Saturday, April 16, 2016

DROUGHT-PROOFING YOUR MARRIAGE

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
     whose hope is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
     that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It fears not the heat when it comes,
     its leaves stay green;
In the year of drought it shows no distress,
     but still bears fruit.
                                             —Jeremiah 17:7-8

He is like a tree
     planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
     and whose leaves never fade.
                                                        —Psalm 1:3 

The ninth way to divorce proof your marriage might be called "drought-proofing" your marriage. Marriage can go through dry spells when the fresh sap of love isn't flowing freely. Conflict flares up more easily than romance, communication has dwindled down to working out schedules and putting out fires--and the flames of passion seem to have banked down to a few embers in a darkening hearth. Trust in the Lord enables you to sink your roots deeply in his life-giving graces and keep your love green and fruitful.

One of the best ways to experience love that is constantly growing and communication that becomes more meaningful is to make a Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend two to five years after you are married.  The Weekend takes a good marriage and elevates it to exceptional by offering tools to continually improve your marriage for the rest of your lives, particularly through communication techniques that enable you to reach a depth of understanding that could never have happened without the Weekend.

Because of our Weekend, our understanding of each other, our intimacy and passion increased throughout the 38 years we were married.  When my beloved husband died, the regrets I had were that he had died too soon, but we had left nothing unsaid.   We poured out our love on each other every day, and he left me with a strength that surprised me and the assurance that I had been deeply and truly loved.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE

The eighth path to follow in divorce proofing your marriage is to learn and use one another's love language.  My husband and I were introduced to this concept through Gary Chapman's invaluable book, The Five Love Languages.  He identifies five ways that we express and receive love, and maintains that each of us tends to experience love primarily through one or two of these languages. When husband and wife have different primary love languages (which is often the case), the trouble begins.

The languages Chapman identifies are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The book includes an assessment to help husband and wife learn their primary love language, which they can then share with their spouse.  The five love languages are described in the rest of the book along with ways to "speak" them so that your partner's "love tank" can stay filled.  One of the things we discovered is that there are also various "dialects" of these love languages.  My husband's primary love language was quality time.  Mine was receiving gifts, but my secondary language was also quality time. However, his love tank could be filled when he was away on a business trip; we talked on the phone every day he was gone, and those conversations were quality time to him.  However, talking on the phone to him did not fill my love tank at all because he wasn't physically there.  But if we were both at home, and I was working upstairs in my studio, and I heard him downstairs talking on the phone to someone at work, my love tank was being filled. Just knowing he was there nearby helped to fill my love tank.

Our natural tendency is to try to show our love to our spouse in the language we speak, but except in the rare cases where husband and wife have the same love language, we need to learn how to speak the other's love language so that they can truly receive our love. We taught these concepts in weekend retreats that we gave with several other couples, and it was a beautiful experience to see spouses breaking through the "silence" that impacted their relationships before they understood the importance of their love languages.

I recommend that anyone contemplating marriage read this book, and share it with the person you're dating or to whom you're engaged.  If you are married, do the same with your husband or wife.  Then take the time to discuss what you are learning and how you can apply it in your relationship.  It's eye-opening to bring these concepts to disagreements or misunderstandings and will go a long way towards increasing your intimacy and deepening your love for one another.

Monday, April 4, 2016

PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD

Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the tactics of the devil.                                                                                                                   --Ephesians 6:11

The seventh way to divorce-proof your marriage is to pray for each other.  Our marriages have eternal dimensions and have an effect on friends and neighbors as well as our children and several generations afterwards.  We are not just fighting against a culture that devalues a lifetime commitment between husband and wife: 
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench 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.                       --Ephesians 6:12-17
Before we were engaged, I wrote a prayer that I said every day that the man who became my fiance and then husband would convert to the Catholic faith.  I also began to say the Rosary daily to surround him with the love of the mother of the Redeemer. I don't think there was ever a day that I didn't pray for him through all our married life.  As he was dying, he told me never to forget to pray for him once he died, and I honor that request.  I am convinced that many of the blessings bestowed on our marriage flowed from the prayers we raised up for each other, our children, and grandchildren.