- 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 Justin and Annie who struggled, reached out, are happier, but know the need for continuous work and investment in their marriage.
Justin and Annie are a young couple who have been married for eight years. They have four children under the age of eight. With different communication styles and frequent arguments, the couple wondered if there were ways to make things better.
What were some of the frustrations that you faced after your wedding?
Justin: We were really busy juggling childcare and work plus the relationships with my parents since we were living with them early on. My wife and mum are both head strong, so I was constantly trying to keep the peace. But rather than act as an intermediary and bring them together, I listened to each but didn’t relay the messages on. I acted as a wall between them.
Annie: This led to a worsening relationship with my mother-in-law as we both thought my husband had communicated our feelings. It ended with me not seeing or speaking to her for over a year. It came to a point where Justin secretly resented me for being this way.
What prompted you to sign up for Marriage Encounter (ME)?
Annie: We attended marriage preparation before marriage and found it a good platform to share topics we needed to discuss about how we wanted to live our married life. So five years into the marriage, we knew we could get value from attending ME. In retrospect, we should have sought help earlier as what we learned would have really helped us.
How did ME help?
Justin: I couldn’t understand why Annie would be so affected by our quarrels. I felt really down and questioned her love and the marriage. ME taught me that she acts out anger and disappointment this way. What we learned is that it’s how you react that matters. Love is a decision and an act of will. Now if she reacts in anger, I am able to make a decision to remain calm because I too have my flaws so who am I to judge. ME taught us a tool – dialogue. Now we write a love letter to each other daily saying how we feel without apportioning blame and, in the evening, we take ten minutes to try to taste what the other party feels as described in their letter. This is a useful technique. Once you feel you are understood, finding a solution just becomes unimportant.
Annie: We thrashed out a lot of issues and for the first time I was able to understand his difficulties. It was a real breakthrough as we came to realise that feelings are not right or wrong.
Justin: I feel doubly blessed when she feels what I feel. We become more emotionally connected as we could empathise deeply with one another. It’s a powerful glue for the marriage.
How do you maintain the marriage apart from writing love letters?
Annie: The benefit of writing Love Letters and dialoguing daily…We attend the Love Circle, a monthly meetup. We meet and talk with other couples from ME and get God-centred advice from them. They helped me reconcile with my mother-in-law. This journey has been amazing. It helped us focus on Jesus. I look at him on the cross and say: “You suffered for us. You can relate to us. I’m undeserving of your love. Give me strength to love my husband better.”
Advice for Married Couples
Annie: There has to be some form of regular enrichment to keep the marriage strong. If my kid has problems with English Language, I would send him for enrichment or tuition to improve on his English. Similarly, if your marriage is already good and you want to make your marriage better, then regular Marriage Enrichment is the way to go.
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)