New Research Describes The Negative Effects That Men Who Frequently Watch Porn Experience

Researchers recently presented their findings of a new study at the European Association of Urology Congress. The results revealed that 23 percent of men under the age of 35 who reported watching porn frequently also tended to encounter erectile dysfunction during sex.

“There’s no doubt that porn conditions the way we view sex,” stated study author Gunter De Win. He continued saying, “We found that there was a highly significant relationship between time spent watching porn and increasing difficulty with erectile function with a partner, as indicated by the erectile function and sexual health scores.”

The outcome of this study have led De Win to believe that the increasingly explicit nature of online pornography may leave some men underwhelmed by sex in real life. This explains why 20 percent of the men who participated in this study “felt that they needed to watch more extreme porn to get the same level of arousal as previously. We believe that the erectile dysfunction problems associated with porn stem from this lack of arousal.”

As this study and others like it continue to reveal, biology, psychology, and theology are all leading us to a better understanding of the negative impacts and effects of pornography on the human person. As Pope Saint John Paul II stated, “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

Have you or your partner been impacted by pornography? CatholicCounselors.com is proud to offer CONNECTED: Recovery from Pornography, an internet based group counseling experience designed to help men recover from the obsessional use of pornography and the damage it does to our mind, body, soul, and relationships. Pornography not only creates a distance between man and God, it destroys family relationships and reduces one’s own image and value of self, the only creature that God made in His own image.

In connected you will discover:

The pornography trap.

Practical tools for overcoming temptation triggers.

Healthy attitudes toward yourself, sex, and women.

Identifying and meeting the needs masked by pornography.

How to receive God’s forgiveness, and forgive yourself.

How to heal relationships damage by your use of pornography.

Reconnecting with healthy (and holy) sex.

How to build healthy, healing relationships with God, yourself, and others.

Find out more at CatholicCounselors.com!

Family Feud! 3 Keys to Managing Family Conflict

Is your family caught in conflict? Are you struggling to know how to navigate those tricky disagreements? Family conflict can be especially difficult if each person has a different approach to communicating their hurts, needs, or frustrations. This is why it is important to turn to God to teach us His universal language to manage those challenging times.

Theology of The Body reminds us the families are supposed to be schools of love and virtue.  One of the lessons we all need to learn in the family school of love is how to manage conflict, tension, and differences of opinion gracefully.  As Catholic families, especially, we need to make sure that we’re not just “doing what comes naturally” when it comes to family conflict, but instead, inviting God to be the mediator of our disagreements, being intentional about asking what virtues we need to practice in conflict to have more productive discussions, and working hard to listen to each other rather than react to each other.  We need to remember that, as Catholic families, we are not called to just be loving when things are going well, but to be loving–and accept the mutual growth God is calling us to–in the face of disagreements.

So how do you manage family conflict in the ways that God calls us to?

1. Let God Be Your Mediator–It often doesn’t occur to us, but it’s tremendously helpful to ask God to mediate our family conflicts.  Anytime you feel your temperature rising, you notice your kids fighting or not listening to you, or you see that family members are starting to butt heads, say, “STOP!” bring the kids to you, and invite God in with a prayer that goes something like, “Lord, help us to really listen to each other and find ways to take care of each other through our disagreement and find solutions that glorify you.”  Then, take a breath, and solve the problem.  Remember, you are a Christian family. That means we invite Christ into all we do.  Don’t handle conflicts on your own.  Let God be your help and let him lead your family to find peaceful, loving, mutually-satisfying solutions to family problems.

2. Practice Conflict Virtues–When you have family conflict, remind yourself to ask, “What virtues do I need to handle this well?” Patience? Understanding? Consideration? Self-Control?  Assertiveness?  Take a brief moment to identify the virtues or qualities that would help you handle the present disagreement well.  If you’re working with kids, stop and ask them what virtues they need to handle the situation well before you start and discussion.  If that sounds a little pie-in-the-sky, it isn’t. In fact a recent study found that people who naturally practice what researchers called “virtue based problem solving” do a better job of keeping their cool in conflict, finding effective, objective solutions to conflict, and recovering more quickly from conflict. Faith and science agree. Not only is it possible to be more intentional about bringing Christian virtue into family disagreements, it’s the key to family peace.

3. Treat Resistance as a Message–We have a tendency to treat resistance–especially on the part of our kids–as stubbornness that has to be overcome with a show of force. Avoid this. Learn to see resistance as communication. When the other person (especially kids) are resistant or reluctant to your ideas or commands, what they are really saying is, “But if I do what you’re asking, how will I get to do this thing that is also important to me?” Of course, kids aren’t mature enough to articulate this, so they need us to help. Work hard not to react to resistance or disobedience. As St. John Bosco counseled parents, “work hard to maintain your countenance.” In the face of that kind of push-back, stop and say, “Obviously, I need you to take what I’ve said seriously, but what are you trying to tell me that you need?” Then make a plan for meeting that need.  You’ll be amazed how often this causes resistance or even disobedience to evaporate without the power struggle.  Treat resistance as a message. Identify the need. Create a solution, and move on.

For more resources and support on working through family conflict, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!

Science Reveals The Upside of Sacrificing for Your Spouse

Are you struggling to connect with your spouse? Does it feel like you’ve been missing that spark in your relationship? Science and faith reveal a few simple ways to cultivate a more joyful marriage.

Theology of The Body tells us that mutual self-donation–that is, generously and even heroically taking care of each other–is the key to both a happy marriage and a happy life.  Turns out, research supports this idea.  An article at the Marriage Research blog, The Science of Relationships, recently highlighted several studies exploring the benefits of sacrificing for your spouse.  It turns out loving your spouse more than your comfort zone doesn’t just make your mate happier, it’s good for you too!  According to the authors, “The act of making a sacrifice for a partner allows people to think of themselves as good and responsive relationship partners. Givers also benefit from seeing that their partners are grateful to them after they make a sacrifice. This gratitude in turn is related to stronger, more satisfying relationships. Indeed, on days when people report making small sacrifices for their romantic partner, they tend to report higher relationship quality. So next time you’re watching your partner try on clothes at the mall, cat-sitting for your in-laws, or taking out the trash for the third week in a row, just think of the silver lining: you’re not just taking care of your marriage, you’re taking care of yourself”

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How To Heal Your Marriage And Nurture Lasting Love

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Here are three ways that you can cultivate a more joyful marriage:

Surprise!—Want a more joyful marriage?  Find ways to surprise your spouse.  I mean, don’t jump out of the closet in a monster mask and yell BOO!, but DO leave little “I love you” notes, send a text that says, “I miss you!”, bring home a card, or some flowers, or some other token of affection just because.  God wants your marriage to be a physical reminder of how passionately HE loves you, and God’s love is always fresh, surprising and wonderful.  No matter how long you’ve been married, find little ways to surprise your spouse and let them know what a gift they are to you.

Keep Dreaming—A big part of what makes the early days of dating and marriage so much fun is all the time couples spend talking about their future together.  The longer couples are married, the more they tend to fall into assuming that the future will be just like today, and the day before, and the day before that.  But you’re never too old to keep dreaming together!  Make some time to imagine different versions of your future.  You don’t even have to be serious! Imagine what you’d do if you won the lottery, or actually moved to your favorite vacation spot.  Or share what your ideal life would look like! You might ask, “What’s the point of imagining a future that might never be?”  Well, three things!  First, being silly together is its own reward and laughter truly is the best medicine for marriage. Second, you might just find some ways to make at least parts of those fantasies a reality.   And finally, you might even realize how grateful you are for the life you’ve created together already.  So keep dreaming together.   You’ll be surprised at the joy you find.

Have Faith in Your Marriage—Of course the most important way to have a more joyful relationship is to find more ways to share your faith. Go to Mass together, pray together every day, find ways to serve your parish or community together, encourage each other to the be the people God is calling each of you to be.  Research consistently shows that couples who share a meaningful faith and vision of life are significantly happier than couples who don’t.  So let the grace flow in your home, and live God’s plan for a more joy-filled marriage.

For more support in cultivating a more joyful marriage, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!

Overcoming The Trap of Hyper-responsibility

For many of us, it’s easy to fall into the role of taking on responsibility for other’s situations or problems. We want to help, but often get hurt or frustrated when the other person is not accepting our help or allowing us to guide them. When this occurs, it may be because we’re struggling to manage the balance between self-donation and hyper-responsibility.

Theology of The Body (TOB) reminds us of the importance of self-donation–of using our gifts and talents to generously work for the good of others.  But TOB also reminds us that for a relationship to be healthy, it must be mutually self-donative.  That is, both people in the relationship have to be equally committed to giving all they have to work for each other’s good.  Even Jesus models this. He offers all of himself to us on the cross, he holds nothing back. But he doesn’t force himself on us.  For us to actually benefit from Christ’s free and total gift of self, we must respond by giving ourselves freely and totally back to him.  He doesn’t drag us, kicking and screaming into heaven against our will.  He stands at the door and knocks, but it’s up to is to open the door and let him in.

Here are three ways to be self-donative without becoming hyper-responsible:

Don’t Pretend to be Mightier than God–We often become anxious because we feel like it’s our job to make people healthier than they want to be, to force people to be closer than they want to be.  All that tends to do is stress us out and push people away.  The most we can do is offer people an open invitation to greater health and intimacy, provide incentives for pursuing greater health and intimacy, and offer consequences if they choose to engage in unhealthy or destructive personal or relational choices–and that’s a lot. But when we find ourselves trying to beg, whine, cajole, force, manipulate, or pressure another person–against their will– into making healthier choices for their lives or our relationship with them, we are committing an offense against their free will. Even God will not cross the lines a person draws with their own free will.  Don’t pretend to be mightier than God. By all means, invite people to be healthier and closer, and feel free to offer incentives, and even consequences, that help them take your invitation seriously, but it’s not your fault if they choose to walk away, literally or figuratively.  In fact, you are morally obliged to let them.

Take Your Cue From Them–We sometimes get into trouble when we try to work harder on someone else’s problem than they are.  It’s good to be generous and to give all we have to help someone, but it only produces good fruit if the other person is also giving all they have to give. Even if, objectively, the other person is limited in some way and isn’t able to give much, they still have to be actively trying to give all they have to the problem for any help to stick. Otherwise, we burn ourselves out trying to solve problems that are not within our ability to solve. And we deplete the energy we would otherwise have to solve the problems that actually are within our control.

If You Need Help, Get It
–Hyper-responsible people often struggle with asking for help, especially if the people they have asked are less than enthusiastic about giving it.  If this happens to you, don’t assume that it automatically follows that you have to do everything. Either find some other way to get the help you need–even if it is not your preferred way to get it–or, if worse comes to worse–decide what you are capable of doing without help and stick to that.  When other people complain that certain things aren’t getting done, simply tell them that you are doing all you can without their help, but if they would like to pitch in, then you are sure you could accomplish more together.  It is not your job to make everything work to an ideal standard on your own power.  Even God doesn’t build his Kingdom by himself.  He insists that we partner with him, not because he can’t do it, but because it would not be respectful of our free will or the dignity of our personhood to do it all for us.  The bottom line–respect your limits, and get the help you need. 

If you would like to receive the help or support you need to overcome hyper-responsibility, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!

You Change First!—What To Do If You’re Caught In The Blame Game

“I would be fine if they would just stop talking to me like that!” Sound familiar?

It’s extremely frustrating when we feel as though someone else won’t allow us to be calm, to be solution focused, or to be the person that we want to be. But often when we feel frustrated that another person’s actions have this kind of influence over us, our response is to try to change them first so that we can then be okay.

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Are you getting caught in conflict?

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The scenario I just described is a classic case of being caught up in the blame game. The key to escaping it is anticipating your tendency to fall into it in the first place and make plans for avoiding it before you start a difficult or typically triggering conversation. The dynamic I described is what happens when our brains become “flooded” with stress chemicals which causes our cortex (our thinking brain) to essentially go off line. At that point, our limbic system (our emotional brain) takes over and attempts to “solve” our problems by making us fight, flee, or freeze. This is exactly what occurs each time we find ourselves getting stuck in the kind of unhealthy cycle that occurs when we find ourselves caught in a blaming/reactionary conflict. When this happens, our brain works to distance us from the problem but prevents us from actually doing anything to solve the original problem.

The first step is increasing increase your awareness of when you start to become “flooded” with stress chemicals. What signs occur in your body—i.e. your shoulders tense, your face becomes flush/hot, you clench your fists? When you first start to notice these signs, take a step back, take a deep breath, send up a quick prayer and ask God to help you find solutions that will glorify him, and be the loving person he needs you to be—even in conflict.  Then, focus on something that will help you drain those stress chemicals from your brain and bring your thinking brain back online. In moments such as these I like to reflect on the verse from 2 Timothy: 1-7 which states, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

When we get caught in the blame game, our focus becomes fixated on changing, fixing, or controlling the other person—to get them to do what we want/need them to do. While this may not be the intention, it is how we tend to operate when we are in a blaming centered conflict. This reminder from 2 Timothy demonstrates to us that we are not capable of, nor is it our responsibility to control or change another person. Our responsibility lies solely in our ability to practice self-control and model the behavior we want to see in the other person. How do you wish the other person would behave?  Make sure you’re doing that first.  If that doesn’t get things back on track, pick a time when you’re not arguing to discuss things you both need to do to make each other feel taken care of when you disagree. 

Be aware of your signs of stress, pray, and breathe. Take a step back until you are able to respond in a calm and solution focused manner. Be a model of the behavior you want from the other person, and proactively discuss ways to better take care of each other when conflict heats things up.

 

If you would like additional resources to help you stop the blame game in your relationships, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

The Secrets of Communication: How to Be A Better Listener

We try to be our best. We mean well, and when our efforts are misconstrued we feel like there’s nothing we can do. But there’s good news: recognizing the ways that we can grow in no way means that we’re not well intentioned and doing our best! This is one of the greatest keys to communication. Understanding that we’re well intentioned, but we always have room to learn from the other person and grow in ourselves and our relationships with others.

In order to learn from another person and learn to grow in relationship with them, it’s crucial that we learn to listen effectively.

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Are you struggling to get along with difficult people?

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Research published in the Harvard Business Review describes that the typical ways we think we’re being good listeners—such as being silent, periodically nodding or acknowledging the other person, or even repeating what the other has said—aren’t as effective as we may think.

Here are a few ways to become a more effective listener:

Ask questions—while sitting in silence allows the other person to talk, it doesn’t always communicate that they’re being heard. Asking questions shows both interest and comprehension in what the other person is discussing. Likewise this allows for the dynamic of listening to understand rather than listening simply to respond.

Be a cooperative partner—research indicates that the most successful conversations are those where the individuals view one another as partners, meaning neither person gets defensive about comments made by the other. When we are partners in a conversation, we work together, we care for one another, and we are certain that our responses are solution focused (rather than derogatory, competitive, or distracting from the topic at hand).

Offer reflections—A good listener keeps the conversation going by gently offering reflections that open up new lines of inquiry. Complaints often occur when someone feels as though the other just “jumped in and try to solve the problem.” Good listening, however, requires that the suggestions/solutions are not the end of the conversation, they are a support to the conversation.

To learn more tips and techniques for effective communication, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com

Your Faith and Debt

By: Judy Keane

money:rosary

The statistics are stunning.    According to a recent  Washington Post  article, the majority of Americans with 401(k)-type savings accounts are accumulating debt faster than they are setting aside money for retirement.     While the amount varies, it has also been found that the average credit card debt per U.S. household is around 3,364 (Source: Federal Reserve) along with an average mortgage debt of $149,925 per household and average student loan debts of more than $26,000.  In total, American consumers owe more than 856.9 billion in credit card debt and more than 11 trillion in debt overall.

Meanwhile, our culture and the media continue to urge us to spend beyond our means to buy even more!  As a result, we are steeped in a buy now, pay later mentality, with little thought given to financial consequences down the road.   It seems everywhere we turn; we are bombarded with ads that attack our self-esteem or body-image if we don’t purchase the latest and greatest anti-aging creams, automobiles, or outfits.   “Retail therapy” has become a popular term of our time in which we seek to spend ourselves happy.   Beyond this, there is the ongoing barrage of credit card solicitations and endless parade on online shopping sites where one can easily purchase everything from major appliances to trips abroad without even leaving our homes.

A recent survey among our youth (ages 18-34) showed that 60% said they were jealous of celebrities and other public figures whose lifestyles are glamorized by television shows such as  Rich Kids of Beverly Hills,  Real Housewives  and  Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  Of course, I don’t’ need to go into detail about our national debt which now tops more than 17 trillion dollars and continues to grow by nearly 2.5 billion a day!

Is it any wonder that so many of us find ourselves in debt?   Of course, it can’t all be blamed on external pressures.   We must look a hard look at ourselves, our spending habits, our lack of control, our priorities, and our ability to identify needs verses wants.   We know that debt leads to depression, low self-esteem, failed marriages, health problems, hopelessness, and despair.

Yet, God wants us to be debt free!   In fact, he calls us to be debt free! He wishes us to be free from the shackles of debt and the psychological ramifications it has on our minds and spirits.   Not only does he want us debt free, he in fact, wants us to prosper, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).     God also discourages us from getting into debt in the first place and warns of its dangers in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.”   This clearly states, we are in a form of bondage to our lenders until our debt is paid in full.

So what can we do in our own lives to get our debt under control or make sure we don’t go into debt again? The bible offers some solid advice to guide and direct us.   First the bible emphasizes we develop a realistic budget to make sure we can afford our purchases.   As we all know, we can easily get in over our heads financially by making even one purchase that is more than what we can afford.   The Gospel of Luke emphasizes this — “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,  saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30).   In prayer then, ask God if what you want is really something you actually need.   After all, God has promised to meet our needs, but not necessarily our wants, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom  and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).   In my own life, I’ve prayed over significant purchases and have on occasion waited 24 hours to think about them.  More often than not, I’ve discovered I didn’t really “have to have” what I thought I wanted and was later glad I didn’t make the purchase after all.

Ultimately, we must gain control over ourselves when it comes to our spending habits and also teach our children to do the same.  Enlisting God’s help along with creating a budget to keep us from the temptations of overspending can go a long way in keeping out of financial hot water. Sometime a health crisis, emergency home repairs, or natural disasters cause us to go into debt through no fault of our own.     Yet, in this case, it is the same.   We must do everything we can to pay down our debt and never lose hope that God will continue to provide for us as we work our way out of our debt crisis.     We can trust that God will show us the way and offer ways to move beyond it, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalms 32:8).   Most of all, we must never lose hope nor give into despair in the face of that which seems insurmountable, recognizing that the circumstances of today do not define our tomorrow’s and that God has plans for us that are so much greater.

In a culture where material possessions and status are more important than character, we must strive to keep God in the center of our hearts amid all the consumerism and temptations to over spend.   To this end, Pope Francis recently offered advice saying, “The world tells us to seek success, power and money.   God tells us to seek humility, service and love.”  We know that it took time to get into debt and it will take time to get out of it.   So if you find yourself in debt, be patient!   Have faith and don’t despair!   God is in the midst of your debt crisis and working with you as you work toward your financial freedom!

Credit to  Judy Keane of CatholicExchange.

Marriage is Work

By: Emma Smith

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“Yeah, I’m getting divorced too,”  one of my co-workers replied to my boss the other day. The two ladies then exchanged stories about their horrible husbands and that “awful institution” called “marriage.”

Both of their husbands cheated on them and both of them dealt with a multitude of other issues with their husbands that only served to add to the pain of their failed marriages. It was awful to hear what they went through, and I don’t blame them for feeling hurt by the whole experience.

“There’s so much of that out there!” my boss exclaimed. “I know one of my girlfriends who is cheating on her husband and I know a couple of other people where both of them are cheating. I guess you’re lucky if it doesn’t happen to you.”

Then my boss looked over at me and, knowing I’m engaged, said, “Sorry, but I  neverwant to get married again.”

“No,” I wanted to say, “I’m  sorry.”

But I didn’t get it out. I was too busy sorting through all of the reactions in my own head. I ended up remaining silent for the entire conversation because somehow I didn’t think that these women would understand.

I didn’t think they’d understand that if I said, “my fiancé and I are never going to have that issue” that my statement would be one of fact and confidence, not one of blind love and young bravado.

I didn’t think they’d understand what I mean if I said “marriage isn’t just a luck of the draw. It doesn’t work like a lottery.” Because, to them, it does, while for me, I know that it doesn’t. Marriage isn’t a drawing of the straws, where if your spouse cheats on you, well, “sorry, you just drew the short straw. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent it!” It’s not an institution where if you are a strong, happy, and healthy couple you’re just “the lucky ones.” It’s not an institution where the fates decide who “wins” and who “loses.” It’s not a promise you enter into like buying a lottery ticket — someone will win the jackpot while most people just buy empty tickets.

Yet this is how our society has been trained to see marriage. This approach to marriage has so infiltrated our society that people refuse to believe that there should be anything like “marriage prep,” because how do you prep yourself for a game of chance? There’s no way of making yourself any  luckier, so why are you bothering to work on it? Our society has abandoned the idea that marriage is something you work on, and even more so, it has forgotten, and thus doesn’t understand, that marriage is a  calling.

It is a foreign concept that one would be able to say with complete confidence “my spouse will never cheat on me.” And yet, I  can  say that. I can say that because I have a faith and a God who stand behind me in that statement. And I can say that because the love my fiancé and I share is not human, it is divine. We love each other because we love God and we have discovered that in loving one another, we get to love God more fully. Moreover, the love that we have for one another is divine in  origin. God gave it to us at our baptism and it had a full 15-20ish years to grow and mature so that when we met, it blossomed.

That makes us blessed, but it does not make us lucky. We both worked hard on ourselves and on making God the center of our world before we even knew the other existed. In doing so, we returned to God the gift He gave us in that first sacrament. We returned to Him our hearts, and with them we returned to the Creator the divine love placed in our hearts for one another. God knows how to nourish our hearts and souls better than anyone. In nourishing our hearts, He nourished the love that grew in them for each other so that when we met, my soul immediately knew who my fiancé was. (And it only took me a couple of months to catch up with what my soul knew at first sight!)

We have a faith that can make these promises. Promises of faithfulness, love, commitment. Our faith allows us to make these promises because He who gave us love was faithful in His love until the end. He who originated love in our hearts died for us out of that same love. We as Catholics are granted the same strength of faithfulness to the end when we return our love to the one who  is  love. When we participate in making our love a sacrament, when we make a way for God’s grace to enter the world every day, when we demonstrate outwardly our inner devotion, we can say with full knowledge and confidence that we are not in a game of luck. We are in an institution of work and prayer, and we can rest assured that our success rests squarely on the shoulders of our prayerful work and the support of a God who made the universe.

Blessed Pope John Paul II is famous for his line: “man finds himself only in true gift of self.” If we only receive what we give away, then we must strive every day to give our hearts and our love back to Christ.

Giving a gift back doesn’t take luck. It takes work.

 

Credit to Emma Smith of CatholicExchange.

The Power of Matrimony

By: Francine & Byron Pirola

marriage

The power of Matrimony for renewing the Church and society rests in the very nature of the sacrament. Matrimony is the vocational sacrament within which the vast majority of adult Catholics live, and yet its capacity for teaching, renewing and leading the Church is largely overlooked.

All Sacraments reveal and witness to a dimension of God and our relationship with him. Matrimony witnesses in a very concrete way to the passionate, intimate love of Jesus for his bride, the Church. St Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians (5:21-33) spells it out very clearly. After describing how husbands are to love their wives in imitation of Christ, and wives are to regard their husbands as they regard the Lord, he quotes Genesis: ‘“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”. This is a great mystery, and I am applying to Christ and the church.’ (Eph 5:31-32).

In commenting on this passage of St Paul’s, Pope John Paul II noted that the Sacrament of Matrimony had a ‘bidirectional’ nature. “As one can see, this [spousal] analogy works in two directions. While it allows us, on the one hand, to understand better the relationship of Christ with the Church, it permits us, on the other hand, to penetrate more deeply into the essence of marriage to which Christians are called.” (John Paul II, TOB 90:4) In other words, not only can couples look to the example of Christ to learn how to love each other well, they as a couple can teach the Church about how Christ loves the Church, and how we as his bride, are to respond to him.

Thus married couples are called to teach the Church about the nature of Christ’s love; through the example of their relationship, all married couples are called to be leaders, offering inspiration and prophetic witness in their parish communities.

Couples teach the Church that God’s love is as intimate as it is benevolent, and that his Kingdom is more relational, like a family, than legalistic. Like a passionately ‘in love’ couple, Jesus’ love for us is urgent, personal and intimate. He longs to be close to us, to be one with us, to be in communion. The ‘one flesh’ union of husband and wife is not just a physical joining of their bodies for brief and occasional moments. Nor is it their compensation for having to endure the difficulties of marriage and family life! No, their sexual union is a sacred gesture and is instrumental in what Pope John Paul II called ‘a communion of persons’ — the interpersonal communion of body and soul between two persons in a mutual self-gift.

The passionate married couple thus illuminates and images the Eucharistic communion — Jesus gives his body and sheds his blood in a total outpouring of love for his bride, the Church. When a couple make love, they too give their bodies and shed their blood (ie lay down their life in service) to each other in the image of Christ. And just as husband and wife become ‘one flesh’ in sexual communion, so also do we, the bride of Christ, become one flesh with Jesus in Eucharistic communion.

Sexual communion is a sacred rite; a deeply holy and sacramental act for the married couple. It is no accident that sexual union is considered essential to the establishment of the Sacrament of Matrimony when the couple marries. “In fact, the words themselves, ‘I take you as my wife/ as-my husband’ do not only refer to a determinate reality, but they can only be fulfilled by the copula conjugale (conjugal intercourse).” (John Paul II, TOB 103:2)

Married love is indeed a powerful witness and teacher. It images and makes real the profound mysteries of our faith and is thus worthy of contemplation and reverence.

Credit to  Francine & Byron Pirola and MarriageResourceCentre.

 

You Can Make A Lifetime Marriage

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak

married couple

Sociology professor, Pepper Schwartz, has a rather depressing piece in CNN titled,  Lifetime Marriage a Crapshoot.        It reflects on the fact the the biggest percentage increase in divorces is among  people over 50.  It used to be that people felt that if you made it to 25 years, you were home free.  Not any more.  Althought the divorce rate is significantly lower among longer-marrieds than among those married fewer than 10 years, it isn’t unusual for couples to divorce after 25, 40, even 50 years.   Schwartz writes,

Lifetime marriage is turning into a crapshoot for many people, especially  Baby Boomers. Maybe holding on till “death do them part” is least likely for Hollywood stars whose work takes a hard toll on their relationships and whose exit from marriages is not generally impeded by financial concerns. But really, no marriage is immune against what seems to be an epidemic of marital unraveling.

She’s right.  No marriage is immune.  Not any couple.  Not anytime.

Crisis or Opportunity?

It would be easy to get depressed about this, but I tend to think of it as empowering because the key to lifelong marital satisfaction is actually hidden  within  the fact that no one can  count  on marriage lasting a lifetime.  What do I mean?  In my experience, when we say we can “count” on something, we usually mean “I don’t have to be concerned about it.”  ”I don’t have to take care of it.”  ”I don’t have to attend to it.”    I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to adopt this attitude toward my lawnmower much less my marriage.  Seriously,  what if you saw an article that said, “‘Neglected, 40-yo Lawnmower Breakage At All Time High’ Study Says”  would you be surprised?   Of course not.  Then why do we  tsk-tsk  so much about articles that essentially say the same thing about marriage?

No Such Thing As “It”

I note in my book,  For Better…FOREVER!    that one of the most important attitudes couples have to develop about their marriage is that there is no “it.”    Couples often claim, “It just died.”  ”IT just didn’t make sense to stay together any more.”  ”We couldn’t save IT.”   There is no “it” in marriage.  There is only you, your spouse and what you create together by asking yourselves what you can do to take even better care of each other today than you did yesterday—everyday for the rest of your lives.   If you do this, you will have a happy marriage that lasts a lifetime.  If you don’t, you won’t. Period.  As a friend of mine says, “It aint rocket surgery.”

The Answer: Intentional Loving

I understand that the ins and outs of taking care of your relationship can be a challenge.  Prioritizing your marriage in the face of work and life pressures, developing the self-control that it it takes to not lash out at your partner when things get tough, and learning to love your mate more than your comfort zone are all hard work, but assuming you intentionally commit to taking care of each other everyday, you can’t help but learn these things.  In fact,  although it gets a little lost among the paragraphs of hand-wringing, Dr. Schwartz makes this same point, herself, in her article when she writes,

[W]e have to be intentional about our relationship every day, year, and decade we are together. We have to aim high, have a lot of fun, work hard at being each other’s lover and friend and always do everything we can to repair problems along the way.

And that’s good advice whether you’ve been married 5 days or 50 years.

Resources You Need to Succeed

For more information increasing the likelihood of you and your spouse making it to happily ever after, check out  For Better…FOREVER!  A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage,  The Exceptional Seven Percent:  Nine Secrets of the World’s Happiest Couples,   and  Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage.