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For Your Marriage

Stephanie Calis is the author of Invited: the Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2021) and the Co-Founder of Spoken Bride, a ministry for Catholic brides and newlyweds (2016-21). She has been featured on EWTN, Brides, Family Foundations Magazine, and Blessed Is She, and wrote the USCCB’s National Marriage Week 2024 At-Home Marriage Retreat, “Love Beyond Words”.

Stephanie is a teacher who lives in Maryland with her husband, Andrew, and their four children. Sincerity is inspired by Saint John Paul II’s words that marriage reflects the human person as “a creature that God willed for his own sake. At the same time, he can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”

Eras (Marriage Version) and How They Can Offer Insight Into Your Relationship

Dear For Your Marriage Readers,

Hi! I write to you in the Easter season with new beginnings in mind. The entirety of my past experience writing on marriage has been both for and from a young bride’s perspective, but that’s not who I am anymore. I’m excited at this first-time prospect of sharing reflections from my current vantage point, deep into marriage and family life, over the coming year.

I’m also, it must be said, a big-time Swiftie. Whether you love her or otherwise, Taylor Swift’s cultural impact through the 2020s is undeniable–notably for her ambitious Eras Tour performances that span her entire career with a distinctive sound, aesthetic, and mood for each of her albums, or “eras”. 

While, of course, I never want to fall into hero worship–and want to state outright that a celebrity’s views do not unreservedly reflect my views or those of the Church–I’m grateful to Swift not only for seemingly turning all my teenage journals into poetry but for introducing the concept of “eras” into our cultural lexicon. I see value in identifying the particular graces, challenges, and growth opportunities unique to whatever season you and your spouse find yourselves in, both spiritually and relationally: What will this time in your lives be defined by?

There are eras throughout the liturgical year: The reverent anticipation of Advent. The joy of Christmas bursting through the dark of winter. The desert of Lent and the Triduum. Life renewed and Heaven opened wide at Easter. The quiet consistency of Ordinary Time. 

These rhythms invite us to look within, and to look heavenward, contemplating the life of Christ and the call of the Gospel. What’s more, marriage has eras of its own! There’s the joyful flurry of engagement, transitions into married life, fertility or infertility, and various stages of family relationships, on into middle and old age. When your marriage feels healthy and effortless, when you feel connected with your spouse, you enter more deeply into the Church’s seasons of joy and feasting. In times of suffering or desolation, you might carry the weight of what feels like the entire Old Testament. 

Whatever your own current season, I encourage you to listen for promptings of the Holy Spirit, contemplating the areas of your marriage and personal lives in which you’re being stretched, being nurtured, being reminded of masks you might wear, and your true identity in Christ that lies beneath. 

As humans, we find comfort and confidence in identity. Without it we’re left restless and disoriented: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for: The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God…He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”¹

Is this need for identity and belonging, written into our very creation, part of why we might be so eager to tell others we’re in our “[insert adjective] era?” Though our human experience could never be so neatly packed into a few choice descriptions, I do see the ways in which naming our season of life helps us make sense of it. An eras-mindset can offer a narrative framework for reflection and understanding, and can even illuminate the spiritual path ahead. 

So what era are you in right now, and why does it matter? Here’s why: naming and claiming this time in your marriage can draw your attention to the Lord’s will for you, both now and in the future. 

Consider this present moment, be it in your Newlywed Era, Parenthood Era, Empty Nest Era, or even an Abundance or Dark Night of the Soul Era. What is the Lord whispering in your heart? Where is He prompting you to direct your prayer and action? Who and what is He asking you to prioritize? 

Within the bigger, zoomed-out picture of daily routines and interactions between you and your spouse, there are moment-to-moment movements of the heart that can guide your relationship and family life: “All our moments are made productive by our obedience to the will of God…we have to do nothing except allow His holy will to work within us and surrender ourselves to it blindly with absolute confidence.”²

And consider, too, the moments to come. I often reflect on the present state of my marriage with hope for the future. Specifically, I ask myself what, in hindsight, I hope my husband and I will remember about both good times and hard times. Do we want to remember right now with fondness or with bitterness? What will this period in our lives look like and feel like? Most importantly, what fruits do we hope this time will bring forth?

Once we’ve identified our desires for this time, we have a hope we can then aspire to, while making a roadmap to achieve it: what practical steps will we take in our relationship and family life to cooperate with the Lord in His will, in prayer, sacrifice, action, commitments, boundaries, conversation, and beyond? 

This month, I encourage you and your spouse to reflect on the developments unique to whatever season–fine, whatever era–of marriage you find yourselves in. Having answered the call to sanctify one another, all the days of your life, meet your call with love and fortitude. For our ultimate future and forever era, is eternity–the heavenly wedding feast.

¹ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27.
² Jean-Pierre de Caussade, trans. John Beevers, Abandonment to Divine Providence (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 28.