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.

Four Icons to Depict The Marital Embrace and Theology of the Body

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

The Theology of the Body (TOB) is a compilation of teachings and writings which depict how our physical bodies are designed and created to reveal the glory of God on this side of heaven. In many ways, TOB is a mission statement for married couples—a spiritual foundation to understand the human heart, to grow in relationship, and to embrace our deepest desires for unity. 

Saint John Paul II presented his work on TOB in 129 “general audiences” during his papacy; countless theologians, teachers, and artists expand upon his work and share these truths in schools and communities today.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, ”Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words.” In collaboration with several TOB educators, four icons which reveal the Gospel message through the lens of Theology of the Body and the vocation to married life are shared below.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   HORN PHOTOGRAPY

PHOTOGRAPHY: HORN PHOTOGRAPY

The Holy Family 

An icon of the Holy Family reveals the physical fruit of love between two humans who each offered their bodies entirely to the will of God. Though each called to self-sacrifice, man and woman participate in very different acts of cooperation with the spirit. As we gaze at the Holy Family, we recall how Mary, completely united with the Holy Spirit, trusted an angel and conceived the son of God with pure receptivity. Joseph upheld his masculine dignity and self-control through his entire life as he abstained from physically uniting with his earthly spouse. Joseph’s body was his source of leadership to provide, protect, and defend his family and his home. 

Like Mary and Joseph, every bride and groom is called to offer her or his body in unique acts of service for the sake of their marriage and family. Whether in receptivity, abstinence or offering, a surrender of the physical body in collaboration with God is fruitful and holy. 

The Ecstacy of St. Teresa of Avila 

The passionate union of man and woman in holy matrimony is meant to be a foretaste of the passionate union the holy person will experience with God in heaven. St. Teresa of Avila mystically experienced the ecstacy of this love in her life on Earth, as depicted in this image. Her heart was struck by the love of God and she was never the same. Her expression reveals the longing of every human heart for the ultimate union with God in heaven. 

And it is an experience that God wants to share with all of us, in some fashion anyway. While it may be true that relatively few experience this level of divine ecstasy in this life, something like this (and far beyond) is destined to be ours for eternity – if we say “yes” to God’s marriage proposal, that is.”

Joachim and Anne in the Immaculate Conception 

The icon entitled “The Immaculate Conception” depicts the moment of holy union between Mary’s parents, Saints Joachim and Anne. They stand next to their marriage bed in a loving embrace. The imagery and symbolism in this icon is rich with truth about the Theology of the Body and the pure union between man and woman. As we know, their union was so pure, so holy, that the fruit of their union was Mary, immaculately conceived without sin. Beyond the literal event of the image, “...this icon leads us to consider the possibility of real holiness and virtue in the marital embrace, not only as an intellectual idea, but as a lived experience.” This image teaches us about the our destiny for unity between man and woman, the masculine and feminine, and for the trinitarian love of bride, groom and God. 

The Wedding Feast at Cana 

The Gospel reading of the Wedding Feast at Cana is a common selection for Catholic weddings. Jesus’ first public miracle at this wedding offers many points of reflection. It emphasizes the celebration of marriage and covenant as a holy union. It reveals a dynamic of the relationship between man and woman, as depicted between Mary and Jesus. It highlights the intoxicating effects of abundant wine and of pure love shared with others.

The icon depicting this event is a reminder of this miracle’s glory and how its truth applies to marriages today. Through the lens of TOB, we recognize that holy union is a cause of great celebration; saying “yes” to fruitful love through the marital covenant yields an abundance of holy and joyful celebration from God.


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

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

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.

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

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

Stressed By All the Tasks and Projects of Wedding Planning and Newlywed Life? Words of Wisdom from St. Teresa of Calcutta.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

When asked where she drew the energy to serve the poorest, sickest, and most unseen individuals of her city day after day, St. Teresa of Calcutta expressed that time and attention are gifts to be given from one human heart to another. It wasn’t about quantity, she emphasized, because “love is inefficient.”

Love is inefficient. A privileged world away from the streets of India, these words rang out nonetheless as I prepared to enter into my vocation. 

Throughout my engagement, and on into marriage and young family life, I have experienced love’s inefficiency and am better for it.

I experienced it the afternoon my husband and I met halfway between Pennsylvania and West Virginia and attempted to create a wedding registry in a single afternoon. Arguments ensued as we felt the temptation to materialism and pressure of limited time together. 

I experienced it in my desire to spend significant time with each of our wedding guests as we circled the tables at our reception, wishing I could sit down for an extensive catchup while knowing there were dozens of other friends and family members to greet. Feeling the tension of being gracious for photos and hugs alongside the need to continue moving through the room.

I experienced it in our new apartment after our honeymoon, frequently prioritizing cleaning, unpacking, decorating, and thank you notes over quality time with my husband. And I continue experiencing it now, fighting digital distractions and my desire for an orderly home while striving to be present and attentive to my children. 

Have you been through something similar? A goal with a need for convenience and speed--a need for efficiency--that can come at the cost of your relationships and your spiritual life.

Wedding planning and the transition to married life bring with them countless tasks to resolve and check off, yet I’m reminded that love is my ultimate vocation and ultimate priority: reverence and thanks to the Father who has given these gifts and opportunities; sacrifice for and sincere attention to my family.

Though I remain far from perfect in this dimension of love, I’ve often recognized that perceived inefficiencies and inconveniences that I view as slowing me down until I can enjoy the “real” goal of time, conversation, and leisure with those I love, aren’t actually steps along the path to an end point at all. Instead, the Lord repeatedly shows me that in detours and on the path itself, I am prompted to embrace inefficiency and be present for the moment in which he has placed me. 

If that means our wedding registry could have been broken down into separate tasks as my husband and I enjoyed our weekend together instead of running to accomplish as much as possible; if the dishes aren’t done but I’ve gotten to read on the couch with my kids, what might seem like inefficiency is, in reality, an opportunity for connection, encounter, intimacy. An opportunity for a greater love.

What might seem like a distraction or inconvenience from a task at hand can, with a changed perspective, become invitations to realize our own poverty: without the Father, we’re capable of nothing.

When we reject the idols of efficiency and productivity in wedding planning and in daily married life, we allow ourselves to step forward in trust, to embrace his mercy, and to let our eyes be opened to a true seeing and deeper understanding of those we are called to love.

We love hearing your experiences and growing together in sisterhood. What areas of engagement or newlywed life have brought you struggles with efficiency, and how have you overcome them? Share in the comments and on our 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

BOOK | INSTAGRAM

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

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

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

BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER