage--here.

Physical

Exercise and physical activity promote discipline and healthy ambition in all areas of your life. If working out--individually or together--is a priority for you, include it in your non-negotiables.

What’s more, in our creation as full persons, body and soul, the physical extends beyond exercise and looks to the relational. Discuss your outlook and needs regarding physical touch with your beloved, and determine ways appropriate to your relationship (whether engaged or married) to express affection. My husband and I, for instance, try to sit down on the couch together to chat and cuddle after our kids go to bed, before we begin our evening chores or leisure. I cherish the time spent reconnecting.

Read reflections on how a regular running habit helped one of our brides prepare emotionally, spiritually, and physically for marriage. 

Service

Are there particular responsibilities and sacrifices you can take on for the good of each other? Particularly for those whose love language is acts of service, daily assistance with chores and, God willing, family life, can be a meaningful non-negotiable that minimizes overwhelm and provides opportunities for sacrificial love. Your non-negotiables list might include matters like a nightly tidying up or making the bed in the morning.

Consider, as well, if service to your community--through weekly or monthly commitments to ministry, corporal works of mercy, volunteer work, or helping family and friends--is a high priority for your relationship.

Leisure

Identify ways you and your beloved can use your free time for both personal renewal and for nurturing your relationship. Depending on your individual temperaments and state in life, leisure preferences can widely vary, and are worth communicating about honestly.

Discuss ways to embrace leisure time in ways that leave the both of you feeling restored and close to one another: consider weekly or monthly date nights, designated times of day where your phones stay in another room, or pursuing shared hobbies.

Tired of the endless Netflix scroll? Read 8 inspired, non-TV ideas for your quality time

Although my husband and I aren’t perfect at meeting our daily, weekly, and monthly non-negotiables, simply having identified and committing to them has brought a deeper sense of purpose, intention, and yes, freedom, to our life, particularly in our season of raising a young family. We’d love to hear yours, as well. Share your non-negotiables (whether official or unofficial) in the comments and on Spoken Bride’s social media.


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

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What We Should Have Asked During Marriage Preparation

ADA PIMENTEL

 

Our first marriage prep meeting was in the deacon’s office of the large parish where we were to be married. As we sat facing his desk, we noticed the shelves facing us; they were filled with binders labeled ‘Annulments A-Ba,’ ‘Annulments Ba-Ce,’ ‘Annulments Ce-Di,’ and so on. As we stared at the bewildering number of annulment binders, the deacon informed us that, as twenty-somethings, the odds are against us: statistics show married people in our age bracket are more likely to end up divorced.

We left our first meeting discouraged, our second underwhelmed, and our pre-Cana retreat scared. We desired to make our marriage preparation worthwhile, but all of the support offered by our diocese and parish left us feeling more lost and confused than ever.  As an engaged person, it is often difficult to find the all-encompassing resources to feel spiritually prepared for marriage.

If you are already married and feel as though your marriage preparation was lacking, there are resources available for married couples. You can still seek a deeper understanding of this wonderful sacrament.

Although our diocesan-level preparation lacked convicting formation, we did not  advocate for stronger pre-cana support for ourselves because we did not know what questions to ask. After reflecting on these shortcomings over the past year, here are some of the questions I wish I had asked in the deacon’s office.

What have been the best ways that you have seen couples prepare for marriage?

Maybe the Pre-Cana retreat in your diocese is not up to scratch, but your parish may have an excellent sponsor couple program. Working with a mentor couple who has many years of experience in marriage and marriage preparation can provide trusting relationships and additional ideas during your engagement.  Ask around to friends and family as they may have recommendations as well.

What resources are available to us?

Little did we know, there is a fantastic office full of Catholic marriage counselors down the road from our parish. We never heard about these services while we were preparing for the sacrament of matrimony, probably because we never asked. Every diocese has its own resources, and there are many more online. The right resources are often hard to find, but the first step is to ask the right people in your community.

What books can you recommend?

Ask your married friends for helpful books from their engagement. Ask priests or religious sisters for books to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the sacrament of matrimony. Consult blogs and articles for recommended readings. With your beloved, consider the options and discern which resources you want to dive into together. Even if there are not many formal resources available in your area, you can form a self-guided  marriage prep course with the help of a good reading list.

Are there any ministries geared toward people who are already married?

Marriage preparation is only one part of the equation. Marriage is not an easy vocation; husbands and wives need all the support they can get in a world that consistently tears down the call to marriage and family life. Are there any groups in your parish or in your diocese which can connect you with others trying to live the vocation of marriage?

There are many resources to help you prepare for your lifelong marriage, and many people who aspire to share their wisdom--and your excitement--in your preparations. Do not be afraid to ask for the things you need, both in your desires for more and in the midst of a struggle. As Matthew 7:7 reminds us, “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”


About the Author: Ada Pimentel studied English at the University of Dallas and currently teaches elementary school. She married her college best friend in November 2017. When she is not teaching, Ada can be found contemplating classical education, redecorating her apartment for the hundredth time, and reading British novels.

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My Marriage Prep Experience Was More Intense Than Most. Its Surprising Fruits.

MEGAN HAAS

 

Six months after our college graduation, as I began a corporate job in my hometown and my boyfriend moved across the country for military service, he made a surprise visit and proposed on the campus where we fell in love. Giddily, we walked hand-in-hand. I looked up at him and asked, “Now what?” to which he replied, “Let’s go to the church!”

With the exception of extreme circumstances, the Church calls us to take time as a couple to prepare for marriage. Due to our long-distance circumstances, my fiancé and I hoped to get married sooner rather than later, in the church we attended together back in college. Excitedly, we walked into the office, asked, “how can we get married here?,” and were given a booklet of instructions. It was here I learned the Church must be notified at least six months in advance of a couple’s desired wedding date to ensure sufficient preparation for the sacrament.

A few days later, my fiancé and I were thrilled to find an available date that worked with his military commitment. We met with a priest to discuss our formal preparation with the church over the next nine months. Along with a retreat and written materials for pre-marriage counseling, our priest requested we meet with him 6-8 times throughout our engagement. This posed a challenge, with our eight hour separation and work obligations--our visits were limited to one weekend every few months. At this first meeting, he assured us that as long as my fiancé could call or Skype into the meetings, this would not be an issue. We were pleased with the plan.

When we shared these details with our families, my parents were taken aback that the parish required so many pastoral meetings. My fiancé and I were confused by their reaction.

Other family members, including grandparents, continued to surprise us, asking questions like,Why do you two need to meet with the priest so many times? Isn’t it enough that you want to get married in the Catholic Church, when so few couples do these days? Though they’ve encouraged my faith throughout my life, my family viewed the time commitment as burdensome during an already stressful period of separation. 

I liked our priest, however, and I rationalized that it was not a huge time commitment. Still, when my spouse and I attended a Pre-Cana retreat and learned from other attendees that frequent meetings were  fairly uncommon, I was a bit surprised. Most other parishes in our geographical area did not require couples to commit to more than a Pre-Cana retreat and a meeting or two. Friends of ours getting married in another state were only required to do a Pre-Cana retreat.

So as our first official marriage preparation meeting approached, I grew frustrated: Why do we have to commit to so much more than other couples preparing for marriage in the Church?

It took time and prayer to find an answer. My fiancé and I were facing the stress of the military, illness in the family, uncertainty about my career plans. We both worked long hours, and the wedding was suddenly six months away.

After our first meeting, it hit me: we were not spending enough quality time with God. The Father had his hand in us getting married at this particular church. He wanted to make sure we were prepared for the sacrament. Taking time to go the church where I would marry my husband, either in person or attending by phone, gave me much needed time for prayer and reflection.

 Our priest’s approach also provided valuable insight into our expectations for marriage. I learned right away that my vision was far too idealistic. The priest pointed out that on our formal assessment, I agreed with the statement, “I will always love my intended as I do now.” I now see that as naivety. Of course, love matures and grows. Through our conversations, I grew more realistic about the future and potential challenges ahead. We created a budget, discussed how we might share household responsibilities, and came up with potential date ideas--all as part of our marriage preparation.

 As much as we kept Christ at the center of our dating relationship, the busyness and stress of engagement made it more difficult--and the commitments with our priest ensured we still made the Lord our priority.

If you are preparing for the sacrament and feel burdened by the obligations, talk with your fiancé and encourage each other to fully commit to what the Church asks of you. In the case that your parish does not require a marriage prep course, I push you to take the leap yourself and schedule some time to talk as a couple with your priest. Our Father gave us the beautiful gift of marriage. And like all of the sacraments, we must ready our hearts in order to fully enter into it.


About the Author: Megan graduated from John Carroll University in 2017, where she studied Management, English Literature, and Spanish--and met her husband. The couple currently resides in Tennessee, where Megan works as a data analyst. Together, they enjoy day trips, movie marathons, and spending time with friends and family around the country. Megan's passions include baking, reading, and taking on DIY projects.

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A Photographer's Encouragement for Engagement

SINIKKA ROHRER

 

Each day from January 13-20, Spoken Bride's distinctively Catholic wedding vendors will be featured through Instagram takeovers and written contributions on the blog.

Are you recently engaged? We invite you to learn more about the gifted wedding industry professionals who partner with us through the Spoken Bride Vendor Guide.


When he asked me to marry him, I started crying tears of excitement. I was ready to be united with the love of my life and believed that nothing could stand in the way. Little did I know that nine months of marriage preparation, wedding planning, and managing family expectations would present a journey of challenges before we could walk down the aisle.

Although wedding planning was one of the most materialistic and difficult times in my life, I chose to enter the wedding industry to bless couples as their photographer and as a source of encouragement. We offer both beautiful images and positive support; we remind couples to embrace the hustle and bustle of wedding planning tasks by slowing down and enjoying engagement.

Your time as an engaged couple can seem extremely long and difficult due to a multitude of new situations, pressures, and circumstances. But there are many reasons why it's one of the most formative times in your marriage. As a bride and a photographer, I have journeyed through many engagements with couples. I pray that my perspective may help you experience your season of waiting with intention and a grateful heart.

Engagement is a precious time when you are able to communicate, discern points of conflict, and problem-solve prior to married intimacy.

It's during this time you are making some of the biggest foundational decisions in your relationship, like where you will live, where you will work, and how you will celebrate the holidays. Take time to dive into every conversation and seriously begin working through obstacles as you prepare for marriage.

Engagement gives you the ability to slowly unite as one.

In other words, engagement offers a buffer of time to release old, selfish habits and to develop new routines for new life circumstances. Marriage is a vocation that immediately strips you of the ability to be selfish; engagement is a time to prepare your mind, body, and spirit for that kind of sacrificial love. It is important to consider how daily routines and household responsibilities will change after your wedding.

Engagement allows you time to focus on Christ.

It is this time of waiting that gives you space to communicate about your faith and pray together. Use this time to create a vision for a shared spiritual life and goals for your new family’s foundation of values.

Engagement can be a challenging time to balance physical temptation, external pressures, emotional distress, and deadlines for key wedding planning decisions. But this time won't last forever.

Years from now you will look back on this season and it will be a small dot on the timeline of your marriage. With this in mind, utilize this season to its fullest by discerning issues, growing in selflessness, and focusing on Christ. After taking this time to build your foundation, you may even find the first year of your marriage will be easier than you expect!


About the Author: Sinikka Rohrer is the founder of Soul Creations Photography. She is a go-getter and dream-chaser who loves to serve others well. She loves all things healthy and early morning spiritual reads. Most days you can find her walking hand in hand beside the love of her life, Alan, with their baby John David in her arms. On any given day, you'll find them taking hikes and planning vacations out West.

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