July 2016



Faith and Marriage

By: Terri Lyke

How does faith factor into married life? Faith takes a marriage to farther heights and deeper depths than the couple themselves can ever go on their own resources. When the chips are down and married partners are trapped in disillusionment about their relationships, faith allows them to discover and rediscover new reasons to make it work.

Particularly in the early years of marriage, the transitory stages of the marriage cycle, romance, disillusionment and acceptance, are experienced as perennial. Until a couple really experiences what it takes to arrive at acceptance that proceeds disillusionment, the "for worse" part of their vows won't have practical meaning. Going through "worse" times often results in the dissolution of the marriage.

To have survived disillusionment and to have experienced the deepening of love in spite of or even because of difficulties hurdled gives a couple a track record upon which they build confidence. Their increased sense of surety in their marriage makes them better able to weather the next storm that is inevitable. This confidence allows the couple to "believe in" something that is beyond what they can see.

However, to get through the quagmire of disillusionment and experience the joy of acceptance, there must be openness to new goals, fresh dreams and seeing the relationship differently. This may be difficult when the vision of the marriage is built solely upon the agendas, collective though they may be, of the two partners. It may be very hard for a spouse to let go of a personal goal or lifelong dream for the sake of the marriage without feeling resentment.

To embrace change, new goals and dreams, faith becomes a third agenda, one that directs and reshapes their individual visions of the marriage. Faith transforms the marriage and pushes it toward a Godly relationship.

We believe that had it not been for faith, our marriage, now twenty-two years long, would have lasted at best five years. Our discovering the sacred in our relationship helped us to envision ourselves in a "'til death do us part" kind of marriage. By discovering and nurturing a spiritual life together, we have come to recognize a synergy in our marriage. Our marriage is much more than the sum of its parts, us. We can do so much more as a couple than we can as two individuals. We have found a co-creativity in us that we attribute to the third agenda of our marriage-faith.

When we consider choices we've made over the years that gave deference to our third agenda of faith, while negating our individual visions, we find the results of greater achievements, more fruitfulness, and tremendous growth in us. We've experienced transformation!

We see our marriage as a triad made up of us two and God. Picture a triangle with God at the top and the two spouses flanking the angles at the base. The closer the spouses are to God, the closer they are to each other. Through prayer as a couple, we live in the acknowledgment of God in our midst, and draw closer to God and each other.

To move toward God, our vision must be of more than our individual goals. It must also be more than our mutual goals. We must be open God's agenda.

We discern God's agenda by embracing the story of God, a story so promising and compelling that we claim it for ourselves. Through study, reflection, prayer, and action we find ourselves connecting with the story of God and becoming transformed by it. Our confidence in our relationship is grounded in our faith in God who pilots our marriage and takes us places we could never have dreamed of going on our own. It is not a sureness grounded in pragmatism. Sometimes our faith-choices just don't make sense from a practical stand point.

The truth is that we didn't really know what we were getting into when we said "I do" for better and for worse. Without faith to guide us and push us we never would have gotten through the "worse" and never would have known all the riches God has in store for us.

Copyright © 2016 by Terri Lyke and the Relationship Coaching Institute. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Terri Lyke is a nationally renowned Catholic leader in Family Life Ministry. She has been involved in ministry to the Church in America for over 30 years. With Andrew, her husband since 1975, Terri was part of a pioneering team of couples and priests that began PreCana for the Black Community in the Archdiocese of Chicago. In 2016 Terri retired from the profession of medical sonography after 38 years. Devoting her full attention to the work of strengthening families, she is now a licensed Relationship Coach, in association with the Relationship Coaching Institute. She is the mother of two married young adults and the grandmother of four granddaughters. For more information click here.

Ask Our Coaches

How can I get my husband's attention back?

Dear Coaches,

My husband is addicted to Facebook. He spends almost all of his free time at home on the computer and even when we go out he mostly ignores me and spends his time checking Facebook on his phone. I know he's communicating with a lot of old friends (including old girlfriends) and it makes me pretty jealous. How do I get him to pay as much attention to me as he does to his Facebook friends?

Lynn Goodacre

Lynn responds ...

I really hear how hard this is for you having your husband's attention focused on Facebook rather than on you and your relationship. Your suffering is compounded by your belief that he is communicating with old girlfriends which triggers feelings of jealousy as well as being ignored!

How would it be for you and your husband to sit down together and to talk more about this? Perhaps you could ask him to set aside a specific amount of time (even 20 minutes) to discuss this issue. Being curious about what he gets from Facebook would be a good start. Try to let go of any judgement and listen deeply to what needs are being met. Does he long for connection that he's not getting from your marriage? Does he need more novelty? Some people use Facebook recreationally, and others exhibit symptoms of addiction. Perhaps the two of you could do some research online about this and have an honest discussion about this.

What is your vision of how you'd like things to be with your husband? What did you enjoy doing together that has fallen by the wayside? Can you come up with some suggestions for fun activities or outings that you would enjoy together?

This would be a great time to reinvent your marriage so you’re both getting your needs met. A relationship coach can help to facilitate this discussion!

Lynn Goodacre | www.lovecoachlynn.com

Dave Wilder

Dave responds ...

We all crave attention from spouse. Your husband craves this from you as much as you do from him. Therefore, I suggest that you focus on listening to him intently. Ask open-ended questions and then listen with curiosity as he answers. Pretend that you don't already know him well and see what new information you can learn from him. Resist the urge to tell him what you think about the subject until he actually asks; and even then keep your comments short and look for the opportunity to redirect to what he thinks about a related matter. You want him to really listen to you because that is how you feel connected. So take the first step and really listen to him so that he feels connected.

Even the posts he is reading on FaceBook give you an opportunity to start this sort of dialog. For example, when he chuckles at something he read, you can ask him to share it with you. Then ask him to explain something about it. Be genuinely interested in what he says. Want to know more about what's going on with him. Give this a try, not once, but for a week or two. It may take several attempts for him to catch on that you are interested in him.

Dave Wilder | www.treasuredrelationships.com

Norene Gonsiewsk

Norene responds ...

In today's world there are countless distractions, including screen time. Whether couples intend to or not, it's easy to let our intimate relationships slide down the rankings and become a lower priority than checking Facebook. So how do we talk about this issue? The same way we need to talk about all of our issues, by taking ownership for our feelings and addressing our needs.

Conflict between couples often starts with one of us making a YOU statement. "You spend more time online than with me", maybe a true statement, but it is framed as a criticism or complaint, and not a request for what you need. We all too often assume our issues are our partner's fault and so we start up the conversation with a harsh accusation. Instead, approach the conversation with the end in mind. What is it you need more of from your husband? From your question it sounds like you need more connection and undivided attention. Those are legitimate human needs and how you talk about them will determine your success in getting them met.

Ask your husband to sit down and have a conversation with you about a need of yours. Ask him, if for this conversation could you both put away any devices that could be a distraction. Start off by saying that you realize that your issue with screen time is your issue. He is not bad, terrible or wrong for checking Facebook. Assure him you want to have a conversation in which you arrive at a win-win solution. You want to work out how to manage screen time (and any of your distractions he doesn't like), in order for you to meet your needs for connection and attention. Remember that you will not get your point across if you judge, attack, act defensive, use extreme language or become overly emotional. Those are all roadblocks to successful communication.

Be proactive. Identify your issue without accusation and make a request. State the request simply and positively. An example could be, "I ask that we have designated time each evening when we turn off all screens for an hour and have fun together. When we go out for date night, I would like us to leave our phones in the car." Be willing to negotiate a win-win solution that works for you both. Be patient, you will need to hear your husband's point of view with an ear for validating what he has to say. Trust the process, avoid the road blocks and eventually you two will learn to give one another more of what you need.

Norene Gonsiewsk | www.bendoregonmarriagecounseling.com/

The opinions stated are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the staff, members, or leadership of Relationship Coaching Institute.

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your question here and it will be forwarded to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.


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