Tag Archives: friends

The Sorrow of Ashley Madison and How to Fix It

19 Aug

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I know many of you have heard the news that Ashley Madison’s entire client list was hacked and published. That sheer number of people involved is staggering at 37 million! I find myself at a total loss to describe the level of failure the the replacement of Sacramental Matrimony with civil marriage has been. Clearly people are not happy, and clearly people (especially children) are being harmed by this abusive and destructive behaviour. The saddest part – there is an easier path to marital happiness.

While I can do nothing about what is happening on a national level – You can. Start with yourself, and pay it forward. I would like to relate to you a true story about what HAS HAPPENED that I was personally involved in many years ago. It even has a happy ending.

Almost 20 years ago I was working remotely on a job and was travelling quite frequently. One of the men under my direction was clearly having trouble with being away from his family and began to flirt with a waitresses. He was firmly rebuffed – being an engineer without the good looks, charm, or social graces necessary to entice a waitress to divulge her phone number after dozens of failed attempts. Yes I admit – I laughed about a few – and you would be rolling on the floor if you had witnessed some of the ludicrous and inept attempts. One evening he came to me, trying to set up an account on a website for cheaters but frightened to death because he didn’t want for his wife to see the credit card charge. There was a look of desperation in his eyes. His marriage was hurting with their first child recently delivered, a wife with no sleep and alone at home time, and the sexual rejection he thought he was receiving at home because he was too selfish to think past the end of his wee-wee and realize both of them were in the same exhausted boat.

When I found out the child was being bottle fed thanks to his mewling, I had an idea – and it didn’t involve helping him hide a credit card charge. With some help from his coworkers we got together and hatched a plan. I called the father in law from his phone left behind at dinner. I explained the plan, and got his support (seems the wife was feeling very down as well – and he loved the plan). Next we pitched in to buy the wife a round trip weekend ticket ($39 on southwest – like I said years ago) to be picked up at the airport, and then arranged for a dozen roses to be delivered with a note including the flight information Friday morning. I scheduled myself that weekend in his place to give him Friday night through Sunday night off. One of the guys also made a reservation at a romantic and moderately priced restaurant for him with a gift card to cover dinner, another pitched in a set of movie ticket gift certificates from the theater around the corner….

Friday morning and he didn’t know anything yet, on our way in to work I handed the hotel concierge the envelope with the dinner and movie things and explained why it had to be “hush hush”. Come dinner Friday night I ordered a large Guinness, and about 90% finished said, “Oh my lord, look at the time! I have a VIP to pick up at the airport!” I grabbed him and said, “I need a favor, you have to drive me to the airport to pick up the VIP. I can’t let a bigwig even think I would drink and drive!” He said, “Sure, my weekend is shot stuck here with you lot again… so whatever.” I stayed composed, openly fretting about whether I smelled of the luscious creamy stout I had downed, while we waited for our VIP at the gate (You could actually wait at the gate back then!)

When she came out of the gate, he almost knocked me off the seat running. Grandpa and Grandma had the baby for the weekend, and he had no idea she was coming. Surprise, joy, even kissing and hugging involving lifting people off their feet (not me).

I dozed in the back seat on the hours drive back to the hotel hoping and praying he would have a good weekend, and his wife too. When he got to his room the key didn’t work, he had to go back to the front desk – only to find out the concierge had moved them to a luxury suite for the weekend at no charge (including all his things), and thrown in a fruit basket and champagne. In all fairness we had almost lived in that hotel for most of the year – but this was above and beyond even for them. We didn’t see them until after lunchtime when they headed out for coffee, a walk, and a movie before dinner. Sunday night when it was time to take her to the airport, I drove them as they whispered in the back seat and held hands. He kissed her goodbye and put her on a plane. We went back to the car.

It was the trip home, amidst his gushing thanks – that I reminded him that only a few days ago he was willing to risk his marriage and his relationship with a woman who clearly loved him and thought he hung the moon – for a waitress he didn’t know, and then a stranger on a website. It hit him like a ton of bricks… his face fell and he started sobbing. I stopped in a parking lot and explained to him that he just learned the most valuable lesson a man can know at his age without actually screwing things up, and for that he should be profoundly happy that he had dodged that particular bullet. I also pointed out that the cost and effort to make such arrangements was trivial for someone at his salary level and he needed to focus on just putting a fraction of the effort into wooing his wife as he did trying to find some woman to provide sex. I told him truly that if he would do that he would have all the sex he could handle, and a wife that would never look at another man the way she looked at him.

2 Years later – The grandparents were still helping out with the kids (yes they had another) and the wife was living her dream of seeing the world, as the husband uses his frequent flyer miles on companion tickets and free flights for her to visit him in countries across the globe. Instead of being estranged, they are still like two teenagers in love.

Many years later – We run into each other on a large job where he is working under me again. After the others filtered off after dinner, he waited behind to thank me. He told me, “I could never repay what you did for me and my wife, so I am doing it for others.” I think I had some beer foam in my eye and I had to wipe it away, but I thanked him and wished him a very long, prosperous, and happy life and marriage.

If you somehow missed the moral of this true story – and no, it has nothing to do with having a stout with dinner. It is that if you would put half the effort you put into attracting other women’s attention, and directed it instead into your wife and marriage then everything changes. It’s a matter of priorities. When you invest in your wife and your family you always come out way ahead, and you simply can’t lose because there are never any regrets when you act honorably.

Pax Christi,

Colin

The Silent Treatment

26 Nov

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I know, you don’t even want to talk about this one. Seems like every marriage endures it share of these at times and they’re not always bad things. That said, what you fail to say can be just as destructive to your marriage as what you do say. Stoic silence is a emotional tool men and women both use in marriage all too often for the wrong reasons, but there are good reasons to use it.

I’ll explain. To start, I think we can all agree that when we say things in anger we tend to say exactly what me mean at that moment in the most destructive possible way. What’s worse is that a simple “I’m Sorry”, even a heartfelt one does not undo the damage. Angry words are like spikes nailed into a wooden plank. “I’m Sorry” can remove the spike, but the hole in the wood remains. Think about this for a moment, the logical conclusion is that when you’re angry it is better to say nothing at all until you have had a bit to process your anger and can address the issue in a more controlled manner and choose your words carefully.

This does not mean that you should wait forever – many issues just get worse as time passes and the silent treatment itself can wound deeply. Long term the silent treatment induces a feeling of doubt about you and your commitment to the relationship. Your wife cannot read your mind, but she can read you moods and body language. She will know there is something wrong, and without her understanding what it is you are placing a tremendous emotional burden on her. Her job is to help you either resolve or deal with whatever is bothering you and by keeping it from her you are preventing her from doing so. It helps to stop and remember this key thing – through the Catholic sacrament of marriage you become one flesh and what wounds one of you wounds both, and what helps one of you helps both of you.

The most dangerous use is when you are angry at your spouse. Husbands can be a moody lot – particularly when they’re not getting the attention, affection, sex, respect, or acknowledgment they think they deserve. I speak from personal experience here. Being silent about it does not give your wife a chance to fix it, and silence is only appropriate until you’ve figured out how to tell her what is bothering you without blaming her or making her the focus. 99% of the time these are caused by not communicating your wants and needs rather than an attempt by your wife to harm you emotionally – much less damage your relationship. I’ve discovered that if both spouses would do a better job of both listening, and observing the cues, most of these issues can be avoided. Where that is not enough, or your when spouse is missing an important cue you need to fill them in and explain why you’re feeling that way. Instead, we often let insecurity and doubt cloud our judgement and we start thinking selfishly and defensively. Your spouse is not an adversary, any more than you arm or leg is, do not treat them like one.

I’ll use sex as a nice inflammatory example. Husbands can get sullen quickly over a lack thereof, without giving a thought to the fact that their wife could be suffering from an embarrassing female problem like a yeast infection, be exhausted physically and mentally from a particularly hard couple of days, be sick and hiding it while trying to muddle through, stricken with depression, or feeling neglected and/or unattractive herself. You keep silent, but as the days pass you get more and more sullen and distant until by the time the original (usually) temporary condition is gone – you’re both in a “silent treatment” death spiral and miles apart emotionally. It’s not really the lack of sex you’re angry about, it’s a sense of rejection you’re taking personally. The funny thing is that it’s often not about you at all. If you don’t know what is broken you can’t do anything to fix it – even if the fix is just to be there and hold her and for moral support.

It all comes down to honest communication. Don’t keep things from your spouse, that way you can address issues when they’re molehills and before they become mountains. Encourage her not to keep things from you by being a good listener and never being judgmental – if she fears your reaction then she will hide things (just as you will if you fear hers). This is a pernicious evil you have to address head-on and the trust required on both sides will take time to build, but it’s worth it.

I’d like to leave you with a parting thought – Remember that you have vowed yourself to serving her. When you get mad about things like attention, affection, sex, respect, or acknowledgment then you are not serving her. You are serving yourself, and breaking your vows at the same time. This applies to both spouses equally. If you serve her above yourself and she does the same for you then by making yourself last you will unintentionally be first, she will experience the same from you and the marriage will begin to bloom. Funny how Christ’s words from the beatitudes ring true – especially in marriage.

Colin

Marriage Isn’t For You

3 Nov

This is an excellent post about Marriage which highlights the most important thing everyone should understand going into it – It’s NOT ABOUT YOU.

Marriage Isn’t For You.

Great Job Seth!

Colin

What to Expect when #5 Comes Along

9 Aug

Pregnant

First of all – this is reblogged with permission from the friend who wrote it. She is expecting number 5 and is catching the wave of popular public interest. I know this drill all too well as my wife and I have only 4 and even just having the youngest 3 in tow in the supermarket checkout often generates stupid questions and ignorant comments. Anyone with a large family will identify, and those expecting one – brace for impact.

She has managed to couch in humor something very serious – I’ll start you with this:

“Here, let me just answer all the questions and save folks the trouble of asking. I want to spare you the trouble, and also spare you the dirty looks you’ll get, plus the tone of voice, and sharp responses of which I’m capable of providing. Because like I said: It’s lame, and it does nothing to entertain me. And it’s just not funny. I’m easily amused, but the same questions just don’t do it for me. Step up your game already. Be original and humorous. Give me something I haven’t already heard.

Are you ready for it? Here goes:

1. Yes, we know what causes it. We’ve had 21 years of practice. We’re damn good at it. We like it. We’re married to each other, so we’re SUPPOSED to be doing it with each other, not someone else. It’s not wrong to actually LIKE your spouse. We’ve worked a lot of years to get where we are, and we like where we are. Don’t be jealous that you can’t get in on our party, ok? Just go get your own.

2. Yes, we have tv, cable, dvd’s, etc and we utilize them. We actually have multiples of each. Oh, ANNNND we have computers with internet access, plus smartphones. We have friends. We have access to entertainment. And we have access to each other – you know like I said up there^ in that spousal thing.

3. Yes, *I* am Catholic, but my husband is not. Our inter-faith marriage is always a work in progress, and we don’t follow any one strict tenet versus another. Ours is an interesting dance of sorts, melded together the last 21 years with a lot of compromise after a lot of trial and error. Apparently, I’m a better Catholic than I thought I was, though. And apparently, I’m the kind of Catholic girl the Southern Baptist boys like. Take that as you will.

4. Yes, we’ve heard of birth control, and condoms, and at some points, we HAVE utilized a variety of all of them. I don’t have to share this topic with anyone outside of my husband, I am not going to share the details of why, how, etc of what we do in that regard. I don’t say a word about your decision to do permanent sterilization, hormonal birth control, barrier methods, etc. Be respectful of what we do, just like I’m respectful of what you do. In short, I stay out of your uterus, you stay out of mine.

5. Yes, everything OBVIOUSLY functions just normally, nothing is broken, so please tell me what is there to fix?

6. Yes, I have my hands full. I have a head and heart full too. The van is full. The house is full. The garage is full too. Our lives are full. How is yours? Is it full of good stuff or just junk and drama and crap?

There are people who completely ache and pay lots of money to ATTEMPT to even get a tenth of what we have. I’m truly and completely blessed, while my heart breaks for those who long for the simplest part of my life, and some may never have it. Don’t tell me the obvious, because somewhere in earshot of your comment is someone else who you’re insulting in the opposite manner, by reminding them of their empty hearts and arms. And there are those who have suffered the losses of 4, 5, even 8, or 12, or more babies and pregnancies. They are so grateful to have a baby make it into this world, while forever mourning the loss of those who grew wings before seeing light of day. They happily bring as many into this world as they humanly can. It hurts and it stings and it drives the knives deeper, while you twist them. Do you still feel brilliant saying that one?

7. No, I don’t know how YOU do it with just one, or two. Seriously, I need balance in my life, and I need my own interests and hobbies. I don’t know how you can helicopter- and lawnmower-parent a completely normal child who has zero no neuro-challenges and come out the other side with your dignity and sanity intact, or theirs for that matter. I delegate stuff to the kids to do, as they become independent and capable enough to handle things. I’ve blogged about that before. Simply put, it’s my job to create independent people who can function outside of me, and handle the hiccups of life. I have my own interests because one day those buggers will fly the nest and I don’t want to be that mother-in-law that gets ranted about on the internet. I want my children and their families to feel like I respect their adulthood, and parenthood, and I will do my best to allow that by knowing my place in their world and not encroaching where I do not belong. I blessedly have a fair selection of wise in-laws who may not agree with how we do things, but they know it’s not their family or household.

8. No, I didn’t realize that we didn’t need to have any more kids. Thank you for telling me that. I didn’t realize I was still 6, and asking for a second dessert an hour before bedtime. Last I checked, we are well beyond age 18, and still married to the same person after all these years. If I have my wits about me, we have kids who are 20 and almost 19. So unless there’s some strange science or miracle, I think we are qualified to decide what my husband and I need, or don’t need. I think your words simply speak of your own insecurities, and lack of time spent with us and getting to know us sufficiently. We are raising our kids in a manner that rivals most any other way modern parents do nowadays, and we’ve got one who was trained for management at his job as soon as he graduated high school, and another about to head off to MCRD Parris Island for boot camp. The Marines don’t take *just* anybody. Our oldest daughter has life skills her peers can’t fathom, and a perspective they won’t achieve till they’re much older. Our preschooler is articulate, funny, well-adjusted and capable of handling things kids her age still have a tantrum over happening, and she’s fiercely independent. But they’re still capable of being kids. We haven’t robbed them of anything. We’ve sacrificed our own self-serving desires to give them what they need. We have indulged in some things, because we need balance and they need to see us doing our own thing, chasing our own goals and dreams, and they need to see us sacrifice for the greater good or to achieve those goals. Despite the fact that I’m running headlong toward 40, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, either.

9. Yes, they were all surprises. No, we didn’t plan or try for any of them. They were all not in our radar at the times they appeared on it, and now we can’t imagine that radar without them there. Then they brought friends to the party, who we mistreat just the same as we do our own. I have birthed and borrowed children, and never imagined this many people would call me Mom. I’m just glad I didn’t have to change all of THEIR diapers, or potty train them.

10. No, we don’t know if we’re done yet. We thought we were done with the last 5. No, we don’t know if we’ll have any more. Every time we have thought “done” and laid plans of our own, another mini human comes along and mucks up the plans. But it’s cool. We make pretty babies with brains and a sense of humor. And they think it’s pretty neat that mom & dad ride motorcycles. Well, dad does, mom’s just good at dropping them and then getting pregnant again.

One other side note about the variations of these questions: Again, when you’re asking a parent of one, or ten, about the number of kids, you’re insulting them. And the ones who only have one or two who like previously mentioned, utterly ACHE for more kids and can’t attain that are once again stabbed by your words. Why must you be so intrusive? Don’t be offended if one of us snaps back with “Why? were you looking to hire me as your surrogate, because I don’t know if I’m the one you want doing that. I might not want to give up a child to be raised by twits like you.”

11. No, I’m not easily offended. I married a Marine and had a bunch of children with him. When you have that combination, you recognize when God laughs at you (in my case, it’s almost daily since the early 1990s), and you learn to live by that other Marine motto: Semper Gumby. If you think you can offend me, you can, but it requires extreme stupidity, lack of consideration and forethought, no sense of humor, and downright intrusive and demeaning foolishness. I am not sure you want to test the mettle of this Feisty Irish Wench. Some of the things slung at me verbally by strangers, meant to offend, really didn’t do that. I’ve survived a number of things, including two teens at once – and one was a daily test of my faith and ovarian fortitude. I have reasonably thick skin, and some of you will be lucky I don’t have him with me when you open your mouth.

So, please, I absolutely encourage you to get creative when you see me or my larger-family cohorts. Ask us something we have NOT already been asked. Or for poops n giggles, maybe say something encouraging to the mom whose day is shot because of that series of wackadoodle events instead of “well you chose to have that many”. Yep, we ultimately did. Someone has to combat the stupidity of the world, and it may as well be us, because YOU are sucking at it.”

And encourage you to take a moment and read the rest here: http://feistyirishwench.blogspot.com/2013/08/originality-and-humor.html

Remember being hateful and hurtful never helped anyone, and whatsoever you do to the least of his pregnant people – that you do unto Him DOUBLE.

Many thanks to “FeistyIrishWench” for letting me reblog her post!

Colin

The Veil – A Husbands Experience

6 Aug

Beautiful Mantilla image from http://rosamysticamantilla.com/

Beautiful Mantilla image from http://rosamysticamantilla.com/

When I was a boy, I remember that women in the church always wore the most beautiful chapel veils at mass. Never to hide themselves, as the veils were generally fine lace, but rather to stand out as women of faith.

1 Corinthians 11:10
Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.

Paul was very specific about this because it was important. The apparitions of the Virgin Mary are always veiled as well. There is a very good history on the veil here: http://christianfamilyoutreach.com/pamphlets/theveil.pdf. It’s a good read and will clear up many incorrect assumptions and impressions people have about the use of the veil in the church.

The issue of the veil (or Mantilla) is making all kinds of waves in the church right now. Long favored by “traddies” and the old alone, many of the younger Catholic women have been adopting the veil in a growing movement. This movement has not been pressed by priests or husbands. It has not been pushed onto women by peer pressure, but rather peer pressure has been applied to women to abandon it. As their numbers have grown in many parishes, the snide comments and the murderous glances get more frequent – yet they persevere. My wife is one of those women who felt this call, I’m going to do my best to tell her story as seen through my eyes in the hope that others will better understand the veil and the power of the Lord’s call to those who wear it.

One day my wife came back from her adoration hour very troubled, she felt the Lord was calling her to cover her head during adoration. This carried into later evenings until one night she grabbed a floppy tigger hat because it was the only one she could find and an went back into His presence. It was at that moment that she knew. She knew that she should always have her head covered in the Lord’s presence as a sign of her submission and obedience to God. To her it became a strong outward sign of God’s authority over her.

Over the intervening weeks she used a variety of makeshift methods for covering her head. Hats, scarves, bandannas, and other options were tried but she was mesmerized by an old lady who came to pray in the middle of the night wearing a mantilla. The beauty of it and the grace it seemed to endow this woman with made a tremendous impression on her and she resolved to get her own mantilla. At this time we were attending a Novus Ordo parish primarily and veils were almost never seen at mass. Worse, nobody locally carried one for her to purchase. We searched the internet and quickly found several locations from which they could be reasonably purchased. She choose one that suited her and ordered it.

At first, she would wear it only during adoration and switch to a hat or scarf at mass. Even then, she could sense the stares and uneasiness especially among the women wearing tanks tops, short shorts, and miniskirts at mass.  She looked so very pretty in her sunday dress with her scarf or hat that she did stand out. From my perspective she practically shone, and it was as if whenever a beam of light entered it fell on her. Yet she was still troubled. The Lord was still calling her to obedience it seemed, and very the next week she took a very deep breath as we left the car and put her Mantilla over her head and walked into the church.

I don’t know which of us was more uncomfortable with the initial stares, but I do know this – she was much more at ease in the Lords house than I had ever seen her. She had a peace and serenity I  had never seen before when she prayed, and I was stuck with a sense of awe and beauty just watching her. Then reality struck and on my way to the lavatory as I was pulled aside and admonished to “get that rag off my wife’s head before she embarrassed herself”, on the way back another person informed me that I was a “neanderthal for making her wear the veil” and that she was “setting women back 100 years” by wearing it. I was shocked – the veil wasn’t my idea, I would never have forced any such thing on her, nor even thought to ask it of her. I couldn’t understand the hostility until the following mass when one or two more women showed up with their heads covered, then a few more, soon a small cadre of veils dotted the congregation. It didn’t take me long to find out that it was the courage of the first few who listened to the call which paved the way for the others to act as well. This call had not been exclusively to my wife but to many women throughout the parish. A few thanked me for “allowing” my wife to wear the veil, as it set the example they needed to see. Apparently, many husbands had forgotten that God’s calling to their wives was far more important than their desire not to make waves. I was never against her following both her heart and The Lord’s instruction on this issue.

My wife still veils, as do my daughters – and we usually attend the Latin Mass where the veil is the norm, rather than the exception to the rule. To be honest she was not the only one of us feeling the Lords clarion call to orthodoxy in our Catholicism. Both of us have felt the call – not to practice our religion, but rather to live our religion – and there is a difference. For me the chapel veil represents more than her commitment to God, it represents the commitment of our entire family to the obedience of God. Whenever I see another woman entering the chapel with her husband and children in tow with all the girls wearing their veils, it gives me hope. Hope for the church and the world, that if only a few have to respond to the call that it will give others the courage to follow. Her example of leadership has taught me that I can make a difference in the smallest ways, even if I influence only a few other people in being a faithful Catholic husband. It is by doing the little things in obedience with great love that we build a sense of community and an understanding of who we are as Catholics. We also serve as a candle in the darkness for those trying to discern their path – and like candles, the more of us that stand together the brighter our light becomes.

When I think of the candle analogy I remember the last time a hurricane took the power out. When you’re used to being in brightly lit areas a single candle does not seem to give off much light. However, when you are accustomed to the darkness the light from one candle is enough to bring calm, hope, and light to every corner of the room – the darkness is dispelled with just a single flame.

Sincerely,

Colin

Expectations of A Catholic Husband

4 Aug

God holding your Marriage

I’ve been asked more than a few times what the building blocks of a successful marriage are. Recently a few readers have sent questions to me looking for advice in new marriages and prior to marriage on what their future wives will be expecting of them. Aside from some very candid discussions with your current or future spouse, there are some givens that she will expect and from which all the others are merely outgrowths.

I’ve put some real thought into this. That means both brain cells were parallel processing until they started releasing their magic blue smoke. You see, I’ve been married for over 20 years and in terms of expectations – well they seem to change if you focus on the minutiae. However, if you look at the bigger picture, the little things all fall into line, if you remember the big ones. There are a core group of things every woman expects from her husband whether she even realizes it or not.

One major disclaimer – I have no more insight into a womans mind than any other man. Women are like the trinity in that they are a mystery which cannot be understood by man and must simply be accepted. The disclaimer does however, provide me a good segway into expectation number one.

Acceptance – This one seems so obvious, but I hear neverending stories of women whose husbands/fiancee’s threaten a divorce over 5 lbs. or will only marry if she can fit into a certain size dress. Stop and pray before you act, speak, or think like this and here is why. Neither of you know what the future is going to bring, or where it will take you together. Just like with God, you must simply accept each other joyfully. In the long view – your wife is likely going to be like the weather in Louisiana. Don’t like it? Wait a bit, it will change. Your wife will change sizes, her personality will change, her interests will change, her health will change – the one thing that must never change is that you accept and love her for who she is each morning. It’s critically important to both of you that you do. If she was disfigured in a fire or accident would you love her any less? What if she was barren? Would you continue to love and keep her? Time ravages all physical things and she needs to know that regardless of what changes happen to each of you both physically and emotionally, as long as it remains compatible with sacramental marriage, that you will make  anew that decision every morning to accept and love her as she is. Always don your rose colored glasses and see the best in her and about her.

Commitment – Your wife rightfully will expect that that you are fully committed to a lifetime of joyful servitude of her and any children you are blessed with. Your commitment is to the covenant you made with God when you accepted the Sacrament of Marriage from your wife. It is expected that this commitment is unbreakable, treat her accordingly – never make mention of or threaten divorce and choose your words carefully. A man must lead a family and not subjugate them by force or fear. You must nurture your wifes commitment to you, but ensuring that she is always secure in your commitment to her and to your marriage. Never take this commitment lightly, treat your wife, always, as if her commitment must be earned  – through the commitment itself does not need to be earned, her respect and trust do. Know in advance that there will be moments in your marriage when God and commitment will carry you through, and that without commitment to your covenant before God your marriage is doomed to failure – harming both you and your spouse irreparably.

Togetherness – All the hurdles and caveats life throws at you are going to be relying on you facing the challenges together. Whatever comes it is expected that you will work as a team to solve each and every crisis. Regardless of whether that crisis is emotional, physical, financial, professional, sexual, faith based, or something else. She is counting on you to help her, and it will be important to her to also help you. Remember that whatever hurdles you face, you will face them best as a well coordinated team who can react quickly to change, anticipate the other’s moves, and most importantly acknowledge each others strengths and weakness and understand which roles each is best suited to for any given problem. This may mean adjusting roles temporarily or permanently to best face your current situation in life. Work as a team not just to achieve those things necessary to your marriage, but also necessary to each others hearts and souls. The joy of shared experience is just as powerful as the bonding forged between two who share and overcome adversity together. Rather than let adversity tear you apart, let it bind you more tightly together. Rather than allowing marriage to overshadow each of your personal dreams and goals, make it a vehicle for you both to share in achieving them.

Love – Another one that seems obvious, however it is quite critical that you understand what this one means. Love does not mean liking someone, nor is love a feeling – rather that feeling is a symptom of love but not love itself. Love is a choice we make, and we must renew that choice each day. Love endures hardship and pain, it weathers squalls and storms. You cannot love one whom you do not accept as they are.  Your wife must be your best friend, your lover, and your partner through life. You must love God above all things, and love your wife above yourself – not as yourself, but below God and above you. She cannot return to you that which is not given to be returned. While romantic love and erotic love will come and go like squalls, and even hurricanes, throughout your marriage – your true love for each other must be like the ocean, fathomless and unending.

Trust – No love and no marriage can survive without this. Trust has more aspects than verbal honesty. Your wife must know you are being emotionally honest with her at all times. She is not a mind reader or clairvoyant and for her to learn to read you accurately over time she must really understand what you really think and feel. While she too must do the same, you need to make sure she feels free to do so. This means listening without judging her when she opens her heart to you, and for her to understand you – she must do the same for you. This is the basis of intimacy, for without feeling able to truly open up to each other and embrace not just what is outside – but what is inside we can never be truly intimate. Her sense of safety and security depend on her knowing that no harm will come to her. She is entrusting this care to you, you must never betray this sacred duty or her ability to trust in you will be lost. This does not always mean you will succeed, nor that you must do it alone – but together as God intended. By both of you acting selflessly for the good of the other party you will only increase that trust, and either party acting selfishly will serve to decrease or eliminate it. This applies to threats to your marriage that are violent, physical, emotional, financial, and otherwise. In short, she must trust unconditionally that you would never harm her nor knowingly allow her to come to harm.

There are a bunch of other things, I grant you – but after much introspection I believe that these are at the core. If you can manage these the others are extensions of them and will naturally follow.

Yours in Christ,

Colin

Mine vs. Ours

28 Jan

Cutting the Wedding Cake as one

Like all of Marriage, how symbolic is the act of cutting the cake together. Showing that everything we do going forward will done by two working as one in purpose.

What does marriage mean? What is it’s purpose? I have always loved the wedding vows from the episcopal book of prayer in the 1600’s (before their divergence from the Catholic Church reached the current level). They read something like this:

With this ring, I thee wed.
With my body, I thee worship.
And with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.

The words touch something deeply inside me about the nature of marriage, which many have forgotten. Marriage not a business partnership, about the money or things, nor about protecting oneself. If you do then you will never have a spiritual partnership, and whatever flame there was between you will slowly starve for lack of ability to be fed afresh from your combined hearts. This is because you are holding back and placing something else before your wife.

If you want to truly be one, you must treat and do for her as if she were yourself. You must do more than that actually–treat and love her as God loves you.

Trust always begins with one party lowering their defenses to show their sincerity to the other. As the husband, that responsibility falls to you.

Examine your life together.  Are you truly one or are you separated?  One of the surest signs is separated finances and property. If you weren’t prepared to trust unconditionally when you got married, then you should not have done so. Now the vow is made, and if you are to have any hope of the relationship intended for you, you will have to examine your situation and make changes accordingly. Likely this will be difficult, but most worthwhile things are.

There are very good reasons the Catholic Church will not marry a couple with a pre-nuptial agreement in place. Don’t presume that anything you own will ever compare to the joy you can feel when the barriers between you are removed. Pool your resources, and work together to make sound decisions for your future. Don’t let something as petty as money or material possessions drive a wedge between you. If you do, you will always regret what could have been. The regret of knowing you could have done something to change things but did not.

If you need to, think of it like a bet. If you venture little you limit your losses, but you also limit your potential gains. In marriage, the bet is an “All In” proposition. You put everything on the table and bet it all, with nothing in reserve. Too often now I hear from couples ho have separated finances and ask hard questions about why there seems to be a emotional gap between them. They fight over money, but worse, they worry about different things. In essence, they no longer share the same concerns at the local level. This leaves a couple disconnected from each other both materially and emotionally, especially when your are busy keeping score with who pays for what or contributes too little.  Most of the time these couples consider themselves enlightened, a new vanguard in the development of marriage, and a step in the right direction. They arrogantly assume that in all of history such arrangements have never been tried before and, therefore, have never been disproven as a a viable solution. No matter how forward thinking or enlightened you may tell yourself you are, the truth is that all of it is a massive self-justification you are using to try to convince yourself that your selfish impulses are fully compatible with a loving marriage. Most people want so very much to believe this that any truth or reason simply falls by the wayside along the way, and is replaced by wishful thinking and new-age philosophy. It’s almost like a fulfillment of the promise of the apple as made by the serpent, and  such knowledge without the moral compass to guide us quickly steers us into the abyss.

Of all the pernicious evils which creep into the marital relationship, selfishness is the most virulent. This is the one evil that affects every aspect our marriages and poisons them from the inside by creating strife and discontent in every conceivable facet. Whether it be in household choses, finances, work outside the home, or our bedrooms, selfishness alone can destroy the bonds between us. To be perfectly honest, once it has infected any one area, the next place it manifests is in our level of intimacy where each subsequent infection chews away at the bonds that bind us together and drives external wedges into the gaps it creates between us, hammering away until the bonds are broken and in tatters. How often have you realized that whatever you are angry about has suddenly manifested itself in your bedroom in the mood or actions of one partner or the other? Has your blood ever run cold, because you realized deep down what the cause was?  Perhaps you told yourself it was something else, because you wanted to cling to your “enlightened” notions. Of course, once the effect is in your bedroom the only real fix is to cast away all trappings of the situation which allowed it in, but once again we are too selfish to allow for that. We have this awful tendency to cling to our failed notions and try to retool them so that we don’t have to admit we were wrong rather than abandon them completely. In doing so, we give this evil the time and room to operate that it needs to destroy us and our marriages from within.

Guard against selfishness in your marriage. Ensure that your “self-interest” is realigned to whatever is best for your wife and not yourself. The only way to defeat this beast is to make her the focus of your efforts at self-preservation. This also goes for her as well–she must make the same effort. It will come much more easily and naturally to her when she sees the example not just in your actions, but in the unspoken speech reflected in your eyes and body language. The  sense of security and surety that such actions will foster in her can be overwhelming  and the end result for your marriage can be nothing short of miraculous – even if the miracle unfolds over time instead of appearing suddenly. You should be prepared for this to be the case and prepared to stay the course regardless of apparent immediate results. What you will have for your efforts is a complete lack of regret for both your actions and your motivations. You will have a clean conscience, and know that no matter what the outcome you have done everything possible to crush the serpent winding it’s way between you and in doing so also crushed any regrets and remorse, or self-recrimination you might have otherwise been liable to endure. Every time, and I mean every single time – I have put myself first in my marriage I have come to regret it. No matter how rational the decision seemed at the time, the end result was never justified, and I never felt like I had done the right thing, especially in hindsight. I hope that others can learn from my mistakes, rather than having to make them themselves. At the very least, I hope I can shorten the learning cycle down so that they come to the truth much faster and less painfully than I did. There is always time to make a change for the better, and never a better time than the present to do so.

Very few get a second chance to address such regrets. As one who has, I can assure you that there is no regret in failure that compares to the regret of not having taken the risk at all. Do not saddle your soul with regret, it is one of the few things you do take with you when you leave this life.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments section, as always I appreciate your feedback and comments, tweets, likes, and reposts. You can email me at cc70458@gmail.com if you’d like to pass anything on.

Sex, Intimacy, and NFP

16 Jan

I’m well aware this is a topic nobody really wants to talk about. We would be happier to just pretend it didn’t exist and go on our merry way. None of this changes the fact that I feel compelled to write about it today, and it’s a post that I have been stewing over for some time now. You’re probably telling yourself this doesn’t apply to you or your marriage, or that you and your wife have a mutual understanding. The hard truth is  what you really might have is a mutual desire to avoid a deeply emotional subject which could potentially ignite a conflict if even mentioned. If after you read my story you find yourself feeling differently, consider letting your wife know that you’ve been reconsidering any prior decision on artificial birth control. This opens the door for a conversation if she senses you are sincere and would like the opportunity to revise the way things are. Heck, you might even let her read this just to get her reaction.

If there was a single word that could garner immediate interest and make your blood boil “SEX” would be it, whether with anger, fear, indignation, trepidation, anticipation, or some variety of other powerful and inflammatory emotions.  I think that’s why it has such a potent effect on our relationships with our spouses. On one side it is a driving biological imperative and at the same time an emotional one. Sex is a wondrous construct, with the power to do far more than provide pleasure .  It is also a conduit to intimacy, and when in the right context with the right person, a deeply bonding experience.

This was something I missed for the longest time. I think everyone notices that sex changes everything in a relationship. This is especially true in a marriage. I may find myself on a cracked and skinny limb here, but after over 20 years of marriage I discovered  a few things – some of them far more recently than I should have and this is one of them.

During my wife’s conversion to Catholicism she decided she needed to talk to me. It was obviously important to her; as she let me know in advance and very carefully selected a time and place to drop the bombshell. “I want to talk to you about stopping the artificial birth control”, she said. You could have knocked me over with a feather. If you’d asked me, I would have said everything was great! We had two children and were thinking maybe of having some more, but not that instant. I was taken aback. This would change everything, and change it far more than I realized at the time. It seems she had already talked to the priest about it and read up on what the Catechism had to say on the matter. It wasn’t an ultimatum, and she made it clear that she would not go forward without my agreement to do it. She wanted my consent and for me to take a little time to honestly evaluate the situation in order to give it.

That made things hard– no confrontation, no defiance, no excuse to react in any other way than to agree to look at it and give it some real thought. You might think I would have brushed it off, but I didn’t. Actually, it ate at me and gnawed continuously on my conscience. She provided me the sections of the Catechism relevant to the subject as well as Humane Vitae and some other materials on NFP. I stuck to the actual church materials and avoided other peoples interpretations of them. To this end, I actually read several of the sermons that comprised “Theology of the Body”. In the end I stewed and fretted, not just about the moral implications, but also about how it was going to affect me. Selfishness reared its ugly head early on and guided my “gut” reaction to help ensure the outcome it favored. One of the most important steps we took was to take a class on NFP. I only thought I understood a woman’s body and her natural cycles and rhythms. What I discovered was that I knew more about the inner workings of a nuclear reactor than I did about the inner workings of a woman. We went through the class and spent a few months tracking her cycle. It was something we did together, and it was actually both intimate and interesting. By the end of second month I started to realize just how much I hadn’t understood.

In the end I wholeheartedly agreed, without reservation, to end the artificial contraception for many reasons,  including the following:

I was not willing ask another person to commit mortal sin with me or for me, so that I could enjoy marital relations without reproductive implications. It was not worth the increased cancer risks and other assorted health implications, including decreased libido and increased stroke risk, for my wife to take those pills. When I thought about it objectively, what I was doing was putting my wife’s health at risk so that I could have my way with her without fear of impregnation. Essentially, the pill turned her from a human partner into a receptacle for my sexual angst, whether or not that was ever my intention. What’s worse, I had learned that most pills are abortive. Many work by causing a spontaneous abortion or failed implantation when the prevention of ovulation fails. A condom makes an even bigger statement. Then there is a very tangible physical barrier between us which has a direct bearing on intimacy. To be honest, I heard artificial birth control in general saying something to my spouse – it said, “I want to have sex, but I don’t want any entanglements to ensue”.  The truth is that marriage is all about entanglement, in all aspects of our being.

I had always hoped for a son one day, and one day after my wife passed a clot  during her period, I went to look at the carefully wrapped bloody pad in the wastebasket. It dawned on me with a sudden clarity that the son I had so long desired might be that very clot now laid to rest in a tidy package at the bottom of the trash can. That moment my mind was made up, and I agreed.

The part of this whole discourse that is important however, is that it caused me to totally change the way I viewed and treated my wife and our sexual relationship. I would have been aghast and defensive if you had suggested to me that I had been selfish or that my motives or actions were less than honorable. However, that feeling does not stand the test of scrutiny from several years forward in time. While parts it of manifest themselves immediately, the change was not instantaneous – but no lasting change usually is. The truth is that things only got better from there, and we had 2 more children using NFP to achieve the conception by predicting those times most favorable for doing so. My wife felt much better in general, and thought I thought our sex life was great before – there was a spark missing which rekindled itself into a burning flame once the intimacy barrier of artificial conception was removed.

Let’s be clear that I’m not at all advocating having children until your wife’s uterus falls out, nor am I advocating against spacing the children you do have out. Just that you leave room for God to work in your life. Artificial birth control is not infallible either, and just provides a false sense of security which ends up being an excuse for the holocaust of abortion in far too many instances. I am saying that disposing of artificial birth control will change your entire perspective on sex, your spouse, and your marriage. In making this decision together, you’ll both be sending the other person a message – and don’t let that message to be “I love you, but not enough to accept the possibility that our love might create a new life who is part of both of us.”. How would you feel if your wife whispered in your ear, “I love you dear, but I abhor the thought of carrying your child”?  It would kill the mood for me too. Opening yourself to life might add a spark and excitement that has been absent far too long, and the message it sends about love and acceptance to the other person works wonders on the intimacy level which can be achieved.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments section, as always I appreciate your feedback and comments, tweets, likes, and reposts. You can email me at cc70458@gmail.com if you’d like to pass anything on.

 

Soulmates

8 Jan

Soul Mates“, the very term conjures up images of a relationship so deep and comfortable that one blissfully sinks into it without a care or thought toward any distractions to their partner or from their partner. Often these daydreams include visions of our idea of the most physically attractive partner we can imagine paired with a mind always in agreement with our own and seeking nothing for itself.

Of course, one wakes from these daydreams and distractions eventually and realizes the truth is much closer to home. For me it was my grandparents who despite their advanced years remained very much actively in love, playful with each other, very physically affectionate, and while capable of vehement disagreements they were capable of having them without anger or malice of any kind towards each other. They also regularly finished each others sentences and when queried by a third party they often responded in unison. I remember that each had the uncanny ability to predict exactly what the other would say when asked a specific question – but this never stopped them from communicating. Their interests diverged dramatically in many respects with his being favorites in things like flying, woodworking, and mechanics. Hers lay in travel, art,  and culinary exploration. Rather than their diversity being a source of derisiveness, having such divergent interests allowed them to better complement each other. They had married very young by today’s standards, and had been married for well over 50 years.

I remember one seminal moment when the doctor came to see my grandfather when he and my grandmother were both in the hospital. My grandmother had been at home, sleepless with worry (as my grandfather had had a recent bout with Lupus) and busying herself with cooking for family and watching the Travel Channel as she plotted whether or not there was yet another place she needed to see in person. She had a favorite stool at her kitchen’s island and it was old and worn. She fell asleep on the stool and suddenly fell sideways breaking her hip. She had been suffering from heart problems making it necessary for them to wait a few days for the replacement surgery and as she did her health seemed to deteriorate quickly. She too soon had caught an infection and the fever set in. The surgery never happened and she became bedridden – home care was arranged but she seemed to wilt as she realized her life would never be the same.

My grandfather aided by family watched over and cared for her – but eventually she needed in-patient care to stabilize her and she was transferred to the hospital. About the same time, and though my grandfather had been quite healthy and vigorous, a small wound on his foot had become infected, the infection reached the bone, and a partial amputation followed. Soon a systemic infection set in and this burly and powerful man was laid low by the smallest of creation’s creatures and they were in the hospital together in separate rooms on separate floors.

I was visiting him one day when the doctor came in and told him that he had finally turned the corner and if things continued he would be going home the next week. He immediately brightened up, and told the doctor how good it would be to be back at home with his wife. The doctor paused, and carefully explained that he would be going home – his wife was another matter and that he should expect that she would never go home again. Her prognosis was very grim, and with that, his dreams of being back at home with her again were dashed like a crystal vase on a tile floor. I saw it in his eyes and face. It was like the emotion drained out of him. His eyes which once sparkled and glittered now dimmed and dulled, his expression became solemn and lifeless, and he seemed smaller and suddenly weak. In addition, because of his prior infection and her weakened state he would be not be permitted to see her in person or be in the same room, much less have any form of physical contact. He nodded to the doctor, and without saying a word lay back in the bed and closed his eyes. He almost whispered, “I’m so tired, and I just can’t face going home without her…”. A tear rolled down the cheek of the one man I had never seen cry. He refused food and drink. The next night he passed away quietly and wordlessly, as if to use silence to say “there is nothing more to be said”. I never saw him alive again.

There was great consternation about whether or not to tell my grandmother what had happened.  The fever had taken her for days at a time and her lucidity came and went like a flickering porch lamp. Often when she was lucid it didn’t last long enough to impart any useful information, as she often didn’t know where or when she was. A few days after he died though, I had come in from a work trip to see her. They had warned me she was slipping away, and it had been a rush to beat the reaper so that we could say our goodbyes. I was awash in emotion and trying very hard to hold it together, but when I walked in she was alert and sitting up and talking up a storm. As soon as I walked in the door she blurted out to me “He’s dead you know. He’s gone. He left without me. Oh it’s so good to see you!”. We had a lovely conversation during which I told her about work and her great-grandchild, and got to laugh and cry together. It wasn’t to last, as the day wore on she started to fade. She knew she couldn’t go home and kept repeating “He’s gone, and I miss him so much. I just want to be with him again… even if for a short time, I forgot to tell him I’ll always love him…” throughout the evening. She asked me to hold her hand because she was scared,and Grampa wasn’t there to do it. I did, I sat by her bed and held her hand for the next few hours and the family piled into her room and the children played, the adults argued about inane trivia, and we all watched a TV game show she had been following. At some point I noticed that she no longer had a pulse. She still had my hand tightly gripped when she passed away, with wisp of a smile on her face. They died within a week of each other and Thanksgiving is always tinged with sadness at their loss and thankfulness for the mercy that they were able to not only live together but die together, so that she was not subjected to the loneliness and despair that his loss caused her any longer than was necessary.

They were soul mates. Their shining example of a harmonious marriage built on a foundation of service to each other, mutual love and affection, and an abundance of  joy made a lasting imprint on me. When she met the woman who would later become my wife, her primary concern was that she would not be fully aware of  the task of caring for a husband in the manner of the example I had been raised to expect. They both spent endless hours as I grew up imparting wisdom and instructions on how to care for your partner and maintain a happy and balanced marriage. She did the same for my fiancee, both before and after the marriage. At one point she provided my wife a recipe box containing my favorite foods to help her in caring for me as the military was about to take my new family far from home. Her only criteria for a good spouse was that they were also my best friend and that they truly love me and care for me, so that she could one day leave this world confident that I was in good hands. She abhorred divorce as the child of a broken home, and often reiterated that “we make ourselves happy.  Your husband or wife simply shares the joy you create.” It was her greatest hope that I would find my soulmate, but she also insisted that soulmates were made and not found, and that developing a marriage to that point would take more years than she would live to see. I know for a fact, that they are both very proud and happy for what we found together and then built upon over the intervening years. By growing together instead of apart through joy and adversity, we, too, have become Soulmates.

Picture of my Grandparents

My Grandparents

Please feel free to share your thoughts or stories in the comments section, as always I appreciate your feedback and comments, tweets, likes, and reposts. You can email me at cc70458@gmail.com if you’d like to pass anything on.

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