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.

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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4 Financially Smart Tips for Newlyweds

LARABETH MILLER

 

I am so very proud of my husband. 

We got married in his second year of medical school, had a baby, moved to another town and held ourselves together while he worked 80 hour work weeks and studied for 9-hour exams. Then we spent $10k on interviews before he landed a fantastic job. My husband then graduated from medical school and carried his little family to another state to begin a new chapter. 

 Now we are proudly Dr. and Mrs. Miller, ready to welcome our second baby. Oh, and we have six figures worth of debt to pay off. 

Truly, I’m laughing--because otherwise, I’d cry. And it might not seem like I’m very well-equipped to be writing about being smart with money. Taking on as much debt as we have is certainly a risk and stressor to any marriage. 

But with any kind of monetary undertaking, even just creating a family, it is essential to learn how to be financially literate. 

Money will always present itself as a major pressure in a marriage, yet if both you and your spouse are knowledgeable, it becomes a team effort instead of a fight. The virtues of prudence and wisdom are key here, in addition to faith in God’s providence.

Here, a few of the ways my husband and I have started our financial journey. 

Identify your spending personalities.

 This is an important topic to discuss before you get married. Consider: what are your spending habits like? Are you high maintenance? Do you budget your life already? What things are essential for you? What kind of financial examples did your parents display?  

It's crucial to get an idea of how your future spouse handles money, because he or she will be your “business” partner for life. One of you might need to grow more sacrificial in your  wants, while the other might benefit from loosening up on restrictions. Find a balance and learn how to compromise while identifying your shared financial goals. 

Set realistic expectations. 

One of my major pieces of advice is to stop looking at Instagram. There seems to be an ideal for millennials to have a house and two new cars by their late twenties. Some do accomplish this, but perhaps only with great debt. Its okay--and wise--to not be able to purchase a house right away. It's realistic to only have one car until a few years into your marriage. 

 It's also normal to not be able to have a social-media-worthy wedding. The life you and your fiancé are beginning is about both of you and how well you choose to shape it. God calls us to live with what he gives us, in order to care for each other and foster a simple, holy home environment. And your shared happiness will come easier without comparisons to everyone else’s seemingly “perfect” life. 

Know your financial playbook.

Start with what you have, identify what is most important, and make a flexible plan together. Are you starting out with student loans? Learn how to refinance them and get yourself on a manageable repayment plan. Are you having a baby right away? Find out what your insurance covers and learn how to look for inexpensive supplies. 

And, I cannot stress this enough: make a budget! Your budget will allow you to take an overall look at your financial state at any point and  give you a clear idea of where you are. It will allow you to grow in prudence and help you identify what is realistic for your family in terms of housing, food, and utilities. Being sacrificial can go a long way! My personal budgeting resource is mint.com, which allows you to connect your bank, credit cards, and any other billing accounts online in one easy place. 

Continue to grow in financial literacy. 

These are great resources  to start with, and it will only get better as you learn more. Pick up simple resources like Personal Finances for Dummies or find financial blogs for beginners. Always educate yourself before making economic decisions. It might not be the most entertaining way to spend your time, but I can guarantee it will give you greater peace of mind. 

All this being said, the most important thing is to consider your financial decisions together and with God. No matter what kind of obstacles pop up, He will always provide. Basing your actions in prayer is a vital component, helping you both discern God’s will in confidence.


About the Author: Larabeth Miller resides in Florida with her husband and two children. She likes to write and paint whenever she's not chasing after her two-year-old.

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Newlywed Life | Surprises of Traveling with your Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Whether it’s traveling for your honeymoon, a summertime vacation or holiday, sharing life as a “party of two” may eventually yield opportunities to pack a bag, load the car, board the plane, and take a trip. 

Unlike sharing a home or going on a date, traveling with your spouse may be a catalyst for surprising new conversations about values, opinions and preferences. 

A husband and wife bring experiences from their respective childhood travels into their adult preferences, including how to spend time and money. Some couples may not realize how many expectations each partner brings into a vacation until they make opposing suggestions. 

The opportunity to travel is an incredible fortune. There are so many different ways to take a vacation: backpacking or luggage-in-tow, culturally immersive or relaxing, budget or high-end, clean or rugged, foreign or domestic, self-guided or professionally-guided, adventurous or cultural, ethnic food or familiar food, planned or spontaneous. 

Although you and your spouse love each other’s company and are in a groove with sharing chores and space around your home, time on vacation is completely different. In reality, vacation is often as a desirable “break” from routine norms. 

Discussing a budget is typically part of the initial plan for taking a trip. Beyond a dollar amount, the budget conversation involves how and where you will spend money. 

How we spend money communicates what we value. Do you value a nice hotel with all of the amenities or would you opt to allocate funds toward a private tour at an art museum? These preferences reveal and determine where you and your spouse agree to prioritize spending in accordance with your values. 

Where we spend our time also communicates what we value. It is impossible to eat at every restaurant, see every tourist attraction, and participate in every possible activity during one vacation. Husbands and wives must share decisions about what is realistic and desirable within the constraints of time on vacation. 

Like any experience in married life, we are called to die to self as an act of love for the other. Does this mean we are called to plan a vacation solely according to our spouse’s preferences? Absolutely not. 

Marriage calls two individuals into deeper intimacy. Surrendering your desires for your spouse’s preferences is an act of love. However, being honest and vulnerable about your personal preferences is also an act of love because, by sharing this part of yourself, you invite your spouse to see, know, and love you.

Maintaining a flexible and marriage-centered attitude in these conversations about potentially conflicting opinions will guide couples to make decisions with shared ownership and joy. Without a doubt, travel is an opportunity to learn about your spouse, yourself, and the values you desire to fulfill in your family. 

We would love to hear: do you and your spouse have similar opinions about travel and vacation? What areas have prompted conversations and compromise? Share your reflections with our community on Instagram and Facebook.


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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Surrendering Infertility to a Loving, Creative God

ERIN BUCHMANN

 

When my husband and I were engaged, we looked forward to someday raising a family. We did have a few conversations about that Big Unknown: what if we’re unable to have kids?

But we--especially I--didn’t consider it to be a real possibility, or even necessarily a totally negative one. “Of course we’ll be open to life and try to have a family, but if kids aren’t part of God’s plan for us, we’ll be fine with that,” I thought. “Besides, then I’d be able to continue with my career. That would be nice.”

Now happily married and having discerned together that the time is right to try to conceive, months start to pass by. Despite our careful NFP charting and frequent visits with our gynecologist, we’ve not been able to.

 Frustration set in, and emotions ran the gamut. Being unable to conceive when it suddenly seems like every other couple around is either expecting or juggling a handful of kids is really, really hard. 

The words of a hymn my childhood parish sang jump to my mind with fresh relevance: “The kingdom of God is challenge and choice.” The presenting challenge: physical infertility.

 With regard to how we approach this challenge, God gives us a choice: do we let ourselves fall into a sinful, selfish attitude of impatience or anger toward him, presuming to believe our wedding vows somehow entitle us to a child? Or do we instead imitate Our Lady’s response of unhesitating trust in God’s plan: Fiat, let it be done unto me according to your word?

Just as God had a unique, perfect plan for Mary’s fertility--one she had almost certainly not foreseen a moment before the Annunciation!--he also has a plan for yours.

 Your seasons of physical fertility and infertility are willed by him for the sanctification of the world and the salvation of souls. In my own experience, this time of physical infertility has actually been incredibly spiritually fertile.

As Christ has been helping me carry this cross, He has been moving my heart in new ways. He has been planting gardens in my heart in places I didn’t know there were stones. He has been immersing me deeper into the mystery of his love as he and I and my husband live out that love in our marriage.

Where did his gardening work begin? With the label of “infertile.” In my mind, our being unable to conceive at this point in our marriage meant we were never going to have children. Further, as it appeared from our NFP charting that my body was the reason for our unsuccessful attempts at achieving a pregnancy, I saw myself as broken. Having had a rocky relationship with my body before, this feeling of brokenness was particularly poignant--and painful.

As I was praying (and crying, to be honest) after receiving communion during one particularly difficult Sunday Mass filled with many families, I heard Christ’s voice speak to my heart: “Is my life inside your body enough for you?”

When one is in a state of grace, Christ’s life is present in that soul. But when we receive him in the Eucharist, Christ comes to dwell physically inside our bodies also. My body is most certainly not broken, for the Most Precious Body of the creator of the universe lives safely inside me.

 Christ’s transformative work on my heart has continued further. Although my body is not broken, medical help does offer assistance in restoring to the female body the ability to conceive a child and then sustain that pregnancy.

My husband and I began seeing a Catholic gynecologist during our engagement, when we noticed our marriage-prep NFP charting wasn’t looking like the examples in the textbook. When we found we weren’t able to conceive after we married, our doctor prescribed medication intended to normalize my hormone levels—and I resented taking those two little pills.

 The Catechism teaches “spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity” (CCC 2379). I researched the jelly out of those two medications and found them totally within the lines of moral legitimacy. But I still begrudged taking them.

I asked my husband for his thoughts on the whole matter, including the Catechism’s perspective: “Honey, what do you think? Does ‘exhausting legitimate medical procedures’ mean I am morally obligated to keep taking those pills until I reach menopause?!”

My husband paused and thought for a time. I waited.

“I don’t think it’s morally wrong to eventually stop taking the pills, if time has confirmed they aren’t helping,” he began, “but we’re not there yet. Not enough time has passed for us to reach conclusions like that. For now, I do think a decision not to take them would say something about your openness to pregnancy. Is taking two pills really too much of a burden for you, if they may be helping your body function as God intends it to?”

That brought all my defensiveness crashing down. Here, Christ brought another tangled piece of my heart into his healing light.

I realized taking those pills is one way I am called to work with God and my husband to make our marriage one truly open to the arrival of children. This is, concretely, one way I can assent to my role as a co-creator with them.

My daily “yes” to taking the medications can embody, in a little way, my continual surrender of my desire for a flawless body, my ambitions for my career, and my fear of the unknowns that would accompany motherhood--all for the greater good of fostering a marriage that is fully open to the Lord’s plans, whatever they might be. Fiat, let it be done unto me.

Personally, this season of infertility has been a blessing in disguise. Christ has taught me in so many new ways what it truly means to be a wife and a mother.

 As a religious sister once shared on a middle school retreat, God intends each and every woman he creates to be a MOM: a Master Of Magnanimity. We are called to be generous of mind and heart, willing to endure hardship and discomfort in order that great things might be accomplished through us.

For me, this has meant a daily surrender of my desires and fears while coming to a deeper acceptance of my body exactly how God has made it.

The lessons Christ wishes to teach you during this season might be different, but through all the challenges and choices, never doubt that he has amazing plans and the perfect timeline in mind for your fertility. Our loving, creative God will never be outdone in generosity. Never give up hoping in, trusting, and walking with him.


About the Author: Erin Buchmann enjoys daily Mass, outdoor adventures, crossword puzzles and Ben & Jerry's. She and her husband reside in Virginia but dream of the day they'll move back to the Midwest.

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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