“Hope for Troubled Marriages”
“Marriage is not for the fainthearted,” and “successful marriages don’t work on autopilot,” says “Hope for Troubled Marriages,” a Christopher News Note published this June. “After the ‘I do,’ personalities, opinions and interests must be balanced,” it comments.
It tells the story of Elaine and Gary, who began having serious communication problems a couple of years after marrying. She was “extremely direct,” and he “took a more roundabout route” in making a point. Their different communication styles took a toll on their marriage, with conversations turning ugly “over the smallest things.”
Elaine and Gary had “major hassles over matters from finances to sex.” A marriage counselor they met with “told them their communications differences affected their overall relationship.” Their parish priest suggested they “try harder to practice the virtues of humility and charity.”
The couple’s marriage survived, and 13 years later they describe their communication as better than ever. “Hope for Troubled Marriages” calls the couple “fortunate.” Realizing their marriage “was in trouble,” they sought help. But it says that in many marriages couples do not “recognize serious difficulties until both parties simply want out – and end up with a broken marriage.”
Poor communication is the top “reason marriages fail,” the publication states. It encourages couples not only to “talk daily,” but to laugh, cry, share the family’s joys, accomplishments, struggles and tragedies.
The Christopher News Notes are published by The Christophers, founded in1945 by Maryknoll Father James Keller. The News Notes address pertinent topics in encouraging ways designed to foster hope and responsibility.
The June News Note can be requested free of charge by calling (888) 298-4050.
Stephanie Raha, the Christophers’ editor-in-chief, commented on marriage in a separate June article. “Marriage is difficult, and raising a family is even harder. Marriage demands thinking in terms of ‘we’ for the long haul,” she wrote.
But “the rewards of the day-to-day efforts to achieve a happy home are wonderful,” Raha said. Moreover, fulfillment in marriage “is not only deeply personal, but intensely mutual — for the married couple and their children.”
Seven principles for couples to practice in the face of tough issues are presented by “Hope for Troubled Marriages.” The issues “can include a wide variety,” from finances, sex and chores to in-laws, parenting, gender roles or cultural differences.
Health issues, loneliness, religion and family tragedies are other tough issues couples face, along with “secrecy and, possibly, infidelity, domestic neglect and violence.”
In their efforts to negotiate tough issues in marriage, couples not only need to communicate well. They also must “fight fair,” not attempting to “win” an argument, and they should learn to forgive, says the News Note.
Other principles to bear in mind include the need to make joint decisions about important matters, to work at building intimacy and to rebuild trust when it is damaged. The News Note tells couples that “being honest and keeping your promises” are ways “to re-establish trust with your spouse”; couples are urged to “practice respect, while supporting one another’s goals.”
Finally, spouses ought to refrain from trying to change their mate. “Appreciate and respect your spouse’s personality, likes and dislikes, and personal history,” the News Note exhorts couples.
Most of the issues couples face “can be successfully handled with patience and persistence,” says “Hope for Troubled Marriages.” Sadly, however, “the same can’t be said for domestic violence.” It says, “For most cases, getting out of the relationship as soon as possible is the best — and sometimes the only — option.”
The News Note calls couples’ attention to three resources available to them: marriage counseling; Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which helps couples learn “a technique of loving communication”; and Retrouvaille, a program for couples experiencing serious marital problems.
A California woman quoted in “Hope for Troubled Marriages” comments that “marriage comes with a lot of peaks and valleys.” She says there are “plenty of mountains to climb.” She and her husband “thought about divorce many times.” One of the most serious of these times was when their older boys were teen-agers and her husband was “drinking a lot.”
Today, this woman and her husband have been married more than 50 years. She says they “had to work hard” on their marriage and that “having God as the center of our lives helped an awful lot.”