Tag Archives: friendship

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

A Valid Marriage

18 May

couple-fighting-on-couchI know a man who is divorced with a child and just cannot let go of his ex-wife. The facts are simple: she left him, the marriage has been adjudicated invalid, there was a child produced by the marriage, former wife is now remarried with another new baby, he is now alone and paying child support for his child.

I’ve been pretty dry about all this emotionally. However, It is nothing if not: messy, sloppy, heartbreaking, fist-clenching, and gut wrenching. That said there is a distinct lesson to be learned from this persons experience. Take steps to ensure you enter only a valid marriage. This means you attend the Pre-Cana sessions and tell the truth. Expose yourself up front fully so that your heart will not be rent later. Choose wisely – you only get one shot at this, don’t allow your hormones to make a choice you’ll regret later.

Most of our friends who are long married started as we did: friends, best friends, more than friends, then married. In this progression all secrets and warts get shared up front, we learn to forgive, and we know them intimately in a way that allows us to truly asses our ability to get along, function as a team, and collaborate on things long before sex and other considerations can skew our viewpoint. We see our spouses as people, and not objects. The trick to long term marriage is to stay best friends always – the friendship provides a firm foundation for true love when the mutual feeling love is there, and provides a safety net in marriage for those times when we let that love die down or even go out for a time. When there aren’t any secrets or hidden pasts to fear in a relationship there is a real freedom. It comes from being loved for yourself, not the persona you donned to woo your wife but couldn’t maintain forever.

It’s a suggestion I hope more men will heed for the sake of their children and the sake of their hearts, as well as love and concern for their spouses future happiness. Nobody should ever feel cheated by their spouses lack of disclosure 2 years into a marriage.

Please take a moment and pray for this man, and all persons who find themselves in this position or affected by one like it.

Pax Christi,

Colin

My Wife’s Surprise Facebook Post

26 Apr

Before you get all excited – the surprise was not in the content of the post. The surprise was in the eloquence and simplicity of the presentation. While our society may not agree, they would have to experience it first to have any basis for comparison.

Here’s her post –

Marriage isn’t just another relationship. It isn’t just about making you happy or making sure you always get yours. It isn’t about finding the perfect person who has nary a fault to annoy you. There is no room for selfishness in marriage. It is a sacrament, a life long covenant of love and service to one another, and a vocation, just as is the priesthood. It is not meant to be broken when you are no longer getting what you want. It is all about giving selflessly, 100%, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s about lifting each other up, facing all life’s challenges as one, caring for one another, and loving despite our faults. Marriage is not about you. It is about committing yourself to another, and the ultimate goal is to love your spouse right into heaven.

In our materialistic society, where it seems everyone is concerned with the question, “what’s in it for me?” this kind of relationship seems impossible. But with Christ’s grace, it is not only possible, but a little glimpse of heaven on earth. It will require, though, that you make a total commitment to your spouse. Give everything! Yes, this makes us frighteningly vulnerable, and you must trust your spouse to do the same. Therefore, choose wisely, not based on hormones and fleeting emotions alone, and pray for one another that you may keep Christ before you and both remain steadfast in your commitment to Christ and each other.

I am bothered by how often I hear things like, “I’m not doing that for him. If he wants it, he can do it himself.” Marriage is about what we can do for *each other* not because we can’t live without the other, but because we choose to live with and for each other! Or worse still, I hear, “If I do that for her, what’s in it for me?” A stronger marriage and more love in your life! Yes, you have to be willing to sacrifice for each other! We don’t get to plan on having only the better and never the worse, only the richer and never the poorer, or only health and never sickness! If you aren’t willing to go all in for your spouse, whether there’s something in it for you or not, you aren’t ready for marriage. If you’re already married and finding keeping it together a struggle, time to change your perspective! First thing to banish? Keeping score! It’s not a sports event.

Pax Christi,

Colin

A Rash of Unwanted Divorces – Prayers Needed

21 Apr

Recently I have personally witness a seeming rash of divorces by long married couples with wives leaving husbands of 20-34 years. The wives have left without saying a single word prior – and in several cases gutting the couples financial resources just before retirement. The husbands are left confused and conflicted. One thing that has stood out to me is that the husbands all did not see any signs that the divorce was coming – until the day it happened.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. My wife has pointed out that there is definitely a failure to communicate in many instances and cited some examples for me. I was not shocked by anything she said. I was however shocked that small wounds were allowed to fester to a boiling point before anything was said. Often, these women have suffered in silence for years. It was not generally the size of the wounds which were killing the marriage, but rather the untreated festering infection.

What is the solution? As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One thing I observed is that some of these women feared their husbands in some way – some even physically. These bother me the most – your wife should never fear being physically harmed by you as her husband.  Others were just averse to conflict. You need to learn to listen carefully, and reply thoughtfully. You can chew your food before you swallow – do the same with your thoughts – chew on them a bit before you blurt them out. Words are the single most dangerous thing we have in a marriage. Be careful with yours always, think before you speak – and speak kindly always. We can blame the wives all we want for what they did or did not do, but it won’t save your marriage from divorce or make your wife happy. The fix requires more than being attentive, it means serious effort on your part. Remember that you cannot change other people – you must accept and love her as she is. Instead change yourself as that is something you do have control over and can change.

Trust is paramount. She has to be sure she can share honest feelings with you without facing retaliation emotionally, verbally, or physically. You have to listen, consider, and find ways to address her concerns in a matter that resolves them to both of your satisfaction. I highly recommend the tactical approach of listening carefully while repressing negative facial expressions or comments, then thinking carefully about how to respond, only after that – do you open your mouth and do so. Peoples tongues are the source of more self inflicted marital wounds than many realize. DO NOT tell her it is her fault, denigrate her, or blame her in your response. Focus your response solely on what you can do to alleviate her concerns and then do it. This is NOT a negotiation, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT say things like I’ll do X if you do Y.

Keep in mind that often women just need to vent their feelings in a safe environment. They do not expect you to necessarily fix it – what they want is for you to listen. Letting her get her feeling out by listening attentively. Act when it is appropriate, and listen and hold her when action is not required.

Your wife might trust you with her life and well being, yet not trust you with her heart. This is where the problems fester and grow. You need to regain her faith in you to counter this, and open deep lines of communication. While you might want to say that telling her to make changes would make more sense – it does not. The only person you can change is you, so work with what you have. Make sure you are attentive to her feelings, emotions, and the little things she says. You won’t get this right most of the time being male, but she will appreciate sincere interest in her and her feelings. For what you have done, and what you have failed to do… Often we hear Catholics say this mantra, but fail to heed it. Have you given your wife cause to think that there are things important to her that she cannot accomplish within marriage – things in keeping with sacramental marriage, of course? Maybe it’s travel, education, learning to play an instrument, learning to ride a motorcycle, learning to hunt/shoot/fish, or becoming a HAM radio operator. Don’t fail her by ruling things out. Don’t put unnecessary impediments or barriers on your marriage. Married life is like a dance, it works best if both parties move together as one. If your wife takes the time to tell you about her dreams and goals – listen and then start working to make them happen. Learn to take a hint, and act on it.  Where such is feasible it is an opportunity for you to grow together – find joy in it. Service to your wife does not have to be a sacrifice – it can be a source of unending joy and discovery for both of you. Don’t fail to make sure your wife knows that there is nothing she can accomplish outside marriage that cannot be accomplished within marriage more easily. Don’t fail to support and work towards her goals as well – after all you expect her to work towards and support yours.

Intimacy is always of paramount importance – I cannot stress this enough. It is through intimacy that the bond between man and woman is strengthened and maintained. Sexual relations are a byproduct of intimacy, not the other way around.  So many marriages suffer from unresolved sexual issues because people refuse to communicate. Do not assume you are “doing it right” – even after years of marriage. Do not ask for a critique of your performance. Instead, do ask your wife what would please her – and then follow her guidance exactly and without hesitation. Too often women are shortchanged here because they are making a sacrifice to protect their husbands ego and self-image. Frustration builds over time, never deny her the marital embrace and accompanying intimacy – ignoring her or refusing her is a rejection. Rejection destroys intimacy at the root.. Give her the opportunity to protect your self-esteem, your marriage, and have her needs met by opening lines of communication. You may find yourself surprised at the changes in your experience when you stop worrying about yourself and focus every fiber of your being on pleasing her. You may also be astounded by the levels of intimacy that can be achieved when she does not feel sex is a sacrifice or worse that she is being used as a repository for your sexual angst. It is that intimacy that will keep your bond both sealed and renewed.

Pax Christi,

Colin

How Americans have Failed the Church – and our Children

19 Apr

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You know, I keep hearing people arguing about the Church losing a whole generation because it was focused on moral issues out of tune with society and not focused on serving as the public demanded, and ignoring their lesser sins to keep people interested.

Crap – Total crap. When we lose young people it is because we have failed to instill proper moral and ethical values through religious education. When we waffle on issues of doctrine and faith, how can we expect them to hold firm? When we embrace with open arms and acceptance that which is antithetical to our faith and tell them it is good and must be accepted outside the Church, but inside the Church say something else – our faith loses both credibility and moral authority. We are losing because we do not follow our own faith except on Easter and Christmas. Our children do not go to church because we do not. They do not share Catholic Values when their parents and peers do not. They divorce because they came from broken homes and that’s what their parents did – you can fool yourself but the statistics are clear that children of broken homes are far more likely to end up divorced. If you don’t have an annulment don’t remarry. All of these kids rejecting the Church means more than a few Parents are failing to instill not just the values, but display an open example of faith for their children. When we don’t properly Cathechize our children we make them easy pickings for those who would talk them out of their faith with lies and misconceptions. When we ignore our faith – they see it. When we place God first in all things they see that too. America must accept that God has not failed us, nor has the Church failed us – WE FAILED THEM. Stop passing the blame to others, address the issue penitently and start LIVING OUR FAITH IN OUR DAILY LIVES!

Pax Christi,

-Colin

Husbands Love Your Wives…

7 Apr

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This seems to be a serious issue in marital relationships.  Lets be honest for  a moment. I have gotten dozens of emails over the last few months about this particular issue and a shocking number of personal inquiries, especially over the last few months on the subject of husbands denying wives intimacy. Not exactly what you might expect to hear – but the complaints against husbands are running 5 to 1 or so over complaints about wives withholding intimacy.

Lets put the locker room talk and jocular speech on hold. Let’s not pretend this isn’t happening, or that it is not embarrassing for the men involved. Both are true, and both are deeply hurting marriages. I will explain. Embarrassment over an inability to perform due to any variety of valid reasons, is the leading cause of the rejection of intimacy. The sad side effect is that it also is something men don’t want to discuss even with their wives or doctors. As was so aptly put in the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here, is a failure to communicate”. Seriously,  secrets are bad for marriages. Anything which affects you is your wife’s business, especially when it affects her too.

She cannot nurture, comfort, or help you if she does not understand what is wrong or what is going on – nor can she help. In all fairness, there may be nothing more she can do than hold your hand – but let her at least do that. Do not dismiss her and ignore her ever. Such a course of action simply leaves her mind reeling with possibilities (none of them good) for why you are suddenly detaching yourself from marital intimacy. Marital Intimacy is not just sex! It is holding hands, displays of affection, cuddling, touching – not necessarily involving coitus. To deny your wife all these things because you are for some reason incapable on the action you consider the “Big One” is deadly sin in a selfish wrapper. Marital intimacy is not about you, or your groin. It’s about sharing and being close to each other, touching, caressing, and in general emotionally, physically, and spiritually bonding.

In short – you need to take care of your wife both physically and emotionally, intimacy is critical to marriage. Carefully explain the issue(s). Work through what you can. Work around what you cannot work through, and tackle the problem as partners like God intended. Your wife cannot support you if you do not tell her where to raise you up! Stop and think for just a moment how you would feel if she suddenly refused you for weeks on or months on end, gave you the silent treatment, and offered no real explanation? Now be honest with yourself, and tell me that you would intentionally inflict such hurt into your marriage as actions like that cause. If you do not already do it – I strongly urge you to consider prayer together. A strong marital bond requires physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy. Husbands, even if it is just holding her hand and saying responses as your wife leads a rosary, or for the more adventurous – a recitation of the wedding night prayers from Tobit. Keep spirituality in your marital intimacy. Personally, I keep a crucifix up in the bedroom as a reminder never to act or not to act towards my wife in a manner that I would be ashamed for Christ to witness. Remember, God is always watching.

Wives – the reverse applies to you as well. Men tend to react very quickly and negatively to a sudden disconnect in emotional and physical intimacy. Communicate if accommodations for some issue are necessary – allow them to be part of the solution and not yet another problem.

Pax Christi,

Colin

Update for those Praying for Kathryn

9 Mar

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Kathryn

For those who have been following the saga of this one brave young girl and her family, I am hoping that reading this and maybe some of the prior posts for the backstory on my blog will help affirm in your hearts the power of prayer not just in our lives but in the lives of others. Kathryn is one of millions of young children who are suffering daily all over the world with life threatening illness. I have long realized that I cannot make a change for all of them directly, but by doing little things with great love for the one(s) God places before me I believe that I can make a difference. I am also hoping I can inspire others to do what they can to make a small difference in the hope that they too will inspire others. The end of which under ideal circumstances is an outpouring of compassion worldwide.

I’d like to thank all of you who have prayed, sent cards, notes, letters, and postcards of hope to this young girl. I am posting this update because she still needs your prayers and there is so much more ahead of her than there is behind her. Please keep her in your prayers, and remember that love and compassion are not finite resources – you can give all of each from a neverending supply, replenished by God himself.

Now the Update from the Gardner Family –

Last week for Kathryn went well. There were no real changes to report except that her 4 sisters did in fact go through the initial round of genetic testing. The Gardner family wish to send Praises to the heavens on the wings of the Father’s glorious holy angels that from her 4 sisters, they have found one match. Kathyrn’s little sister Karlie(5), is an EXACT MATCH. Praise God!! The test has 15 different markers, Karlie matched all 15 EXACTLY!

When the doctor told them the news Kathy simply began to cry. She heard very little of what was said after that. Kathy asked for a copy of the test to see for herself and she was handed a single piece of paper on which clearly matched the two girls. Kathy knew that the doctor was explaining to a couple of student doctors that when doing these genetic tests you hope to get as many markers to come close to the patients numbers. He was telling them how rare it is to get and exact match on the first try. Then Kathy interrupted and said, “What a beautiful Pro-Life testament!” to which the doctor responded, “Exactly!”

The family would like to thank all of you for your constant prayers and they ask that you lift Karlie up. They are asking that you specifically ask the Father to prepare her little heart for this procedure should we get to that stage. At this time, the doctors are just telling us that it is highly likely that we will have to get the transplant, so they are going to prepare Kathryn for it. They have not told us when this will happen or told us any details, just that it will probably happen at some point.

Prayer Warriors, we have been given great news today for Kathryn and her family. Parents Kyle & Kathy said that on one hand they are ecstatic that they found a match but on the other hand the donor is the youngest and the family is feeling the effects of that reality. In a family meeting today, each of the girls mentioned why she wanted to be the match for their sister. It was very touching.

Kathryn is feeling pretty blue these last few days. She is in a real battle and her little body is taking a beating. Join us as we continue to storm heaven with uplifting prayers for her and her family. Remember the family has asked that we pray for 5 yr old Karlie, that God will prepare her heart. Those of us who have the distinct pleasure of knowing this little firecracker, know that she always has the perfect answer for just about anything you ask of her. She is bouncy, full of life and can carry on an intriguing conversation with anyone and anything.

***KATHRYN’S EMAIL ADDRESS***
GForce2000.14@gmail.com

***** LETTERS/CARDS ********
All mail for Kathryn should be mailed to the following address:
KATHRYN GARDNER
857 Brownswitch PMB # 335
Slidell, Louisiana 70458

God Bless,

-Colin

Morally Speaking

29 Jan

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There comes a time in each of our lives when we must choose between being faithful to God, and being rejected or abandoned by those we once called friends. We must understand that we are not the ones making this decision – the people who would reject us for not jettisoning our faith to appease their conscience are walking away from us, we are not walking away from them. You see, it’s very hard for those enmeshed in darkness to tolerate the light of truth. Their dark lies are warm and comfortable, like a narcotic high – and just as seductively addictive. The bright light of truth is like a ray of sunshine in the eyes of a man recovering from a hangover. They will wince, and squirm, and even turn away. They will either to return to the bottle or sober up. When you shield that light by denying the example of Christ in confronting wrong then you deny Him. Think about it – every time you say the politically correct thing, rather than the faithful thing, you do nothing more than enable evil. People in darkness want it to feel normal, they want to feel approved of because they know in their hearts what they are doing is wrong. When you tell them what they are doing is not wrong, or that it is not your place to judge their actions (Not their person – Just the actions) then you are acting as an agent against God and helping them into perdition.

If your child was reaching for a hot stove would you not warn them away out of love, would you not comfort them if they failed to heed your warnings and got burned touching the side of a hot stovetop? One thing you would never do is tell them that it was OK to endanger themselves in that way. You would not be judging the child, only their actions. Just as this very basic principle applies to your family, in order to live your faith you need to practice it with those outside your family who you care about. Our priests, and especially our Bishops have this sacred responsibility in a most solemn manner for all humanity – as they must serve as an example of heroic virtue to others – Pope Francis has continually done this despite the media spin doctors attempts to paint him otherwise.

Mark 6:11
And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.

The internet can be befuddling for many Christians, too many voices all throbbing together in a confusing cacophony. However, just like in life – any real friend will accept you or reject you as you are. If you have to pretend to be something you are not, or to put your faith in check to avoid offending them; Well it is time for you to realize that they are NOT your friend. They are your captor, and you have just betrayed God for nothing more than the approval of a person stuck in the same tar pit you are. The person whose approval you need to worry about is God. He is the only person who can get you out of your predicament. However, you must reach out to him and accept his hand – just as they must do. To know what to do, they need to see your example of escape. They do not need to watch you drown in sin with them so that they can think that it is normal or OK to be swallowed up by the inky black tar and lost forever.

Jesus did not instruct that we should be overly persistent in trying to bring them to the truth as evidence by the quote above which is repeated in Matthew 10:14 and Acts 13:51. That said, Jesus also gave us from his personal example that we were not to let wrongs go unchallenged. He did not tell the adulteress that it was her body to do with as she pleased, he did not tell the money changers he respected their choices, and he most certainly did not tell his followers to keep on in their immoral ways and do what thou wilt. He offered mercy to the repentant, remember what he told the adulteress – “Go forth and sin no more”. Yet we have done so in our society, in the misguided sense that we can coexist with those who violate God’s law without upsetting them by calling out sin. Our children have fallen away from the churches because they hear our words, but they do not see any real conviction in our actions. In fact they see the opposite – and instead of 30 pieces of silver, we sell out our faith for the approval of others. We invite unrepentant perpetrators of evil actions into our lives and act surprised when it is we who are corrupted by allowing ourselves to tell the lie that “it does not really matter” so many times we make others and ourselves believe it. We are always called to love the sinner, but also to rebuke the sin. This is one of the Church’s hardest teachings. Hold firm to Church Doctrine. Pray for guidance. Love and know that it may never be returned. Accept that you will be scorned and rejected for doing so, but also know that you are following in His footsteps – and that means that you are surely on the right path.

St. Michael the Archangel, Pray for us all.

Sáncte Míchael Archángele,
defénde nos in proélio,
cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
Ímperet ílli Déus,
súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis,
Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos,
qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo,
divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde.
Ámen. 

-Colin

The Silent Treatment

26 Nov

silence-2

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

Impediments to Embracing Catholicism

27 Aug

Buddy_christ

So many seem so lost and confused about the faith today. I’ll call a spade a spade, say the unpopular,  and attribute it to poor catechesis and an overly permissive clergy and catechists who have allowed a few bad apples more concerned with “butts in the seats” than the truth to run with the ball. Take this for example before you get your shorts all in a bunch about my thoughts.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23473169

The job of the Catholic Church is to lead you to Heaven, not to coddle you and make you feel good. Sometimes that means telling you uncomfortable truths and rebuking you for heretical beliefs, gently sometimes – but firmly always. God is my father, not my “Buddy”, and to think of him otherwise demeans both Him and our relationship.

Here are some of the most common issues people struggle with. If you answer “Yes” to any questions below immediately consult the Catechism and keep reading and rereading all the references until you understand – understanding is at the root of believing. Keep questioning and investigating your Catholic faith. I have, and the more I learn the more I find that the faith comforting rather than conflicting. It also becomes easier to trust, and surrender to yourself to God and his will as expressed through the magisterium.

  • Faith – Are you struggling with submission to God? Do you still believe some things, but not all of what the church teaches as required beliefs? Do you avoid the confessional at all costs? Have you participated in any way in an invalid sacrament (such as a wedding involving a divorcee who does not have an annulment)?
  • Sex & Marriage – Do you think that the sexual morality taught by the church is out of touch with reality? Do you think the Church is morally “out of date”? Do you support Gay Marriage? Do you think that Divorce is OK? If you are married do you use artificial contraception?
  • Sin – Do you have trouble accepting that which the church defines as sin? Do you have issues believing that sin creates a barrier between yourself and God? Do you think that the Church needs to revise what it defines as sinful to keep up with modern standards? Do you doubt the efficaciousness of confession?
  • Real Presence – Do you not believe in the literal real presence of Christ in the eucharist or believe it a symbolic only? Have you ever received the Eucharist with unconfessed mortal sin?
  • Infallibility – Do you think that the Pope is infallible in all things? Do you truly understand how limited and tenuous the thread of instability is?

To be honest NFP was the biggie for me. I was adamant about not letting the church dictate my sex life. It made me angry, it frustrated me, and in the end it changed me. Learning the church was right and understanding why in a very personal way very much put the whole issue of obedience into perspective. It is only when we have humbled ourselves that we can truly learn and grow in faith. You can read about that experience here:  https://catholichusband.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/sex-intimacy-and-nfp/

Remember that faith is a work in progress, not a destination. We will all fall and falter. The important thing is to pick yourself up and keep pressing towards a goal you will only attain when this life has ended. Never let doubts or hesitation keep you down – root out heresy and disinformation in your faith and stay the straight and narrow path.

Godspeed on your journey,

Colin

My Birthday, and The Gift that Keeps on Giving

24 Aug

20130824-150643.jpg

Today I get another day older. I’m a little wiser, and a lot less narcissistic. I also know that nothing material of this world will last, but that small things done with great love are eternal. One small act of kindness, love, or compassion can change a persons life. At the very least it can bring a moment of happiness to another.

That said, my birthday wish this year is that everyone who reads this post might perform some small act for another with great love. It can be something as small as a kind word to someone in need or as large as you desire, as everyone has different gifts and different means at their disposal. Be creative, and bring a moment of happiness or solace to another – I promise you that you will not regret these actions when you face judgement.

This does not have to be to a stranger. Learning to love, be kind, and be compassionate begins at home – but it should not stop there as we are all God’s children. Even the grandest designs are accomplished in steps. If you finds it suits you, then by all means keep walking – we all have a long journey together ahead.

Pax Christi,
Colin

“I can’t believe I married him/her!”

21 Aug

couple-fighting-on-couch

Recently I have had more than a few husbands and wives ask a similar question. It basically boils down to this:

“He/She was great before we got married but now that the honeymoon is over I feel like I don’t even know this man or woman sharing my life, my home, my bed. This isn’t the person I thought I was marrying, what recourse do I have?”

Or this:

“He/She isn’t the person, I married and I don’t even know them anymore – much less love them. I’m unhappy, this is not what I signed up for and I want out!”

I have some feelings many would consider unduly harsh about breaking a sacramental vow. Unless the persons discovered flaws are serious enough to warrant an annulment, I tend to believe they should let duty, honor, loyalty, and sacrifice carry them until they establish the intimacy from which love is born. People change every day, they will never be static and we have to make a decision to love them as they are every morning. I can attest that the love of a good woman will change a man in ways he cannot imagine, and the inverse is true as well. However, people seem to be making a veiled request for absolution or an excuse to break a holy vow because is inconvenient. I wish people took their vows more seriously.

That said, this article is not intended to address issues involving violence, spousal abuse, and any circumstances which constitute grounds for the annulment of the marriage.

Now to actually deal with the situation. I know this is not what you want to hear, I can almost see you putting your fingers in your ears and singing at the top of your lungs, but here it is. When you married in the Catholic church you made a gift of yourself and your service to your spouse for life before God, and they did the same for you. It’s not a you do for me, and I’ll do for you agreement. Your obligation to your spouse nor to God is abrogated because they are not keeping their vow. Every marriage has ups and downs. I recall time when my wife told me “I still love you, but I don’t like you very much right now”.

Love is a choice. What most think of as love are the heady feelings that are a just a symptom of true love and not love itself. If you don’t know you spouse anymore, make it a point to get to know them. Take the time to talk, touch, and bond anew. Make a choice to adapt and grow together. This is what you promised on your wedding day. People will grow and change; and just as your spouse has changed, so have you. Accept them as they are. Make a choice to love and serve them each morning, put their needs before your own, and do whatever is in your power to brighten their day or bring them a moment of happiness. If your spouse isn’t coming around then pray for them. Recriminations and fighting simply tear you apart, and words blurted out in anger are the leading cause of broken and wounded hearts and marriages. Act toward your spouse with the love and compassion of Christ in all things, and leave room for God to work in both your lives – if you do so, He will.

Marriage is only a rose garden if you make it so. It is a consecrated life of service to your spouse. That service can be joyful or miserable, the choice is made by your attitude, your thoughts, your actions – all things you have control over. Your service to your spouse is consecrated to God, as is theirs. Never forget that in serving your spouse you are serving God in a Holy calling, a calling harder than it is given credit for.

Choose your thoughts, words, and actions carefully to cultivate friendship, intimacy, and love (in that order) with your spouse. Always remember that your spouse is a consecrated servant and not a slave, and never forget that you are as well – neither of you are slaves to the other. Every day make a decision to serve joyfully, enjoy their companionship, abide in friendship, find comfort in intimacy, and joy in love. Just as you expect God to love you in spite of your faults, so he expects you to love your spouse in spite of theirs.

Yours in Christ,

Colin

Catholic Sexuality and the Marital Embrace

12 Aug

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

There is nothing in the world more contentious among Catholics themselves than what is permissible in their bedrooms by their religion. While the Catechism is fairly clear on this issue (and the Catechism represents that which must be followed and believed), many follow a variety of philosophies. These range from what I call the “Augustinian” view that sex is only for procreation and nothing more, only in one set position, and God forbid the woman actually enjoy it because an orgasm for her is a sin – all the way to the “Progressive/Rationalist” view, that what happens between consenting adults in their own bedroom is none of the Church’s or God’s business and basically anything goes.

The truth is a fair distance from each philosophy and it is clearly laid out in the Catechism (read it here for yourself  http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm). No matter who you ask you will get different answers on what is acceptable and what is not (trust me, I’ve asked priests and never gotten the same answer twice). The answers are in the Catechism for those who will take a moment to read it, and greatly expounded upon in the series of sermons that make up the Theology of The Body.

The “Augustinian” view is derived primarily from the writings of St. Augustine who though a Doctor of the Church and very wise did not write with infallibility, nor do his writings and recommendations constitute Dogma, nor Canon Law. Due to Augustine’s rather debauched early life and his need to reject his own sensuality, as he wrote in “Confessions” which is still widely read today, his harsh recommendations were his prescription for combating the lust and sin so prevalent in his earlier life which of which he was extremely averse. In paragraphs 2360-2363 of the Catechism it is made clear that sex is for bonding a couple, bring joy a pleasure as a gift from each to the other, and that it must always remain chaste and open to life. There are no prohibitions on positions, or frequency – but there are prohibitions on using your partner solely for your physical gratification. In remaining open to life and chaste, marital sex must be performed with no barriers to contraception and only with the person to whom we are sacramentally bonded in marriage.

The “Progressive/Rationalist” view throws the Catechism out the window. People tell themselves that anything they want to do with their partner is OK regardless of whether it fits in the context of sacramental marriage. Masterbation, trying to avoid pregnancy by pulling out early, bringing other partners into your bed, and using your spouse for relief instead of in a mutual giving where both of you give the other a gift of themselves and the other graciously receives it – are right out.

Sex in a Catholic Marriage is a chaste expression of love, the giving of a gift of oneself to another and receiving that gift in return. We men especially, often fail here to recognize that 30 seconds of foreplay and 10 seconds of thrusting, followed by 8 hours of snoring does not constitute a gift to our wives. Such crude behaviour masquerading as marital intimacy only breeds resentment, distrust, and unhappiness in the recipient of your “gift” who you just treated like a common whore, or inflatable female facsimile. The marital embrace should always be open to life and a spiritually bonding experience for the loving couple. This does not mean that a quickie in the morning as a gift from your wife is wrong, so long as it is a gift freely given and not demanded. Such gifts are much more likely to occur if there is a whole-hearted attempt to return that gift at an appropriate time and place when you can focus yourself on returning that gift rather than your own gratification.

Exercised in the proper context and within the principles of the Catechism, the marital embrace can bring Husband and Wife both to new levels of both pleasure and intimacy – bonding them inseparably in the process. Outside the confines of the Catechism, sex becomes the greatest  weapon in damaging relationships that there is. Infidelity, using your wife as a receptacle for your lust, and making demands instead of accepting gifts do more to damage marriages than anything else I know of. Such actions destroy the trust and intimacy that is the basis for both Love and the sacramental marriage and hurt both parties physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you have concerns about a particular issue, then open the link to the Catechism above and see if it qualifies there as well as being loving gift to your spouse which is open to life. Ask yourself if you are having to apply pressure to your spouse. Even fearing your anger, disappointment, or disapproval will constitute an inability on her part to give herself freely to you. Take the time to learn each other both physically and emotionally and let your wife surprise you with her gifts. I assure you, a woman in love can be more creative than you can imagine in your wildest fantasy when she wants to please you. You should be setting an example for her to follow.

I know this post will likely produce a plethora of comments and additional questions, I welcome all of them – but ask that you keep them civil and polite.

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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