Marriage in the News June 2009, available at:

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Marriage in the News

Marriage in the News June 2009

June 1, 2009
  • The type of support spouses need from each other
  • Pope focuses on marriage and family in Holy Family’s “home town”
  • The roof over our heads: Housing crisis impacts couples and families
  • Another vocation crisis for the Catholic community: marriage
  • California Supreme Court upholds ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage
  • What couples can do as couples when the recession strikes home

What Kind of Support Do Spouses Need From Each Other?

After two people marry, they are likely to seek a type of support from each other that they did not seek to the same degree before marrying, according to Daniel Molden, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Molden is finding through his research that married couples place a high premium on their partners’ support of whatever they determine to be necessary obligations. Married people need their spouse’s support for fulfilling their responsibilities and meeting their commitments.

Before people marry, they tend to focus much more on supporting each other in goals that are future oriented than on goals related to the security and maintenance of their life together, Molden’s research suggests. But engaged couples may not suspect how strongly they will need each other’s support after they marry not only for reaching goals, but for maintaining the security of their life together.

“People planning to get married should think about not only how their partners support what they hope to achieve but also about how their partners support what they feel obligated to accomplish,” said Molden. He added, “We could end up with both happier marriages and more satisfied people in general.”

Prior to marrying, people turn to each other for support in the emotional ups and downs of life and during times of stress. They also want each other’s support for reaching long-term goals and achieving their dreams. Molden’s work indicates that married people still seek that kind of support from each other but that their well-being demands another kind of support as well.

Molden believes couples planning to wed would do well to discuss the need they will have as a married couple for this type of support, perhaps in a marriage-preparation program.

Many couples “don’t spontaneously think about whether their partner supports their fulfillment of responsibilities and obligations when deciding to marry. So I do think that it is something that perhaps should be more of a focus in premarital counseling,” Molden told this Web site.

For example, Molden said, if two people were asked individually “to describe what they felt their primary responsibilities were — both inside and outside of the relationship — and then whether they feel their partner supports them in accomplishing those responsibilities, this would provide an idea of whether that type of support is there. If it were lacking, couples could be encouraged to think about what their partner could do to improve support in this area.”

Before marrying, “couples could be encouraged to think about whether their partner is someone who will not only be on board with the long-term hopes and aspirations they have set for themselves, but who will also appreciate and assist in the more immediate responsibilities they believe they must manage from day to day,” he said.

Molden was the lead researcher in a study to be published in the July issue of Psychological Science. Northwestern University released the study’s major findings April 22. The research suggests that when marriages end in divorce, a key reason could be that the kind of support the spouses need from each other is not present in their marriage.

Pope Focuses on Marriage and Family in Holy Family’s Home Town

Visiting Nazareth May 14, the city in northern Israel that he called the Holy Family’s “home town,” Pope Benedict accented the key role married couples fulfill today in “the building of a civilization of love.” The pope’s visit to Nazareth coincided with the conclusion of a Year of the Family celebrated by the church in the Holy Land.

During a Mass in Nazareth, the pope encouraged families to recognize their “irreplaceable mission” within society. He explained:

  • The love of a married man and woman “is raised by grace to become a sharing in, and an expression of, the love of Christ and the church.”
  • The family, grounded in the love of a marriage, “is called to be a ‘domestic church,’ a place of faith, of prayer and of loving concern for the true and enduring good of each of its members.”

A glimpse is caught of the family’s essential role “as the first building-block of a well-ordered and welcoming society” when it is realized that “in the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end,” Pope Benedict observed.

Calling the family a “school of wisdom,” Pope Benedict said it is in the family that people first learn to practice “those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfillment.”

In his Nazareth homily, Pope Benedict turned attention briefly to each member of the Holy Family and the contribution to the family each was called to make. When he spoke of Mary, he focused on one of the themes of the Holy Land’s Year of the Family, the dignity and vocation of women in the home, the church and society.

Nazareth, the city of the Annunciation, “reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents,” Pope Benedict said. “Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that ‘human ecology’ which our world and this land so urgently need: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.”

The pope spoke next of Joseph, saying that from his “strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work.” In Joseph, “the carpenter of Nazareth,” Jesus saw that “authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate.” The world today greatly “needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph,” the pope added.

Finally, turning to the youthful Jesus, Pope Benedict said he wanted “to leave a particular thought with the young people” present. Vatican Council II taught that children play a special role in their parents’ growth toward holiness, the pope noted. He said, “In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love.”

Pope Benedict also spoke on marriage and the family during a Mass May 10 in Amman, Jordan. In his homily there, as in Nazareth, he accented the dignity of women.

“From the very first pages of the Bible, we see how man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God’s gifts and partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and spiritual, to our world,” the pope said. However, he continued:

“Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of women have not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. The church, and society as a whole, has come to realize how urgently we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the ‘prophetic charism’ of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold criteria of usefulness and profit.”

The Roof Over Our Heads: Housing Crisis Impacts Couples and Families

Every married couple and family knows how important a home is. In a major new paper titled “The Home Is the Foundation,” Catholic Charities USA describes a home as the place people “ground their lives, seek comfort and prepare themselves to participate as full members of our society through work, education and civic engagement.”

With its paper – called an “issue brief” — and a public briefing on Capitol Hill, Catholic Charities launched an affordable-housing campaign in early May. Catholic Charities states that it is the largest provider in the U.S. of emergency, transitional and affordable long-term housing services.

“Inability to find affordable housing is a major contributor to family stresses,” the brief states. A spokeswoman for Catholic Charities pointed out, for example, that a rise in domestic violence is among problems noted among people currently presenting themselves for services at Catholic Charities centers around the U.S.

“For many Americans the greatest housing problem is affordability,” says the Charities brief. “The cost of housing puts a strain on family budgets, making it difficult for them to dedicate resources to health care, education and job training, transportation, economic stability and other important social needs that help keep families strong,” it comments.

Families face “a multitude of problems” when they are unable to locate or maintain affordable housing, says Catholic Charities. Often the only choice for parents and their families is to “move frequently” – moves that can take a negative toll on the family members’ lives, the brief explains.

The home foreclosure crisis threatens many, Catholic Charities says. Today, this puts “even middle-class families at risk of imminent homelessness.” The Charities brief says that “as incomes stagnate and low interest rates reset,” many families no longer can afford their mortgage payments.

However, rental housing is not an affordable option for a great many couples, individuals and families. All too often people discover that “an affordable rental option is out of reach,” according to the Charities brief. It says, “In 2006 more than 9 million renter households paid over 50 percent of their income for rent, leaving a lesser share of remaining income for food, clothing, health care and other essentials.”

Driving home the bleak reality of today’s rental housing, the brief starkly states that “there is not a single community in the U.S. where a family working full time at the 2009 minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) can afford even a one-bedroom apartment.”

The Catholic Charities brief discusses homelessness, the housing challenge for immigrants, and how race and poverty factor-into the housing crisis, and the brief makes numerous public-policy recommendations.

Catholic Charities insists that “America’s affordable housing crisis is solvable” – that every American can be ensured access to “quality, affordable housing.” Its own commitment to affordable housing, says Catholic Charities, “rests upon the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of the human person and the value of the family.”

Another Vocation Crisis for the Catholic Community: Marriage

“Marriage is indeed a vocation, and it is at the crisis point in too many homes,” said Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore. Thus, the Catholic community today not only confronts a crisis of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, but a marriage vocation crisis as well, the archbishop noted in a recent column.

Archbishop Vlazny cited a recent article on the marriage vocation crisis by Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Mich. “We have a vocation crisis in America. This is not what you think. It is a vocation crisis in marriage,” Bishop Boyea wrote in the December 2008 edition of Faith magazine. He added:

“Many are no longer getting married — and too many do not see their marriage as a sacrament, a means of grace for themselves and their families. Yet marriage and family are the natural heart of our society and the spiritual core of our church.”

Archbishop Vlazny said that “successful marriages don’t just happen.” Instead, he wrote, they require “lots of care, attention and hard work.” The archbishop’s column appeared in the Feb. 12, 2009, edition of the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese.

“Today’s culture demands a quick fix for every problem,” said Archbishop Vlazny. He wrote, “With approximately half the marriages in the United States ending in divorce, the indicators signal that couples nowadays have little stomach for ‘toughing things out’ and working through their misunderstandings and grievances.”

The archbishop said an important question for married couples is, “What have you done for your marriage today?” Successful marriage, he continued, “simply doesn’t work on automatic pilot.” The archbishop pointed out the resources available on this Web site,

Given all the challenges involved in “maintaining a loving relationship and growing into a mature marriage, a little expert advice may help,” Archbishop Vlazny said. He called it “rather naive” to think that newlyweds “can simply go it alone.”

While acknowledging that “some of the demands and sacrifices that eventually creep into a person’s life in living out a serious commitment like the one embraced in marriage are hard,” the archbishop said they also are often “the source of life’s greatest blessings and satisfaction.”

Some matters “are more important than others in making a marriage work,” the archbishop wrote. He cited:

  • Communication: “Skills such as active listening, paying attention to feelings and learning tips for ‘fighting fair’ ease the burden.”
  • Commitment and common values: “Commitment helps us overcome those moments when we are tired, annoyed or angry with each other.”
  • Shared values: “Sharing basic values such as children, honesty, fidelity and putting family before work go a long way.”
  • Spirituality: “Last but not least, spirituality helps couples seek the deeper meaning of life, one not focused simply on pleasure, but the common good.”

Seldom do marriages “die overnight,” Archbishop Vlazny wrote. Rather, “they tend to fade away because people have not attended to one another, allowed things to slide and naively presumed that bumps on the road would not unsettle their journey together.”

A marriage that lasts means “never taking anything for granted and making sure each partner regularly and faithfully takes steps to support and strengthen the bonds of love and fidelity,” said Archbishop Vlazny.

California Supreme Court Upholds Ballot Initiative That Bans Same-Sex Marriage

The constitutionality of the ballot initiative known as Proposition 8 that amended California’s Constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman was upheld by the state’s Supreme Court May 26. California voters approved Proposition 8 in November 2008, thus overturning their Supreme Court’s May 15, 2008, decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

In upholding Proposition 8 and its ban on same-sex marriage, the California Supreme Court also upheld the legal status of an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples who married in the state during the period between May 2008 and last November’s balloting.

Speaking May 26 of behalf of California’s Catholic bishops, Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton lauded the court’s “confirmation of Proposition 8, which preserves the traditional understanding of marriage in the state’s Constitution.” But the bishops “are disappointed that the same court validated the interim same-sex ‘marriages,’” he said.

California’s bishops “believe — as do the majority of Californians — that marriage between a man and a woman is foundational to our culture and crucial for human perpetuity,” said Bishop Blaire.

The California Supreme Court’s majority opinion explained the court’s two principal conclusions — “that Proposition 8 constitutes a permissible constitutional amendment (rather than an impermissible constitutional revision)” and that it “does not apply retroactively, and therefore that the marriages of same-sex couples performed prior to the effective date of Proposition 8 remain valid.”

Six of the court’s seven justices concurred in the majority decision, and all agreed that the ban on same-sex marriages could not be applied retroactively.

The court said its decision does not address “whether the provision at issue is wise or sound as a matter of policy or whether we, as individuals, believe it should be a part of the California Constitution.” Instead, the court confined itself to determining “the constitutional validity and legal effect of the measure in question.”

The court’s new ruling comments on the fact that while same-sex couples will not be free to marry in California, they nonetheless remain able under state law to establish domestic partnerships that accord them substantive legal benefits and protections similar to those of marriage.

Bishop Blaire said the state’s bishops “are strongly committed to protecting the dignity and worth of every human person” and “endorse the intent of law to provide equal protection for all.” But, he said, “such purpose does not have to trump the natural and traditional definition of marriage between a man and a woman. The law has found other ways to regulate civil unions without destroying the traditional understanding of marriage.”

Same-sex marriage currently is legal in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. Gov. John Baldacci of Maine signed legislation May 6 allowing same-sex marriage in that state.

What Couples Can Do as Couples When the Recession Strikes Home

The wage cuts and job losses that are part and parcel of the global economic downturn are taking a toll on the well-being of married couples. “The recession is quickly and deeply affecting marriage and family,” according to John Farrelly, director of counseling for ACCORD, an agency of the Irish Catholic bishops’ conference providing marriage care at centers throughout the nation.

There is a notable rise in the number of couples seeking marriage counseling as a result of current financial pressures, ACCORD announced in early May.

In a mid-May interview broadcast by TV3 in Ireland, Farrelly encouraged husbands and wives suffering financial stress to continue to work together. He said men and women often find that when they work together they can get through a painful period such as this.

But Farrelly acknowledged this is easier said than done. And he cautioned viewers that people tend to hurt the person closest to them in times of trouble.

Moreover, he urged spouses under financial pressure not to slight their own value as persons, imagining that their human worth is diminished by the financial pressures they’re experiencing.

The skills couples need in the good days are the skills needed in days that are not so good, Farrelly said. The skills people employed to make a spouse feel special when times were better are skills they should continue to use in “bad times,” he advised viewers. Farrelly said people have the skills to get around “when the lights are on,” and they need to put those skills to work when they’re “in the dark” as well.

Cautioning couples not to keep their financial situation a secret from others who are close to them such as parents and family members, Farrelly said that people under financial pressure fear that others will criticize them. But couples may well be surprised by the compassionate response of others, he said.

In its early May report, ACCORD said financial problems have always increased stress on marriage and relationships. However, current statistics show an increase of 40 percent in this problem between 2007 and 2009, according to the agency. ACCORD released data showing that couples it serves are reporting a significant increase of problems at home due to financial pressures.

In the past, Farrelly said at the time of that report, “issues such as who was in charge of finances in a two-income family were to the fore. However, in 2008, and particularly in the first quarter of 2009, among the challenges now facing couples is how the family’s child-care and mortgage costs are to be met.” The stress on a marriage mounts when reduced income or the fear of unemployment leads to the fear that one’s home might be repossessed, he added.

Farrelly said that “in the first quarter of 2007 only 4 percent of males attending our service were unemployed, but this nearly tripled to 11.5 percent for the first quarter of 2009.” Twenty percent of ACCORD’s clients in 2007 “identified finances as a problem for their marriage, and in 2008 this rose to 25 percent. For the first quarter of 2009, this figure has risen to 28 percent,” ACCORD reported.

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Marriage in the News

Marriage in the News

David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.

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Marriage in the News June 2009, available at: