The loss of fertility in our Catholic marriage: the grief, shame, and sorrow

Adrienne and I “met” on Instagram and became (long-distant) friends offline. When I found out about her story, I asked her to share here, because it’s the perfect example of why we shouldn’t make judgments about other people’s family size, because we very rarely know all of the details.

Nobody gets married and expects to deal with pregnancy loss, infertility, and even the complete loss of fertility. So often couples experience hard things and think they are the only ones, but that is never the case. That’s one of the reasons we started Surprised By Marriage. Through the crosses we experience, God can draw us closer to him and closer to each other. -Jen


It wasn’t something we saw coming. I didn’t even know the disease had been silently destroying me for years until 2015, when I was 32 years old. By then, we had already lost so much.

My husband and I were married in 2009. We had committed ourselves to a chaste relationship so our honeymoon was deeply special. We also brought home a tiny souvenir, though it would be two more weeks before I got a positive pregnancy test. 

Three months after the birth of our oldest daughter, we got pregnant again. This would come to be the first devastating loss we’d go through as a couple. At thirteen weeks pregnant, I lost our son. My husband baptized him in our bathroom, and we buried him at the Veterans cemetery where the sun rose and set just behind his grave everyday. 

Watching my husband cry as he baptized our first son in our home is burned in my memory forever. Losing our sweet John really taught us both how fragile life is. We both learned what a blessing both pregnancy and birth are. I would like to say the loss brought us closer, but this first loss taught us how not to grieve and process a miscarriage. We isolated ourselves from one another and failed to check in on each other. We didn’t come together in prayer. We were so broken in our grief, we were just trying to survive. It wasn’t until later that we circled back and admitted our mistakes during that time. 

The pain from adolescence returns

We would go on to have two more girls. As a teenager and young adult, I always had terrible cycles, which caused me deep embarrassment and shame. While the difficult cycles eased during the first couple of years after marriage, they became increasingly terrible again after our second daughter was born. After each birth, when my cycles returned, they were worse than before.

Following a very difficult pregnancy, our third child was born in December of 2013. Shortly after her birth, our daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive. By the time she was five months old, she had already been admitted to the hospital for RSV and had significant health issues. Our other daughters were ages 4 and 2 at the time. Needless to say, life was overwhelming.

In June 2014, my husband was unexpectedly deployed. Days after his departure, I found out I was pregnant again. 

That night after testing, I miscarried again at five weeks. I could not deal with another miscarriage while my husband was gone. Without realizing it at the time, I went into denial and thought it was a false positive. He came home four months later, and soon after, we were pregnant again. Despite our youngest being less than a year old, we were thrilled. It was Thanksgiving morning when we found out, and I’ve never been more grateful on a Thanksgiving.

A pregnancy of joy and sorrow

That pregnancy, more than any others, felt laced with the Divine. There was a very distinct taste of Heaven during those first few months. I have never in my life been that completely joyful. I truly believe the Lord was preparing me for what was to come. 

In 2015, eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, I lost our second son. It was our third and most devastating loss. I found out at a routine appointment, when the Doppler was silent again. I remember screaming over and over, “Please, God, not again!” That night, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery for an induction as a woman labored and gave birth to a healthy baby next door. 

I felt as though I lived a sample of Christ’s Passion that night. My soul was burning in anguish as I labored through the night. A piece of me died that day. I didn’t understand why fertility and birth came so easily to some women but was so terribly hard for me. I wept to my husband, “What’s wrong with me?!” 

Finally, some answers

After my stillbirth, I finally started getting answers at a follow-up with my gynecologist. I found out that I had a clotting disorder, as well as endometriosis with adenomyosis—which is basically endometriosis’s evil sister. 

Unlike endometriosis, which is uterine tissue that grows on the outside of the uterus, adenomyosis grows within the walls of the uterus, slowly eating away and destroying the organ itself. There’s no treatment and no way to do corrective surgery (which can be done with endometriosis). With severe cases, most women end up needing a hysterectomy. My doctor told me I’d probably end up needing one, but that I had a good five years before then. I wish that had been true. 

A month later, in August of 2015—thanks in huge part to our Creighton provider and my gynecologist—we found out I was pregnant again. My anxiety was extremely high during that pregnancy. I was on blood thinners, progesterone, baby aspirin, and extra methylated folate. My prayers for a healthy baby were both constant and desperate. I needed this child to survive. 

One late night in April of 2016, after laboring for several hours, I gave birth to my third son. I held my son to my chest as both of us cried. I had finally given birth to a healthy son. God is so good.

Adenomyosis and its destruction

My cycles returned that summer, but my health deteriorated quickly. I was in bed all the time in immense pain. It wasn’t until November that I had another laparoscopy to remove endometriosis. My gynecologist found almost none…but he did find that the adenomyosis had eaten a hole through my uterus and destroyed it. My Creighton provider said that between my charts and laparoscopy results, we were sure to lose any pregnancies if we were even able to get pregnant again. 

My health continued to worsen. I could no longer get out of bed most days. My entire abdomen was in debilitating pain, and I was hemorrhaging. In an emergency appointment, my doctor leaned across his desk. “I know you wanted a larger family. I’m sorry. But we have to do this.” He was crying. I grabbed my husband’s hand and wept. 

The surgery was scheduled for his next available operating day. In the few days between, I begged for a miracle and pleaded for another answer. Proverbial doors and windows slammed in my face. I felt deep sweeping grief and shame. As a Catholic wife and mother, I felt I had failed. As I prayed through the emotions and we sought counsel from two priests, my husband patiently stood as a sounding board to my thoughts while affirming me we were doing the right thing—the only thing left to do. I needed a hysterectomy.

The morning of the surgery, I felt surprising peace. My doctor kept comforting me. My husband prayed with me. The day before, I had received Anointing of the Sick. I felt as ready as I would. Just before being wheeled back, I took my last pregnancy test. 

The grief and shame of hysterectomy

For the year following the surgery, I felt deep shame at the loss of my fertility. There were no books that I could find by Catholic women in my situation. Many Catholic women asked when we were going to have more children. Someone told me that having a hysterectomy was against Church’s teachings and another told me I’d committed a mortal sin.** This just added to my grief, pain, and shame.

During it all, my husband stood by, affirming me that my womanhood was still precious, insisting that I’d been brave and strong. He was angry for me and grieved with me. My husband accepted with great peace and saintly strength the cross laid upon our shoulders. Looking back, I’m grateful for his strength and prayer during my physical and emotional recovery. He truly lived out, in his quiet way, “in sickness and in health.” It taught us the importance of communicating our feelings and being receptive to the other’s feelings. We realized how critical it is to check in on one another. While we did the best we could, there are always lessons on how we can be more fully present for our spouse. 

I don’t feel the shame of the hysterectomy anymore. I can talk about it and feel the pain without it paralyzing me. The grief of losing my babies and my fertility will probably hurt for the remainder of my time in this life. But I’ve learned this over and over: God never lets Satan win. He always brings greater good out of suffering. Though I may never see it on this side of Heaven, joy always comes in the morning. 

Adrienne Stravitsch is an Army wife and mother of four children on earth. She has experienced multiple pregnancy losses as well as infertility. When she’s not homeschooling or loving on her husband and children, she can be found with her nose in a book or writing behind a keyboard. You can find her on Instagram @stravgirl, or her blog, Trust with Wild Abandon.


**Church teaching regarding a hysterectomy is explained in this post on the Vatican’s website (as a follow-up to this document). A hysterectomy is licit when medical experts deem the uterus incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.

To the small Catholic families: God loves you too

Everyone knows about the verse in Genesis, where God commands Adam and Eve to have children:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’…”

Genesis 1:27-28b, Revised Standard Version

The very first thing God told Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply! We vow on our wedding day to be open to children. Not enough is said about the importance of the dual purposes of marriage (procreation and union of the spouses). Marriage is rightly ordered towards having children and educating them. 

But what if a couple is not blessed with children? Are they less loved by God? Is their marriage somehow not living up to the command to be fruitful and multiply?

Of course not. Unfortunately, couples who are unable to have children are often left behind and forgotten. There seems to be this underlying notion that in order to be a good Catholic couple, you need to have all the babies. And that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Sometimes God doesn’t send all the babies

The truth is God doesn’t give a bunch of babies to every couple. Sometimes he doesn’t send any. But it has nothing to do with how much God loves that particular couple or with them not being fruitful. It’s all about what God wants you to do and how he wants you to bring his love to the world. 

Married couples with no children or not as many children as they would like still have so much to offer the world and to the Church. God has a big plan for you, whether you have one kid or ten kids. But we can’t know how God is calling us to be fruitful if we’re too focused on what God hasn’t given us.

If you are a couple who wants children and it just hasn’t happened, this post is for you. If you are a couple who has children but not as many as you hoped for, this post is for you. If you’re struggling with knowing what God wants you and your spouse to do because the babies aren’t coming, this post is for you. If you think all you’re supposed to do in life is get married and have babies, this post is for you.

Your marriage can still be fruitful without children

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there is a section on “the openness to fertility.” The Catechism quotes St. Pope Paul VI by saying children are “a supreme gift of marriage” and that “it is in them that [marriage] finds its crowning glory.” For a couple without kids, those words can sting a little, right? A lesser known quote in that section, though, is paragraph 1654:

“Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.” 

Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1654

Yes, children are blessings and contribute to the good of parents. But even without children, your marriage can still be fruitful. 

St. Pope John Paul II talks about marriage in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and refers to St. Pope Paul VI’s quotes about children. But he also adds this:

“It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal life does not for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor or handicapped children.”

John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, no. 14

St. Pope John Paul II spent much of his priesthood with couples and knew intimately the struggles in marriage. (How else could he have written Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body??). He must have known many couples who struggled with infertility and knew that they could still (and did) live fruitful and meaningful lives. 

Marriage isn’t just for procreation

If you read more of St. Pope Paul VI’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes (which is quoted in the Catechism, as mentioned above), you’ll also read this:

“Marriage to be sure is not instituted solely for procreation; rather, its very nature as an unbreakable compact between persons, and the welfare of the children, both demand that the mutual love of the spouses be embodied in a rightly ordered manner, that it grow and ripen. Therefore, marriage persists as a whole manner and communion of life, and maintains its value and indissolubility, even when despite the often intense desire of the couple, offspring are lacking.”

Paul VI, Gaudium et Spes, no. 50, emphasis added

Your marriage is not worth any less if you don’t have children, and St. Josemaría Escrivá has a beautiful response to this. When asked his opinion about the meaning of the lives of childless couples, he said:

“If in spite of everything God does not give them children, they should not regard themselves as being thwarted. They should be happy, discovering in this very fact God’s Will for them. Often God does not give children because He is asking more. God asks them to put the same effort and the same kind and gentle dedication into helping their neighbours as they would have put into raising their children, without the human joy that comes from having children. There is, then, no reason for feeling they are failures or for giving way to sadness.”

Josemaría Escrivá, Conversations, 96

Read the rest of his answer here

God is writing your story through infertility

It’s hard to see what God is doing in the midst of the pain and suffering of infertility, but God uses everything. Many couples are able to look back on their journey of infertility and see the blessings from it. 

One couple sees infertility as a blessing because it led them to their two adopted sons. 

My friend realized (through her infertility journey) that she has other gifts that bear fruit.

Because of our experience with infertility at the beginning of our marriage, we were able to be more available to family and friends, especially those with children. We were able to serve our community and church in ways that are more difficult now that we have children. We were able to be foster parents in a world that desperately needs them. We learned not to judge a family by its size, because we knew firsthand that infertility and pregnancy loss are not always visible to an outsider. Because of infertility, we are better spouses, better parents, and better members of our Church community.

And now that we’re experiencing secondary infertility, we know God has a reason for it. Maybe it’s because he has something else in store for us, or maybe he’s asking us to grow in trust. Either way, our family is perfect exactly how we are, because that’s what God intended for us at this precise moment in time.

To all the small Catholic families out there….God loves you too. More than you will ever know this side of heaven.

“God in his providence has two ways of blessing marriages: one by giving them children; and the other, sometimes, because he loves them so much, by not giving them children. I don’t know which is the better blessing.”

– St. Josemaría Escrivá

What to do if you can’t go on a marriage retreat?

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If you’ve been following us for a bit, you know that we are big fans of marriage retreats. We try to go on one every year because it’s the perfect time to connect with each other and evaluate our marriage and family life.

But we hear all of the time how impossible it is for some couples to go on a retreat. They don’t have anyone to watch their kids. They don’t have any retreats offered in their area. They can’t find a good weekend to get away. They can’t leave their baby or special needs child for that long. 

There are numerous reasons why a couple can’t go on a retreat, and we totally get it.

What if you could go on a mini retreat in the comfort of your own home every single month?

What if you could meet one-on-one with an experienced and knowledgeable couple each month?

What if you had a community of other couples striving for holiness and joy in their marriage?

Well, friends, something like that actually exists. And it includes even more too!

Let us introduce you to our friends, Nathan and Sarah, the founders of Cana Feast. Here’s a little about them:

SarahandNathan

 

“We are Nathan and Sarah Bartel, married 20 years, with five beautiful children. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in theology, and Nathan has a Master’s degree in philosophy. After hitting some rough patches from the strains of life, marriage retreats gave us the skills and inspiration to find deeper joy and greater passion. We’ve been teaching engaged and married couples about how to strengthen their marriages for over 10 years. We are now on fire to bring that transformation to as many other couples as possible.”

 

 

Enter Cana Feast, their membership community for Catholic married couples. This is how they describe it in a nutshell:

“Cana Feast inspires Catholic marriages with greater joy and purpose. Couples nurture their relationship, walking the path of marriage discipleship with Jesus at the center. Every month we dive into a theme with a monthly virtual retreat night, a guest experts interview, a coaching call, and a resource review .pdf. Previous themes include Finances, NFP, Dates, Romance, Dreams and Goals, Love Languages, and Marital Intimacy.”

If you need help keeping your marriage a priority, Cana Feast is for you.

If you need guidance in how to live an authentic Catholic marriage, Cana Feast is for you.

If you want to grow into the husband and wife God created you to be, Cana Feast is for you.

For $24 a month, you get access to the Cana Feast community and all of the benefits we’ve described. That’s $288 a year for a priceless resource for your marriage. (Or you can pay $250 for an entire year upfront, at a 10% discount!)

We pay $275 to $325 to attend a marriage retreat each year, because our marriage is worth it. We have a date night category in our budget because our marriage is worth it.

Is your marriage worth $24 a month? $288 a year? Absolutely. For the convenience of accessing it straight from your home, it’s definitely worth it. 

If you’d like to join Cana Feast and use our link below, we will send our Date Night Guide as a thank you to anyone who signs up with our link! Just send us an email. 

**UPDATE 6/8/20: Cana Feast doors are now closed!**

Registration is only open until Sunday, June 7! If you’d like to get a taste of Cana Feast’s virtual retreats, you can sign up for their free marriage workshop, Catholic Marriage Joy. We used it in place of our marriage retreat this year (which was cancelled twice), and it was such a great alternative. (The workshop is only available until June 7 as well.)

Click here to join

Have any questions about Cana Feast? Let us know in the comments!

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Do you trust your husband to pick your clothes?

A couple of years ago, my husband saw a post about a man picking out his wife’s clothes for a week. He wanted to do it. I was a little hesitant. After all, I’m a big fan of t-shirts and flip flops (because it is hot here in Louisiana most of the year) and just knew he would want me to wear skirts and dresses. But I decided to be brave and let him choose my clothes for an entire week.

My husband, Logan, actually loves to pick out my clothes…but normally, I reserve that for date nights. (Our favorite date is the Goodwill date—we pick out each other’s clothes at Goodwill and then wear them to lunch/dinner.) But letting him pick out my clothes for 7 days?? That’s a much bigger commitment and requires a lot more trust.

We learned a lot from that week of him picking out my clothes, though, so I’m glad we did it. I realized he has pretty good fashion sense and that I needed to trust him more. He learned that it’s hard to pick out clothes for a woman every day and that I actually do trust him. It was pretty fun, too! Here are the pictures (selfies because Logan was usually at work once I was dressed) from that week in 2017, with commentary:

2017 day 1
Totally something I would wear normally, so it was a good start

2017 Day 2
Inward groan because I had never worn this…but turns out it’s pretty cute and comfy

2017 Day 2 part 2
I went out for dinner with friends that night so obviously Logan wanted to pick another outfit…and it was another dress I had never worn

2017 Day 3 take 1
He picked this (the skirt I had never worn) for me to wear to a birthday party an hour away  with our 3 kids while he was at work so I convinced him to let me wear this to vigil Mass later that day

2017 take 2
This was much more appropriate for a kids birthday party

2017 Day 5
I had worn this a month earlier to a wedding so it was weird wearing it on an average day

2017 Day 4
Another fancy dress on an average day, which was weird

2017 Day 6
One of my fave outfits…so I was happy

2017 Day 7
Logan borrowed this from a friend and I was not a fan (if that’s not obvious, ha)

 

Since we are stuck at home due to COVID-19, we thought it was the perfect time to bring back the “husband picks wife’s clothes for a week” challenge. It made things a little exciting each day, and we had fun with it again. In case you missed us posting about it on Instagram, we wanted to share about it here…and encourage you to try it too.

Since Logan knew I wasn’t thrilled about dressing up every day back in 2017 (when I was actually leaving the house), he decided to mix it up a little bit this time with some casual clothes. Thankfully.

 

The gist of the challenge:
  • Husband picks out wife’s clothes for 7 days
  • Husband must have wife’s best interests at heart (keep it classy, basically)
  • Take a picture of what he picks every day. You will want to remember this!

 

Now for pictures from this past week!

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It was unusually chilly this day, so Logan had to pick jeans. I hadn’t worn them in a couple months!

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Repeat shirt from 2017 because it’s one of his fave shirts on me and I don’t wear it often

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A dress that I didn’t want to wear all day…but it’s cute

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Another favorite shirt of Logan’s that I never wear

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This was Sunday, and since we’ve been dressing up every Sunday to watch Mass, he picked a fancy dress. I convinced him to let me change after lunch…

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He picked this for the rest of the day on Divine Mercy Sunday since he knew I wanted to be comfy and wear this shirt specifically

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Yet anther shirt Logan likes that I don’t wear very often

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A repeat from 2017 and I had probably only worn this once or twice since then…but maybe it will become one of my faves now

Logan’s thoughts
  • “You should trust my opinion more”
  • “I like to see you in things other than just t-shirt and shorts”
  • “The variety in clothes helps me focus on you more”
  • “I like you getting dressed for the day…as opposed to just bumming it.”

 

My thoughts
  • I should let Logan pick out my clothes more often
  • Dressing nice (even when I’m not going anywhere) is an act of love for Logan
  • How I dress affects the way I feel
  • I need to just wear things I’m not 100% comfortable with instead of letting them sit in my closet…because they’re not as bad as I think. And it just so happens that Logan loves them!

 

Since I don’t take very many risks when it comes to my wardrobe, it was a great time to trust Logan and let him show me what he enjoys seeing on me. It also made me realize that dressing nicer really does make a difference in my day and how I approach it. I was more motivated to get things done!

So what do you think about letting your husband pick your clothes? Or if you’re a guy, would you want to pick your wife’s clothes for a week? Let us know your thoughts!

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7 ways to foster your marriage while stuck at home

Although this post is inspired by the craziness caused by COVID-19, this is still applicable to couples who just had a baby or are dealing with illness or any other situation that keeps you stuck at home.

It’s actually the perfect time to focus on your marriage when you’re at home for an extended period, because the list of distractions is a lot shorter. And there might be a little more, um, issues that arise since you’re in close quarters. So here are some ways you can foster your marriage while stuck at home:

1. Pray together.

We say this all of the time, and we will say it forever. Praying together every day helps you grow closer together and closer to God all at the same time. It improves communication and helps you to get more on the same page. If there is one thing you do for your marriage during this time, make it this one!

2. Have a date night in.

You know we’re big fans of going on dates (check out our date night guide!), but what if we can’t go anywhere? Make a night at home special (which we do talk about in our date night guide). The key is to make it different than any other night at home! We try to put the kids to bed early so we can have extra time together. We pick a fun activity to do and a special treat to share. This may require some creativity, but that just makes it extra special. For an extra twist, pick a theme for your date night in! Check out our freebie to help you with themed home dates. 

adult alcohol blur candles
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

3. Do something new together.

This is a great time to find a hobby to share together – baking (we made a cake together once! Watch that video here), crafting, cooking, exercising, building…whatever it is that you’ve never done together before.

4. Play a game together.

Cards, board games, or you could do something like the “not so newlywed” game! Ask each other questions and see if you can guess what each other will say. Check out our “fun and games” playlist on our YouTube channel for some ideas. We also have a freebie to help you play the “Him or Her?” game!

man and woman sitting on grass playing cards
Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com

5. Work on a project together.

We’re using this time to do some of the things we’ve been meaning to do. Clean up the yard, paint, create a prayer space in your home, etc. It’s so nice to work on something together and see the results!

6. Go outside together.

Some fresh air really helps, especially during stressful times! We’ve been praying a rosary outside together by our Mary garden, and it’s so nice. You could go for a walk, work on the yard together, etc.

clouds countryside couple daylight
Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

7. Do marriage enrichment.

Read a marriage book, listen to a marriage talk, or watch some marriage videos. We should always be learning more and be willing to grow in our marriage! Check out our recommendations page or our post of what Catholic couples can do during Lent for some resources. 

We hope those ideas will help get you thinking! Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

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40 Days of Loving Your Husband

Over the last 10+ years of marriage, I’ve noticed something. My marriage is doing the best when I’m being intentional about doing small things for my husband. It doesn’t even matter how small—what matters is that I’m doing something

I used to be that wife who always wanted my husband to do more, to be better, to love me in certain ways that he seemed incapable of doing. (Okay, I still have my moments…) But what I’ve realized is that he wasn’t intentionally not doing all of those things. He simply needed a little love first!

 

Do one small act of love each day

That was the inspiration behind 40 Days of Loving Your Husband. (Sorry guys, this is for the ladies…but you will appreciate it!) For 40 days, you can pick a card with a simple act of love to perform for your husband. Just cut out the cards and put them in a basket! If picking a random thing isn’t your jam, there’s also a checklist with the same 40 items. Pick one yourself to do and check it off the list. The whole idea is to do a small act of love each day.

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This can be done during Lent (although Sundays aren’t included in the 40 days), whenever your marriage is in a rut, or during a period your husband needs some extra love and affirmation. Some of these acts of love may come naturally to you, while others may be completely out of your comfort zone. But it’s important to make time for your husband and your marriage each day. Small things really do make a difference. I know that when I’m doing little things for my husband, he notices. And he reciprocates in a big way!

Try the 40-day challenge and see if you notice a difference in your marriage. To purchase, click the button below…

 

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What you can do during National Marriage Week

Every year,  February 7-14 is recognized as National Marriage Week. It really is the perfect time to celebrate the gift of married life and to show appreciation for our spouse. It’s also a great idea to do a little extra something when it comes to nurturing your relationship together. And in case you wanted some ideas on exactly what you can do during National Marriage Week, we have some ideas…

1. Pray for all marriages.

This includes your own! We need strong and faithful marriages more than ever, and since prayer is so powerful, we need to make sure we’re praying for all marriages.

2. Show love and appreciation for your spouse.

How you do this can vary widely, but we always look to each other’s love languages for inspiration.

3. Plan a date night.

Even if you think date nights aren’t necessary in a marriage, it’s still good to get out together every once and awhile! Date night doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to be intentional quality time for just you and your spouse. Check out our date night guide for more thoughts and tips!

4. Read a marriage book together.

We share some favorites on our Recommendations page, but there are so many more to choose from! Reading together provides the perfect opportunity to have some great conversation.

5. Choose an enrichment program to go through together.

Just like certain professions require continuing education, we should be doing the same with our marriage! There’s an extensive list of enrichment programs at the USCCB’s website, For Your Marriage, here. We can personally vouch for how amazing United in Love is, which we did a couple years ago through our church parish. It was so fruitful!

6. Listen to a marriage talk.

Dr. Brant Pitre has some great ones (like this one and this one), and there are plenty others one to be found on Formed.org by Venerable Fulton Sheen, Dr. Scott Hahn, and others.

7. Book a marriage retreat for the upcoming year.

We love retreats! Here are 10 reasons why you should go on a marriage retreat. We also share why we try to go on a retreat every year in this video: Why We Retreat

8. Do an online 7-day marriage retreat.

For Your Marriage posts a 7-day online marriage retreat every year during National Marriage Week. Here’s the 2020 one! You can also sign up to receive an email each day.

Do you have any other ideas?? Share them with us!

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Advent & Marriage: Ways to keep Advent sacred together

When we really think about it, Advent and marriage have so many connections.

In marriage, our goal is to get each other to heaven. Plus our relationship with our spouse is supposed to be a foretaste of heaven!

In Advent, we’re preparing not only for the birth of Jesus, we’re preparing for when he comes again. It’s a reminder that we need to be ready! We want to be with him in heaven.

So it makes sense that we should want to keep Advent sacred as a married couple. Here are ways you can do that:

1. Commit to a spiritual practice together.

  • Been wanting to start praying a daily Rosary as a couple? Advent is a great time to start.
  • Attend an extra Mass together during the week.
  • Pray an hour from the Liturgy of the Hours each day.

2. Read a book together.

  • Devotionals are big during Advent, and I helped write an Advent devotional for Catholic couples! Read more details here.
  • A book of the Bible counts as a book! Reading through one of the Gospels together leading up to Christmas is a simple but beautiful way to connect in a faithful way.

3. Limit screen time.

  • Normally watch TV every night together? Try to limit it to once or twice a week.
  • Put your phones aside when you’re together for a designated time each day.

Doing both of those will give you plenty of time to do any of the previous suggestions!


4. Don’t feel like you have to attend every party.

Seriously. It’s okay to politely decline an invitation, especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed. December is a crazy time, and if saying yes to every single event will leave you frazzled and forgetful of what Advent is all about…just say no. Keep each other accountable to this!


5. Go to confession.

We try to go every month, and that’s especially important during Advent and Lent! Make this a priority. Receiving this sacrament regularly has literally changed our marriage! (And if things start spiraling, it’s usually because one of us hasn’t been recently.)


6. Decide on which traditions to do this year, and shelf the rest.

Really, it’s okay. A couple years ago, Logan suggested we not take out our Jesse Tree (after struggling with it the previous two years), and I realized that he was right. We brought it back last year, and it went much smoother. Not every tradition will be right for your family every year—especially if you’re in a difficult phase with pregnancy, a baby, illness, or any other number of scenarios. Do what what works best for your family this year. But make sure you decide on that together!


7. Focus on the small things.

We tend to have high expectations of doing these fancy and elaborate traditions during December. But so often, it’s the little things that we remember. So focus on those—taking a few minutes to sit together listening to music, saying a prayer together as you light the Advent wreath, etc. We created a challenge calendar to help you focus on the small things, while keeping your marriage and Advent a priority. Check out the details here!

The important thing is that you keep Advent in Advent. Let’s keep Jesus at the center of this season. Christmas will come, and then you can celebrate!

What else would you add to list?

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Waiting Together – An Advent Devotional for Couples {2019}

Last year, some blogging friends and I worked together to produce our first Advent devotional for Catholic couples. We saw a need and wanted to fill it!

We initially weren’t planning on doing another one this year…but changed our minds at the last minute. So we’re a little later than last year, but we’re still in time for Advent. 😅

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Along with the ladies at Hail Marry, we updated the 2018 devotional to work for 2019. It’s the same format, so I’ll just use last year’s explanation:

Do you want a simple way for you and your spouse to prepare for Christmas together? Waiting Together is an Advent devotional specifically for Catholic couples! Each day in Advent, we give you the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection, questions to discuss together, and a prayer. That’s it! It will take you less than 10 minutes each day. (Most days will probably only take 5 minutes. Easy peasy, right?)

We did change up the design a bit, and we took out all of the challenges (Check out our Advent challenge if you want those!). Plus, we lowered the price!

Full disclosure: many of the reflections are the same from last year….but there are several new ones. And this year we are offering the first 3 days of the devotional for free!

Download a free excerpt

Click the button above to get the excerpt. 😊

Here’s a quick rundown of the details of Waiting Together:

  • 79-page color PDF download
  • Created for Catholic couples
  • Each week has a different theme (hope, faith, joy, and peace)
  • Each day has the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection to read, questions to discuss together, and a prayer
  • Starts on the first day of Advent and ends on Christmas

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We are so excited about this devotional, because one of our goals is to encourage couples to keep their marriage a priority while fostering a prayer life together…and this devotional helps you do exactly that!

👇 Click the button below to purchase

$4.99

 

You can print it out yourself or read it on any device. (I’m a big fan of emailing PDFs to my Kindle – here are instructions on how to do that.) Let us know if you have any questions! Happy Advent!

Advent Challenge for Catholic Marriages: Simple but effective

Advent should be a calm and peaceful time, but often it’s the busiest time of the year! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s very easy to get focused on shopping, parties, and everything else holiday-related.

But let’s not forget about our marriages.

Advent and marriage have a special link—both point us toward heaven.

Use this Advent season to draw closer to each other, to foster your relationship together, and to remind each other of the end goal—eternal life in heaven. And we’ve created something to help you do exactly that!

Enter: the 2019 Advent Challenge for Catholic Marriages. It comes with both a calendar and a guide!

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You can choose to just use the calendar, which contains a challenge each day to complete together. Or you can also use the blank calendar and fill in challenges of your own! Both have feast days listed. Then refer to the Advent marriage guide for more thoughts about each challenge.

Do not let these challenges stress you out. Skip a day, if necessary, or switch the challenges around to better suit your schedule. These challenges are to make sure you’re spending time together and praying together. Peace is the goal….not stress. 

The Advent challenge and guide is available in our shop! Add it to your cart by clicking the button below…

$3.99

 

We pray this will enrich your marriage and Advent season together!