This Makes Me Think… about God’s role in my marriage

It takes three to make Love in Heaven – 

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It takes three for Heaven to make love to earth –

God, Man, and Mary, through whom God became Man.

It takes three to make love in the Holy Family –

Mary, and Joseph, and the consummation of their love, Jesus.

It takes three to make love in hearts –

The Lover, the Beloved, and Love.

– Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Three to Get Married

On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

On the heels of my post “The Art of the Love Letter”, let’s hear it for acts of kindness in Marriage!

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I wrote “The Art of the Love Letter” last week to give men —  who think they’d rather show their love instead of talk about it — an insight into the heart of many women for whom the words of love are important. Yes, even long past the “honeymoon” stage of the relationship, there’s nothing like receiving a handwritten testament of the love of one’s mate. I made the case that in Catholic life both words and deeds are important because they reflect the sacramentality of our lives. We are both body and soul, and marriages are both physical and spiritual. Of course, a woman wants her man to demonstrate his love with the things he does, and while some men may balk, I continue to stand by the notion a love letter is a physical demonstration of their love for their wives.

By the same token, there’s no reason a woman shouldn’t compose a love letter to her husband or husband-to-be. So, of course, good women, write away! Just because I wrote my piece from a woman’s point of view, does not mean that woman could not return the favor in kind.

In fact, the point of this whole post, is that marriages need acts of kindness to support the relationships between husbands and wives. I’m happy to report that Frank Weathers at Why I Am a Catholic gives an excellent reply to the invitation to write a love letter for his wife by issuing his own Valentine’s Day challenge to the women…

As Pat Gohn shames us men into drafting epic love letters for our sweeties this year, will us men be rewarded in kind? Here’s an idea, ladies. We’re pretty easy to please… Bacon_Roses

…Think STOMACH! Just give him Bacon Roses.

Do read the rest!

Just today, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article by Elizabeth Bernstein: Small Acts, Big Love“ that describes that a recent study finds that “small acts of kindness boost marital satisfaction.”  The husband of the first couple cited in the article, Mr. Kline, mentions that he’s not one of those tell-her-I-love-her kind of guys…

Chris Kline doesn’t like to tell his wife of 17 years, Tara, that he loves her. He prefers to show her—by loading her favorite songs on her phone and warming up her car on cold mornings. While she was away on business recently, he surprised her by painting her home office in her favorite colors, Mardi Gras purple and gold.

“Saying ‘I love you’ is just words,” says Mr. Kline, a 42-year-old engineer from Shoemakersville, Pa. “I like to do things that require effort, planning and a little bit of sacrifice. It shows you are putting the other person first.”

Researchers call this “compassionate love”—recognizing a partner’s needs and concerns and putting them ahead of your own. “It’s not just making people feel good,” says Harry T. Reis, a University of Rochester professor of psychology. “It’s a way of communicating to the other person that you understand what they are all about and that you appreciate and care for them.”

Illustrations by Kyle T. Webster

Since 2009, Dr. Reis has been studying 175 newlywed couples from around the U.S., asking how they show their spouses compassion. His findings, not yet published, indicate that people who discover ways to regularly show their spouses this kind of love are happier in their marriages.

Small selfless acts between spouses aren’t just nice—they also are necessary, experts say. When acts of kindness and caregiving disappear, it is an indication the relationship needs help.

You’ll have to read to the end to see if Mr. Kline changes his perspective on using words of love to his wife… but I stand by my advice when it comes to love letters from husbands to wives. There’s a separate side bar that includes “10 Marriage Sweeteners” such as:

“Put your partner’s goals first. Giving your husband the last cupcake is easy. Spending your vacation—again—with his family is hard.

“Go out of your way to ‘be there.’ Pay attention when your partner seems particularly stressed and try to help.”

“Show respect and admiration. Celebrate successes, even little ones. Did your spouse handle a touchy situation well, or make you laugh? Point it out.”

Finally, here’s a video with tips from the article.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

30 years ago I said “I do”. Here’s a recap on faith, grace, sex, kids, and love…

Bob and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this week. Dang! Has it been that long? It went by so fast! 

My latest column at Patheos is a look back, and a testament to the graces of living the Sacrament of Matrimony these thirty years. It’s one part our experience, one part what we have learned, and one part verifying that God’s plan for marriage is still a viable, and noble, and satisfying enterprise.  Bob and I often joke that we’ve seen it all, done it all… all the having and holding… and all the cycles of better, worse, richer, poorer, sickness, and health… and that we’d do it again. Here’s a small section of a much longer missive…

People ask what makes our love special, or what “works” for us, and we tell them: long before we fell in love with each other, we fell in love with Jesus. There’s an old proverb in Scripture that says, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiates 4: 12). Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a whole book on the subject that it takes three to get married, and we believe it.

We have faith in God, and faith in each other. When we said our marriage vows in the church that crisp fall morning in 1982, we knew we would vow for life… and that what we lacked in our own strength would be made up for by grace.

Talk to any Catholic couple married for a few decades or more and the subject of grace is bound to come up. They may not always use the word itself. It might be their reference to “God only knows” or an indescribable or halting acknowledgement of something that is bigger and grander than they are. But what they will say next is also true: that this love has changed them, made them better, even transformed them.

There is a glue that is stronger than our human love… it is divine grace. Sometimes we think it is just because we were fortunate enough to marry someone better than ourselves — that we lucked out — or discovered someone who believes the best in us despite our frailties, a soul mate. But what we’re really seeing is the truth of the matter: the radiant beauty of God is in our spouse. God magnifies their best human qualities, attracts us to them, and then He give us the privilege of knowing His Love through them. And yes, I’m here to say, in all honestly, that the profound gift of God’s Love made visible in my life, today, has a few wrinkles, some gray, and a few extra pounds.

Just in case you think I’m offering some kind of romanticized view of the love of God and the love between married couples, let me also say that there is a side of grace that is gritty, tough and sturdy under fire. This is the power of the vow; the grace and mercy that flows from the choice – the consent – of the lovers. When we think we cannot hold on any longer, the power of the vow keeps us true.

Read the rest at the Catholic Channel at Patheos. Feel free to subscribe to my columns here.

Mr & Mrs since October 23, 1982. (This photo is from last summer.)