- 1.A Wake-up call that strengthened their marriage and their lives
- 2.Marriage Enrichment = Acquiring The Right Tools
We all dream and hope that we will find the right partner in life. Hollywood tells us that when we find our “perfect one” we then live “happily ever after”.
The initial years of marriage are often termed the “honeymoon period”, where newly married couples revel in the love of their spouse, but the honey dries up all too quickly, and the relationship is not as sweet as before.
Reality knocks and confusion, questioning and disappointment enters. One starts thinking, “he/she has changed”, “I did not really know him/her”, “he/she has so many flaws. Do I have to and want to live with this?”, and so on.
Sadly and alarmingly, one third of the marriages break up, and many in the early years of marriage. Couples are unable to navigate past the challenges of the marital situation they are in. Disappointment goes to disillusionment and even despair.
Yet many couples who have faced challenges in their marriage, have bounced back and are now in a more comfortable place than they were when they first met and fell in love. Now their love is deeper and more stable.
Let’s hear from Winfrid and Kristina who struggled, reached out, are happier, but know the need for continuous work and investment in their marriage.
Winfrid and Kristina had very typical marital issues – little communication, busy lives and difficulties in accommodating each other. To avoid long and tiring arguments after their long day at work, they found themselves sweeping issues under the carpet; not realising that they were not meeting the emotional needs of each other.
At that time, they had been married for two years and Winfrid travelled a lot for work. They grew distant and life became easier as they only had digital communications.
Living together was not easy. The frustration of work and daily routine would manifest itself in small arguments which often led to past hurts brought up. Occasionally, Kristina would get so overwhelmed and storm out of the house, just to make a statement. Even after they found out they were expecting their first child, they did not feel the need to work on their marriage. They named their child Isabelle, which means God has Promised.
Things changed when Kristina was diagnosed with cancer only six weeks after giving birth to Isabelle. “I couldn’t understand why God would give me this illness,” said Kristina. “I questioned why God brought Isabelle to us so recently and then brought this illness to me?” Kristina trusted that God had a plan, yet she felt lost and helpless. As a new mother, her thoughts were to get better for her baby girl, and that this will pass.
“The devastating news forced us to look at our life, our priorities, and what really is important in our life. I was really angry and kept asking God why, why, why?”
Winfrid recalls: “when the news first broke, I just knew I needed to be by Kris’ side. I didn’t think of my welfare or my daughter; I just knew I had to be with her.”
Recovery was not easy and tensions kept building up. The need for rethinking how they lived their lives was reinforced when their friends pointed out to them, after a bitter public argument, that the way they quarrelled was not healthy.
Not really knowing what to expect, Winfrid saw the Couple Empowerment Programme (CEP) advertisement on Facebook and was prompted to sign up. “We really needed help to deal with the tensions and frustrations and to help us deal with our quarrels.”
“At CEP, we could talk about things we don’t usually talk about. And through this new and open communication, we came to realise how much we had hurt each other and could finally clear the air,” explains Kristina.
- One’s upbringing has a big impact on how the person thinks and acts which in turnhas a big impact on the marriage
- It is not enough just to say “I’m sorry”, you need to ask for forgiveness. As part of the forgiveness process, the couple were asked to bow down and wash the feet of each other
- God is a third party to a marriage.
“Nothing really prepares you for marriage until you are in it,” adds Winfrid. “You need continual development so that’s why marriage enrichment programmes, such as CEP, is needed. Don’t stop at Marriage Preparation. That’s just the start of your journey.”
“It helps to move your marriage to some place higher. To strengthen the bonds, learn new skills and iron out the differences. This is applicable wherever you currently are in your marriage. At every new stage in your life, you need a refresher. Besides that, we treated our weekly attendance to CEP as a good excuse to have a weekly date night.” advises Kristina.
They add that attending CEP also helps couples to set a strong foundation for their marriage and not let issues accumulate until they are too ingrained to solve.
Continual Enrichment can be the Solution to a Hurting Marriage
Building and sustaining a good marriage takes much effort and requires us to cooperate with God’s grace. But a continual enrichment programme creates the space and opportunity for couples to dialogue and in turn strengthen the marriage.
The Church teaches that crises need to be faced together: “At these times, it becomes all the more important to create opportunities for speaking heart to heart… Spouses need help in discovering their deepest thoughts and feelings and expressing them. Like childbirth, this is a painful process that brings forth a new treasure.” (Amoris Laetitia, 234)