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Session 1) Do we want a Peanut Butter and Jelly Marriage or do we long for something more? Too often, I see marriages that I would categorize as PB&J marriages. Could we live on PB&J three meals a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year? Of course, but would we find enjoyment and fulfillment in it? There are many marriages today that are mediocre and just doing OK. God wants us to fall more deeply in love with Him and one of the great avenues for this is through falling more deeply in love with our spouse. Mediocrity in life can lead to mediocrity in faith and vice versa. God wants our marriage to be filled with joy and love, but we have to be willing to make the sacrifices to truly obtain it.
Session 2) We can be stressed, at times, by what is going on in the world around us and how this might also affect our family. Yet Jesus has a different view of our worldly fears and anxieties. In Scripture, He gives us a simple recipe along with an example and a guarantee. But do we believe Him? Do we really trust in God, or are we pleading/negotiating more with Him to give us what we want or think we need? Do we seek God’s Will or our own will through it all?
Session 3) How many people here like to admit being wrong when it has to do with something between you and your spouse? How many people enjoy admitting being wrong at all? Pride, that part of us that worries,…. no, actually dreads having our personal character smudged which in turn could knock us down in status and is often at the root of our unwillingness to back down or admit our fault. We are called to humble ourselves and to admit when we have done wrong, and hopefully, pray for the will to cease these sins in the future. So now is the time to clean our closets, and not allow Satan to hold us down any longer. The truth can set us free, but we must be willing to let go of pride.
Session 4) One of the great realizations I had in my married life was my wife’s need to connect her day with mine; and eventually I realized that I had the same need with her. Our marriage is a commitment to walk this journey together: good, bad and ugly. We want to connect and feel like we have been a part of our spouse’s life even though we have to be apart at times. We want them to empathize with us and join in our moments of success. We want them to root us on through our trials and to cry with us through our sorrows. I have learned that it is important for me and my wife to have check in time often, if not every day.
Session 5) Marriages often end at the time when they can become the strongest…times of challenges and adversities. This is where the cross of Christ is most evident in a marriage. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things for me to teach a couple and encourage them to follow through with. Why, because forgiveness is not just a one-time event, but rather a process. You can give forgiveness, but if the relationship dynamics which caused the hurt in the first place don’t change, it becomes harder to avoid slipping back into being resentful, angry and discouraged. The more you strengthen your ability to resolve issues, the more resolve you have to keep strengthening your marriage relationship.
Session 6) Often, in the back of our mind, we can find ourselves keeping count of what we do for our spouse and what they are not doing for us. We all have needs and when they are not met, it can turn into a crisis. And before we know it, we are emotionally starving each other out of a focus on our own needs. I believe Christ is calling couples to have Eucharistic Marriages! In the Eucharist, Christ feeds each one of us. He knows our need for spiritual food and for grace. He knows our need for strength through the battles of each day. And we are called to not only receive Him, but to do it with thanksgiving; which is what Eucharist means! We too must be feeding our spouse’s needs and be thankful for when they do the same!
Session 7) We build patterns (or habits) into our lives because they provide a sense of comfort or regularity: something to count on. When our life is chaotic, we will often design patterns (good and bad) in our behavior that help us decrease the damaging effects that can come from chaos or dysfunction. We bring these patterns into new relationships, and in more intimate relationships, like marriage, they come out full-bore, especially in times of stress. We have to, as a couple spend time looking at the patterns in our marriage, identify where they come from and be willing to not only explore better ways of working together through these difficulties but also individually be willing to look at our own shortcomings and work hard at building new patterns.
Session 8) When couples seek help for their marriage, a common issue that is stated is that there is a difficulty in talking to each other about issues and really feeling heard. Too often we stop communicating well because we are so distracted by the many things going on in our lives. I find that these same distractions can often hinder and reduce the amount of focused-prayer time we have with our heavenly spouse also. Since we have entered into this marriage and become one flesh, we are called to walk this road to heaven together. We need to find time for prayer together. Prayer is not only meant to lift our hearts and minds to God and to connect with Him, but also has the power to unite a couple, a family and even a community when prayed together in faith.
Session 9) We live in a day and time where we have so many conveniences in our lives (microwaves, washer & dryers, computers, dish washers, automobiles, etc.) meant to help us get more done with less effort and free up more of our time. Yet why is it that the more of these we have, the less time it seems we have? Moderation calls for us to take a hard look at our lives and make changes, even if they have to be gradual. If we don’t stop dividing up our time for too many activities in life, we might find that we are becoming more and more conquered by them. We are called to lead our homes, even if we have to make unpopular decisions in order to keep unity and strength in our relationships. We need regain control over our time and not allow it to take control over us.
Session 10) What complicates our One Flesh Union (OFU) at times is that we, as a couple, may have different sex drives, due to many different reasons, and it could be the source of much angst when it comes to our intimacy. If we don’t discuss it out of embarrassment, we are only left with trying to read our spouse’s mind, often using the “Fill-in-the-Blank” method. This doesn’t work very well at all. It is extremely difficult to connect physically if we are not connecting emotionally first. We need to build up the relation outside of the OFU act so that we build up that emotional and psychological connection. We need to understand that each person needs to be respected, and that our sexuality is a gift that is meant to be given freely and often, not something that should be demanded or withheld.
Session 11) As you decide what is important to you, remember that sometimes we have to limit the distractions that come at our family, so that we can assure connections within. We don’t want to wake up someday and wonder why our child wants “little to do with us” as we try to build a relationship with them, one that we never had and were too busy to build. We have the opportunity every day to connect with them and build that relationship as long as we are willing to make the hard choices, at times, and make the time to look into each child’s heart.
Session 12) Our spouse and our family need us to work harder at being more intentional in our relationship with them rather than it being more accidental. We need to be more intentional in our marital strengthening and connecting. We need to plan ahead for how we will continue to work on our communication, commitment to each other and intimate moments of connection. If we don’t, we are at the mercy of our schedules to squeeze time in for our greatest asset – our marriage! You can’t plan for everything in life, but if we are building up our relationship through the small things in life, we strengthen our marriage for dealing with the bigger, more uncontrollable issues that eventually come our way.