Looking Back to Move Forward

lookingback

As the famous line from the movie tune says, “The past is in the past”. How then, can looking back help us move forward?

When I first met my husband, many years ago in our parish youth group we were asked to look up and share our favourite Bible passage. He found a passage on marriage and shared how he believed that during tough times in marriage couples should look back at what brought them together instead of looking at what is tearing them apart in the present moment.

At the time I didn’t appreciate the wisdom in his statement. Looking back to move forward is actually a great first step in working out those tough marital issues that will inevitably come up.

I don’t think I am sharing any earth shattering wisdom here. It’s pretty simple really. Every marriage goes through a dry patch or a few dry patches. We get caught up the in busyness of everyday life and our relationship with our spouse takes a back seat. For some marriages this is a minor and temporary occurrence, yet for others this time can be harmful to the married couple. Neglecting our spouse leads to feelings of loneliness and temptation to seek fulfillment in other things or other people. This opens the door to anything from addiction to infidelity.

Regardless of the type of damage or hurts we are dealing with in marriage, a good starting point in re-committing to working through those issues is to look back and rekindle the euphoric love shared during the early days of dating and marriage.

Here are 5 ways to look back:

  1. Talk to each other or to others about how you first met. Ask another couple how they met. They will most likely ask you to share your story, as well. Share this story in front of your spouse and make sure to make eye contact. You may be surprised to find that old familiar spark in his eye as those memories come to mind.
  2. Dust off your wedding photo album or play your wedding video if you have one. Leave the wedding photo album accessible. Let him find you looking through the pictures. Invite him to look at them with you. Show them to your children or guests who come to visit and share memorable stories you recall of some specific photos.
  3. Play your wedding song or other meaningful music from the time you were dating or first married. Play these songs in his presence. If you are so inclined sing or dance along together.
  4. Did you keep old cards, letters or love notes he wrote you? Make them accessible, read them, reminisce and share this with him.
  5. Recreate your first date or engage in the activities you did together in your first months or years together. You may have to refresh your memory by talking to him about how you used to pass the time together at the beginning of your relationship, which is also helpful.

Looking back will rekindle those old familiar feelings, helping us to see our spouse differently. Through the same positive lens we used during the euphoric days of our relationship. This along with the grace of God will help us to take the next step. These are only 5 ways, I am sure there are more ways to be nostalgic together. Share them in the comments. I look forward to reading them.

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Building a Strong Marriage: PROTECTION

Protection

What are we really protecting our marriages from?

Marriage is sacred, and there are many things than can work against those of us who are trying to stay faithful and committed to our vows. We learned in primacy that we have to focus on our unity as a couple. The idea that we have to guard our marriages, protect it, may seem abstract at first, but now we’ll look at it more closely.

St. Paul in Ephesians 6: 10 – 17 calls us to be on guard.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Our Catholic faith helps us to recognize that we must protect our marriage from sin. Sin can manifest itself in many ways. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect and sinless to have a strong marriage. What it does mean is that we have to recognize what can damage our relationship and how we can avoid the major pitfalls. We focus on three major areas: abuse, addiction and infidelity.

Addiction can happen to anyone. It’s a myth that addiction only involves alcohol.  One can get addicted to any media, pornography; video gaming, on-line gaming, social networking, or substance like food,  and gambling. Once an addiction has developed it rarely gets solved on its own and professional help should be sought out.

Not all addicts are easy to identify. In most cases there are warning signs. Behaviour changes, such as depression, the need of alcohol or drugs, unusual amount of time spent on computer, or excess time with video games. Being anxious about being away from the computer, alcohol, or video games are all warning signs.

We also need to protect ourselves from abuse. Abuse is not always physical. Physical abuse entails physical harm being done to another person, property or animal. Verbal and emotional abuse is more difficult to identify. Examples are, name calling, withholding, blaming, criticizing, minimizing, ordering, and threatening, extreme jealousy or obsessiveness. In any case, abuse is about power and control.

We are also to protect our marriages from infidelity. There are two types of infidelity, sexual and emotional infidelity. Sexual infidelity involves the crossing of a physical boundary, obviously occurs when one of the spouses engages in physical act with someone other than their spouse. However, it also includes all the physical touch that occurs leading up to that actual act, and even includes sexting and pornography. Even if the two don’t actually meet or touch, the nature of the infidelity is still sexual.

Emotional infidelity can be more damaging than sexual infidelity.  Acting on a momentary temptation takes less thought and points to a momentary weakness. However, emotional infidelity is more devious, and involves a connection, motive and conscious effort. This also takes on different forms, which include engaging in intimate conversations with someone of the opposite sex, or someone you are attracted to, could occur on-line via social media, chat rooms, cell phones, texting, or a ‘friendship’ with someone where an emotional connection is being built, or any relationship you are keeping secret from your spouse.

It is a common myth to believe that you can have a ‘friendship’ with someone of the opposite sex and keep it appropriate. Once ‘familiarity’ is apparent, you feel comfortable enough to share personal and intimate details of your life with this ‘friend. ’ The lines are blurred and boundaries are easily crossed. This leads to flirting and sexual advances, and eventually a full affair. Emotional infidelity is harmful to trust, intimacy, future dreams, security for children, and the marital relationship. This type of infidelity is more difficult to detect. It can be a long standing friendship, or occur with a co-worker, and it may have developed naturally and under the radar of the spouse. Many times you are relying on an instinct, communication and trust. Trust your spouse when they share their discomfort with a relationship you have with someone else. That relationship needs to be cut off, the sooner the better.

Infidelity, whether it be sexual or emotional, often begins with a person who has unmet needs.  This is not meant to justify or condone infidelity, but rather to understand some dynamics which predispose people to giving in to the temptation.

Couples need to talk about the boundaries they are comfortable with before problems arise. Be honest with your partner at all times. If you have a friendship you keep from your spouse, instead of justifying your reasons, remember, Christ brings all things to light. He does not allow things to remain in the dark. The good news is couples have been able to heal, forgive and reconcile even after infidelity occurs.

Some individuals don’t understand the effects of pornography on the marriage relationship.  Pornography treats a person as an object for pleasure. It’s degrading and causes feelings of betrayal and loneliness. Pornography robs the relationship of intimacy and sets unrealistic expectations on the spouse.

Our faith provides an opportunity for us to start anew when we battle sin. Frequent reconciliation is certainly recommended. Anything kept in secret will only fester and become worse. Talking to someone about it and having an accountability partner will be helpful in getting a handle on it, since it can be become an addiction. Other suggestions are to move the computer to a location that everyone can see, identify your triggers and set limits, and exercise if tempted.

If you or your spouse is struggling with any type of addiction or issues of infidelity below are some resources that can be helpful.

Next we will see how Prayer can help us protect our marriages.

Building A Strong Marriage: EMPOWERMENT

Empowerment

The next word in our acronym, PEPP is Empowerment. In today’s fast paced world, it is easy for a day to go by where couples barely spend more than a few minutes talking to each other.  How can we continue to Empower our relationship?

In the early stages of Sophie and Larry’s marriage, doing kind actions for each other came easy. They worked on most of the chores together. They enjoyed quiet and calm conversations over dinner, where they caught up on their day. They might even take in a show or a movie on some evenings. On Monday nights, when Larry wanted to watch football, Sophie would give him this time. Doing the dinner clean up on her own and even make him a healthy snack he could enjoy while watching the game.

A few years later, after 3 children, dinners are no longer a quiet affair. Evenings are packed with homework, extracurricular activities and bedtime routines. By the time the kids are in bed, Sophie is exhausted. The dinner dishes are piled up in the sink and she still has to pack everyone’s lunches for tomorrow. Larry usually has some unfinished work he has brought home. There is no longer sanctioned couple time. Sophie is well aware of this and is saddened by it. As she recalls how things used to be, she is determined to make a change. One night, she places a note in Larry’s lunch bag that reads: I love you Larry and I respect your decision to bring work home, instead of staying late at the office and missing out on family dinner and the children’s activities.

Larry is moved by this little note and responds by calling their neighborhood florist and having flowers delivered to her work. There is no special occasion, just an opportunity to remind Sophie that he loves and appreciates all the work she does for him and the children. From that day on, he resolves to call her during his lunch hour so they can reconnect. During their lunch break conversations they plan a monthly date night. Sophie schedules it in and arranges for childcare. Larry arranges the evening, making reservations or buying tickets to a movie or show, as needed.

Marriage is sacred, and there are many things that can work against those of us who are trying to remain faithful and committed to our vows. We learned in primacy that we have to focus on our unity as a couple.

When we give this talk to engaged couples we ask them to create a short list of everyday things couples can do to Empower their relationship. Here are the top 10 suggestions we usually receive:

  1.       Fifteen minutes before turning in for the night, share the events of your day.
  2.       Send a text, e-mail or call your spouse just to say “I love you” or “I am thinking of you”
  3.       Wake up at the same time, and go to bed together, even if you don’t have to wake up as early as your spouse.
  4.       Always kiss each before leaving or as soon as you return from work or other outings.
  5.      Do something fun or try something new together.
  6.      Plan a dream vacation, even if you never actually make it a reality. Share your hopes and dreams with each other.
  7.      Write love notes to each other. Find creative ways to hide them, in lunch bag or wallet.
  8.      Meet your spouse at work and take them out for lunch.
  9.     Attend Mass together, and if you have children, try to sit next to each other.
  10.     Pray together.

What do you and your spouse do every day to empower your relationship? Share your ideas in the comments.

Next topic in our acronym is Protection.

The Truth about Marriage – Written By: Fr. Paul Hrynczszyn

This post was actually a homily written by a good friend of ours, Fr. Paul.  It is being shared on my blog with his permission. He explains the truth about marriage in a compassionate and loving way. A way I could not have explained better myself. I hope you enjoy this read. I was waiting for the right to post it here, in light of the recent attention our Holy Father has received when his comments seem to have been misunderstood, I hope this post provides some clarity.

In Christ,

Tima

In Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41we see that Peter and the other Apostles were ordered to stop preaching about the Risen Christ by the Jewish authorities. They were ordered to stop preaching the Truth. And how do Peter and the Apostles respond? They respond with these very powerful words: We must obey God rather than men”.

The early Christians often faced ridicule and even at times persecution from regular citizens to leaders in society. And yet, because they had met the risen Lord, they were convinced that they could not remain idle, that to be a follower of Jesus meant that you were not ashamed of your faith. You were not ashamed of standing up for God and God’s truth, and you were not afraid to stand up in the face of moral evil, even when everyone was against you. The early Christians took this teaching to heart: We will obey God rather than men.

Our challenges in being Christian and Catholic in today’s secular society are a bit different from early Christianity. The early Christians did not have to face some of the challenges we have today. But we too are called to be bold and proclaim God’s unchanging truth to a world that thinks God’s laws written on the human heart can change with the times. One of the sacred things we have to protect today as Christians is the sacredness of Marriage. Marriage as is written in our human nature by God to exist between one man and one woman.

This is not an easy topic to talk about, and so many people want to silence the issue, but I think we have to have an honest discussion here about same-sex marriage. There is too much confusion about this subject and too many people, instead of trying to open their hearts to the truth, sentimentalized this whole issue. We are all somehow afraid of this topic, and maybe some people are afraid to talk about it because we don’t want to sound hateful or intolerant. But that’s not what it’s about. I want to first say that the Church LOVES all people who are homosexual. If any of you here are homosexual, I want you to know that the Church loves you, God loves you. If we discriminate mock those who have same-sex attractions, than shame on us. Any form of hate is wrong and sinful.

But, and there is always a but…I want you to know that the Church is like a good parent who loves her children, but will not remain silent if her children’s behavior is wrong and even sinful.

We have to understand one thing. Saying that something is wrong does not mean we discriminate against anyone. The Church always calls out the things that are morally unacceptable, without judging the person. You see, the distinction I want to make here at the beginning is between the sexual activity between people of the same-sex, and the homosexual person. We love the person, but we can judge an action. Sexual relationships between people of the same-sex are sinful and wrong because they distort God’s plan and design for sex and marriage.  This is in reference to the sexual relationships between people of the same-sex, and not men and women who have same-sex attractions.

You see, we as human beings have inherited original sin, which means we come into existence into a wounded world, and that means our human nature has been wounded as well and we all come into existence with a tendency to overindulge our sexual appetites, we lust.  Many people today are taught to think that any sexual encounter with whomever I want is okay. Our sexuality has been wounded by this original sin and our sexual desires are often disordered, that is, they miss the mark, they don’t live up to God’s original intention and plan for our human sexuality. That’s right, God has a blueprint for our human sexuality, and we don’t make it up on our own. The question we have to ask if we want to find the truth is: what is God’s original plan for human sexuality?

Well, it’s stamped right in our bodies as being created male and female to live in a communion of life and love. God’s original intention and blueprint for human sexuality is that Man and Woman in their bodies are created for each other. God created sex for marriage.  Of course our world separates the two. Sex speaks the language of wedding vows, that is, Indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. Sex is meant to mirror God’s inner life within the Trinity of God’s total, faithful and fruitful love. This is the necessary ingredient for marriage stamped in our bodies as male and female, and we cannot tamper with it.

So now we turn to the question of homosexual unions. Why is the Church against this type of sexual relationship? If two people of the same-sex really love each other, why can’t they get married?  Isn’t love the only ingredient for a valid marriage?

Well, no, it’s not, because remember, even what we call LOVE can be disordered, that is, not in keeping with God’s plan. If you are married and fall in love with another man or woman, does that give you the right to “follow you heart?” Of course it doesn’t. There are some relationships that are not okay. The Church, by reflecting on human nature along with the revealed word of God in the scriptures, says that if the sexual act is meant to image the very life of God, “then we can only image God sexually by expressing the “I do” of wedding vows: the free commitment of indissolubility, fidelity, and openness to children. It’s simply impossible for two people of the same-sex to express this commitment to each other,”[i] because they are missing one very important ingredient, the ability to be open to children. According to God’s designs, when a husband and wife make love to each other, they are saying their wedding vows with their bodies. They are saying: I promise to be faithful to you, to love you until death, and to be open to accepting children lovingly from God. All of these characteristics are necessary and we cannot change these essential traits of marriage and sex. They are part of the blueprint of marriage, a blueprint written by God himself.

Imagine if a couple wanted to get married, and they promised to be open to the possibility of children, but refused to promise to be faithful to each other. This kind of relationship would not be a marriage. Likewise, if a couple promised to be faithful to each other and to be with one another until death, but were incapable of having the kind of sexual relations designed to give life, they too would be incapable of marriage, and the reason is because their bodies cannot express the vows of a married couple.[ii]

This would be a very long post if we were to go deeper into this subject. It’s a tough issue to discuss, but I hope you can see that this topic has nothing to do with the Church discriminating against people with same-sex attractions, but it calls for everyone to treat people with dignity and respect, no matter what their race, religion or sexual orientation may be. At the same time, the Church teaches that we cannot tamper with the natural moral law given to us by God.

I want you to know that even though some of you reading this may be or may know someone who is homosexual that does not mean they are called or you are called to a loveless life. Too often we equate sex with love. We are all called to love, the heterosexual and the homosexual. I as a celibate priest am called to love. But some people are called to love in a sexual relationship in marriage, and some are called to intimacy on a different level, and even homosexuals can have deep intimate relationships with the same-sex person, without them being genital or sexual . In the end, that itself is a cross some have to bear, but with God’s grace, all this is possible.

I want you to see that our very bodies tell us that man and woman are called to make a gift of themselves sexually. A sexual union can only be properly expressed within the context of marriage, because that’s how God designed it. He created sex in marriage to be a complete joining of male and female. God wanted this joining of the two to be the foundation for a family,  the arena through which He would bring new life into the world.[iii] And marriage is ultimately about Children, and every child deserves not only love, but the complementarity of a father and a mother to experience the fullness of human life.

This is a hard truth for our world to understand, but Jesus calls us to be bold and proclaim the truth in and out of season. Let us take the example of the Apostles who were fearless in proclaiming God’s truth, because in the end, we must obey God, rather than men. Amen.

 


[i] West, Christopher. Good News about Sex and Marriage. (Cincinnati, Ohio: Servant Books, 2000) 148.

[ii] Evert, Jason. If you really loved me. (San   Diego: Catholic Answers, 2008) 131.

[iii] Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love. 127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Love Me?

Do You Love Me?

            Love is a personal choice and a gift freely given. Unselfish love is given totally for the good of the other person.  We are called to love as God loves. God’s love does not waver or change. It is eternal and it is timeless.  There is nothing we can do to deserve it. We cannot earn it, buy it or demand it.  He gives it to us freely. Are we ready to receive his unconditional love?

This unconditional love is so attractive and desirable. If it is freely given and freely received, why is it so costly to reciprocate? To reciprocate this love for God and our neighbor we must be willing to give all of ourselves to the other. Jesus loves us so much. He willingly suffered and laid down his life for us. He did this to free us from the bondage of sin and to give us the opportunity to get to heaven.

Are we ready to give God all that we have and own? Are we ready to give Him our gifts, our time, our resources, our allegiance and our very lives? Do I love others enough to lay down my life for them?

Laying down our life for another can be literal as it was for Jesus. It can also be figurative. If I give up doing something I would like to do, to please someone I love, in a sense I am dying to myself. I can do this in small ways, by not having the last piece of chocolate to let someone else have it. Or I can do this in huge ways, when I give up my career goals to be more available to my family.

Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” When Peter responds in affirmation Jesus asks him to serve, to give himself to the mission, to nurture souls. Jesus asks this very personal and profound question to all of us, “Do you love me?” Can we say, “Yes”? And when we give him our ‘Yes’ are we willing to give what he asks of us?

This requires letting go of our fear, sin, pride, indifference, disbelief, loss of hope, loss of trust in God’s promises and his mercy.  God is always faithful, even when we are not. His mercy is endless and he longs to shower us with love and to receive our love in return. He wants to bless us, but he can only do so if we freely seek his blessing and our willing to truly love him. No matter what our response, while we are still covered with the filth of our sinfulness, He still offers his love, freely and unreservedly.  This alone should implore and compel us to reciprocate that love.