You can make date night happen: how to overcome obstacles and make the most of every date

We love going on dates. We go through phases where we’re really good about making it happen regularly. But then there are phases where it’s realllllly hard to make a date happen. Schedules are crazy, budget is tight, kids get sick…you know how it goes.

Over the years, we’ve gotten really creative when it comes to date night and have learned so much when it comes to making the most of every date. We also can identify with many of the obstacles that keep couples from going on dates (babysitting and budget!).

So we decided to write a Date Night Guide for Married Couples. It’s not just a bunch of date night ideas, because you can find that anywhere! (Okay, we did include some ideas, but that’s just lagniappe.)

We really wanted to share our thoughts about what we do on every date, how to make date night happen despite all of the obstacles, and to encourage you to keep trying to make dates a priority.

If you’re still not sure if our date night guide is for you, ask yourself these questions… 

Do you desperately want alone time with your spouse but having trouble figuring out how to make it happen? 

Do you feel like whenever you do go on a date, you’re not connecting with each other the way you should?

Do you want to make the most of every date night, whether it happens once a week or once a year?

Do you wonder if it’s even worth the effort to go on dates?

If you answered yes to any of those, this guide is for you. Whether you’re struggling to go on dates or you’re actually pretty consistent with it, there’s something in this guide for everyone!

This 22-page Date Night Guide for Married Couples (in PDF form) will help you do several things: 

    • Identify obstacles to date night
    • Get suggestions on how to overcome those obstacles
    • Make the most of your date night, regardless of how often it happens (this is our favorite part of the guide!)
    • Connect spiritually and emotionally
    • Consider other factors, like each other’s personalities, when it comes to planning dates
    • Brainstorm ways to connect when leaving the house isn’t feasible
    • Include your faith into every date night
    • Much more!

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We are both passionate about the importance of going on dates and know that they have contributed to both the emotional and spiritual growth of our marriage. It is our prayer that this guide does the same for your marriage!

$2.99

 

Our digital products are our main (and usually only) source of income for this ministry. So we appreciate your support! Check out our shop page to see other other products. 

Date night guide

Somewhere Beyond the Sea: My Vocation to Military Marriage

Every marriage is different, and we often want to share about topics we either have limited or no experience with. So that’s when guest posts come in! We’re excited to share this post from Victoria. She writes beautifully about military marriage and how to keep your marriage a priority when you’re far apart from your spouse.

 

Swing-Dancing Navy Man

I’m such a sucker for the old crooners. Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Bing Crosby. I love sifting through records at the thrift store looking for members of the Rat Pack. The songs are so powerful and soulful, and the simple lyrics make for energetic sing-along sessions with my hairbrush as a microphone.

But I’m especially a sucker for dancing. I’m obsessed. Swing dancing in particular. Twisting and turning and flinging each other around – it’s a controlled manic chaos, and when you get it right, to just the right song, it’s magic.

My obsession is to the point that when I started dating a cadet at the military academy next door to my liberal arts college, I told him that if he wasn’t up for learning how to swing dance, we probably weren’t going to make it very far.

Needless to say, he was a quick study. That may be why, six years later, I’m married to a swing-dancing Navy man.

 

Somewhere Beyond the Sea

As I sat down to write this, I put my Bobby Darin vinyl on the record player. His “Beyond the Sea” is a favorite of mine; even before I married a Navy man I would study while it was playing through my ear buds.

Somewhere beyond the sea

Somewhere waitin’ for me

My lover stands on golden sands

And watches the ships that go sailin’

It’s beautiful to consider a man traveling around the world, and the lover sitting on the shore waiting for him to come home. The loyal wife standing on the sands, waiting and longing. And I’m here to tell you – there are things this song captures perfectly about a man who goes away “sailin’” (in our case it sounds less pleasant – deployment). I do wait for him to come home. My heart longs for him to be back with me. I stand firm in my loyalty to him, even when he’s away. But standing around doing nothing on golden sands? Let me tell you. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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The Work of Marriage

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good beach day. A very human, very lazy part of me would love to just hang out on golden sands while my husband is underway. Watch the boats go sailing by…with a book in one hand and a margarita in the other…man, that sounds nice.

But my vocation to marriage doesn’t disappear when my husband’s gone. If anything, that’s when the work of the vocation gets really intense.

If you’ve found your way to this blog post, I probably don’t need to be the person who breaks the news to you that marriage is hard work. If you didn’t know, well, belated spoiler alert. Sorry. What I really want to emphasize is that, regardless of who you are or what your circumstances are, marriage is hard work. It’d be neat if it were all just swing dancing and beach days, but it’s not.

When we accept our vocation to marriage, we are accepting God’s call to sacrifice and commitment. The military life brings with it a unique set of sacrifices and challenges to that commitment (I’m looking at you, deployments and constant moving). It requires specific forms of intentionality and hard work. 

 

Tips for when Your Spouse is “Beyond the Sea”

Here are some things I’ve learned and picked up from our experience with the military. Some of these are from my direct experience, some of them are advice from others. We have been blessed in the sense that my husband has not yet done a long underway. He has done several periods of a few months away, along with many overnight and weekend long shifts, and that’s where my experience comes from. I also have lots of dear friends and family in the military who have shared their first-hand experience of deployments.

 

Your Vocation Comes First

This is something we say but is sometimes hard to live. The world tugs at us for our attention, but we need to let our vocation stand at the center. Since my husband is gone so often, I need to prioritize him in the time that he is available. 

This can mean dropping everything when he’s finally free for a phone call. It means canceling plans when he comes home a day early. For me specifically, it meant switching jobs so that my hours weren’t occupying that precious time when he was home from work.

 

Pray, Pray, Pray

Prayer is my strength!  When he’s gone, I lean on God so heavily through prayer. When I’m missing him or feeling lonely, I cry out for God’s grace. Deployments and underways are powerful reminders that the strength of my marriage comes from God and my relationship with Him through prayer.

Also, deployments are a reminder of how important prayer is to strengthen a vocation. Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing I can do for my spouse but to pray for him. I just want to love him, to serve him, to sacrifice for him, but there’s nothing I can do. In those moments, I pray.

 

Humility is Key

Marriage is tough. Deployments and underways are tough. I don’t always get it all right all of the time. My pride wants me to be able to be perfect all the time. Out of pride, I feel like I should be able to shoulder the burden of keeping things together at home while not falling apart because I miss him too much. But I just can’t keep that up all the time.

The Spirit teaches me in these moments the crucial importance of humility. I will fail, but that’s because I’m human (surprise surprise). I need God, and I long for my husband in my life. That’s how I was designed. In the moments when I’m less-than-perfect, I ask God for the gift of patience as I struggle through that time.

 

Plan Ahead

Intentionality and mindfulness is the key to a good period of separation. I’ve heard so many good ideas for this: writing letters to each other to be opened when you’re apart, leaving secret notes to be found, leaving gifts behind to be opened at certain dates, having plans for when things get overwhelming, creating a support network, praying together beforehand.

A wonderful spiritual mother of mine recommended that both spouses keep a loose schedule. For example: wake up, eat meals, and go to bed around a certain time. Say prayer at a specific time of day, like the Divine Mercy at three o’clock. If you do this, then even when you’re far apart, you can look at the clock and know what your spouse is doing. With prior planning, you can maintain connection and involvement in your spouse’s life even when you’re apart.

 

Be Patient When He/She Comes Back

This may be shocking, but sometimes the hardest part is when he comes back. Sure, when they’re first getting off the ship, there’s excitement and giddiness and joy. But when the initial happiness wears off, it can be really trying. When he was away, I established my own pace of life, living on my own. My own habits, my own routines, my own decisions.

However, with him back, I need to accommodate his life into my life all over again. Truly, it’s the bread and butter of marriage, learning how to love each other in those small, trying moments. It takes a little bit of time to adjust back to that mindset after he gets back from a few months away – and probably a whole lifetime to master.

 

“I know beyond a doubt”

As I’m re-listening to “Beyond the Sea,” I’m really struck by the following lines:

I know beyond a doubt

My heart will lead me there soon

We’ll meet beyond the shore

We’ll kiss just as before

I love the certainty expressed in these lines. Although deployments and underways are difficult, our marriage is rooted in faith and reliance on God’s grace. We know beyond a doubt that God calls us to live out this marriage. He gives us the grace to keep going in good times and bad. 

Our marriage is rooted in certainty and is the foundation of our joy. And that makes it all the sweeter when we “kiss just as before.”

 

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Victoria is a Navy wife who left her beloved Shenandoah Valley for wherever her husband’s chain of command might send him (currently beautiful, hot South Carolina!). Between the Navy and her newborn baby girl, this organized, plan-oriented girl is working to discover joy when the Holy Spirit throws her plans out the window. She’s an Ink Slinger for CatholicSistas, and also writes for the blog Housewife // Savagelife, which presents the eye-opening dialogue between herself and a prison inmate. You can read it here or on Facebook and Instagram: @housewifesavagelife.

When you’re resentful about NFP

Let me start off by saying that I am in no way minimizing anyone’s frustration with Natural Family Planning (NFP). I only hope to provide some insights and encouragement during those times of struggle. We’ve been there, so we get it!

Earlier this week, I wrote about 3 difficult truths regarding NFP and reasons why it’s still worth it. And I think a good follow-up to that is what to do when we’re becoming resentful about NFP. Because let’s be real, sometimes it’s really, really hard. I have some thoughts…

Sex is not everything in a marriage. 

It’s important, absolutely, but it’s not everything! And it’s really easy to forget that. The beauty of NFP is that it forces you (or it should) to be intimate in other ways – which is just as important. When Jesus said “the two become one flesh,” he meant it physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, and in every other kind of way. Those periods of abstinence give you the perfect opportunity to work on that. And contrary to what the world tell us, we don’t need sex. Just look at all of the awesome celibate priests and religious!

We will not find fulfillment in our spouse. 

This realization hit me during our most difficult period of using NFP last year. We should be seeking fulfillment in God. If we’re looking for our spouse to fulfill our needs, we will always be disappointed. God, on the other hand, does not disappoint. 

“To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not disappointed.” – Psalm 22:5 (RSV-2CE)

Reevaluate why you’re using NFP. 

This is going to be an unpopular thought, perhaps, but it is one of the biggest parts of NFP. We shouldn’t decide to use NFP to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy and then not discuss it with our spouse again until months later. NFP requires constant discernment! 

We’re using NFP because we are still open to another baby if God is asking that of us…or even be willing to wait to have a baby if that is what we’ve discerned is best. What may be a valid reason to avoid a pregnancy now may not be a valid reason in a year or two, and vice versa. Now that leads me to the most important part…

 

Prayer and NFP: the Forgotten Component

We cannot discern what God is asking of us without prayer. A couple should be constantly praying about this, individually and together. God may be asking us to be open to another baby. Or he may be asking us to wait. Or he might be asking us to bear fruit in other ways!

 

Our experience

There have been times when we’ve discerned that it is not a good time for me to get pregnant. But there have also been times where we felt God prompting us to be open even though we did not feel completely ready. Is it terrifying? Absolutely. I have difficult pregnancies, and the first year with a baby is also difficult for us.

But God knows what we can handle better than we do. A big part of NFP is trusting that God will plan our family better than we can ourselves. Even though Logan and I both don’t want to have a dozen kids (or even half that), we also know our circumstances could change. So we are open to change, and that’s only possible through prayer and God’s grace.

 

Ask yourself these questions

If you think your family is complete, ask yourself: Am I constantly praying about this? Are my spouse and I praying about it together? Do I see my fertility as a gift? Are we open to God’s will, even though we don’t necessarily understand it?

If you’re thinking about having another child, ask yourself: Is my marriage doing well? Am I giving enough to my spouse and children? Do we already feel stretched thin – emotionally, physically, and financially? Is God asking us to bear fruit in other ways?

It’s possible that God may be asking you to be open to a baby, despite less than ideal circumstances. It’s also possible that God may be asking you to wait, even though you don’t really understand why. Both scenarios are okay! The important thing is to bring it to prayer. 

 

Check your motivation

A big question that we should also ask ourselves: Are we being motivated by selfishness?

Many people assume that those couples avoiding pregnancy are being selfish. First of all, we can never assume to know what’s going on in another couple’s hearts or marriage. And trying to achieve a pregnancy can be selfish, depending on your circumstances. That’s why it’s so important to pray about it constantly!

If we are feeling resentment towards NFP, it may mean we have some more discerning to do. God doesn’t want us to be resentful – he wants us to be at peace. 

 

If NFP is your cross

For the couples who are using NFP to avoid pregnancy for extended periods or even indefinitely because of circumstances out of their control (i.e. pregnancy causing too much risk to the mother’s health and baby), pray for the grace to embrace your cross. Know that God sees you, loves you, and your suffering is not in vain.

But do know that prayer is still a vital component of using NFP. Even if God is not asking you to be open to a biological child, is he asking you to be fruitful in other ways? Adoption is one beautiful way, but there are plenty of other ways that your marriage can bear fruit. Bring it to prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you both.

 

Contraception is not a solution

It’s also important to remember that the alternative – using contraceptives – would not make everything easier. Contraception is unhealthy for us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Separating the unitive aspect from the procreative aspect of the conjugal act impedes our marriage vows because God created sex to be both unitive and procreative.

”These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2363

Dietrich von Hildebrand also makes an excellent point “that we cannot tailor the will of God to human desires or permit a sin just because avoiding it entails great sacrifice” (from the intro of his book Love, Marriage, and the Catholic Conscience). NFP can be difficult because of abstinence, but you’re still being faithful to God’s design for married love.

Just like striving for holiness isn’t easy (remember the narrow gate?), NFP isn’t always easy. You also may not see the fruits right away. But trust that using NFP is the best option for your marriage and your family…because it is.

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3 difficult truths about NFP (and why it’s still worth it)

When Logan and I learned Natural Family Planning (NFP) as an engaged couple, a lot of focus was put on the benefits of practicing NFP. And while people are thankfully being more open these days about the struggles of NFP, I wanted to share 3 difficult truths that Logan and I have realized over the years that weren’t discussed in our NFP classes. But make sure you keep reading to find out why we think it’s still worth it!

  1. There may be more abstaining than you think. People often say that you only have to abstain for about a week each month when you practice NFP. And for people with normal cycles, maybe that’s true! But I’m guessing many people don’t have completely normal cycles (*raises hand*). So during times we’re trying to avoid a pregnancy, we’re often abstaining for half of my cycle, and sometimes longer.
  2. You’re abstaining during the times you really want to have sex. Since one of the reasons sex exists is to procreate, it’s only natural that God created our bodies to want to unite during the times that baby-making is possible. Pheromones are real, y’all. Logan is more attracted to me when I’m ovulating! And the desire is greater for me during those times too. So the fact that we have to practice self-control during those times and abstain? Whew. Not easy.
  3. It’ll make you reconsider your reasons for postponing/avoiding pregnancy on a regular basis; pretty much every month, but usually more often than that. And depending on how crazy my cycle is being (which happens often, thanks to PCOS and other issues), we have to decide what kind of chances we want to take and really talk about why we’re choosing to abstain. It’s not really fun, if I’m being honest. (Because are we being selfish? Do we really have valid reasons to avoid? Am I truly being open to God’s will? All thoughts that cross my mind alllll the time.)

All of that being said…we love NFP! We appreciate this gift that the Church has given us. God wants us to discern what is best for our marriage and our family, and NFP plays a huge part in that. So it’s only fair to also share reasons why NFP is still worth it for us…and since we think the benefits outweigh the cons, we’re sharing even more reasons.

  1. It leads to more communication and prayer between us. This one particular night last year, we literally sat and talked and prayed for 20 minutes about whether or not we should have sex that night – because it was a potentially fertile day, and we were still not sure if we were ready for another pregnancy. 20 minutes! (In the end, we both discerned to go for it…and we were glad we did.)
  2. It helps us grow closer in other ways. During the times that we discern to abstain, we still want to connect in a special way. So we have to figure out other ways to do that! That’s led to some really fun moments playing games, working on projects together, reading a book together, or just enjoying each other’s company. Sex is a big part of marriage, yes, but it’s not everything.
  3. The waiting builds up anticipation. Call it a honeymoon effect, if you will. (Although I know some people disagree with this.) It’s really exciting to finally come together again after abstaining for a period of time! Of course abstaining is hard, but it does make sex even more special.
  4. There are numerous health benefits. NFP is completely natural, it helps you understand how your body works, and many women are able to identify health issues. Even if you’re not trying to achieve or avoid a pregnancy, using NFP is a great way to maintain health.
  5. We are constantly discerning God’s will because of NFP. It really has helped us continue to pray about what God is asking of us. NFP helps us plan our family, yes, but it also reminds us that we should be seeking God’s will in all things. Our fertility is just part of it!

So there you have it. Even though NFP is harder than we thought it would be, it’s still worth it for all of these reasons and more.

What’s a difficult truth you’ve learned about NFP? What’s a reason you think it’s still worth it?

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Bear the Whole Fruit Tray: Infertile, Still Fruitful

We have been so inspired by our dear friend, Mary, throughout her journey of infertility – and she is one of the reasons why we pray often for couples struggling with infertility. She’s sharing an important message about being fruitful in marriage, and we can’t wait for you to read it!

 

My husband and I love fruit. He even likes fruit for dessert. I would hardly classify a bowl of strawberries “dessert,” but pour some sugar, chocolate, and whipped cream on it and you’ve got yourself a sweet treat! The thing we get made fun of for the most is our love for pineapples. We’ll eat them fresh off the tree, sprinkled all over our pizza, or even grilled up and tossed on our hamburgers! Weird? Maybe. But yum? Yes. There is no shortage of fruit in the Bruno house, but some may not agree…

Chris and I officially met in 2010 and married in 2013. Growing up, we both naturally desired to be parents one day. It’s funny how we don’t typically classify having kids as a “dream” because most of us just expect to start popping them out when we’re ready. We were no exception. 

Our dating was characterized by both joy and pain due to my newly diagnosed chronic disease – endometriosis – and subsequent surgeries. But this only increased our growth in love and holiness. Chris truly became my knight as he flew with me across states for medical procedures and cared for me even before he put a ring on it. And two days before my third surgery, he did. 

Then Genesis 2:24 puts it best…

“Leave your father and mother and be united to your wife.” The author of the Bible said (in so many words), “Become one flesh.” He said…

So we did. And it has been bumpy but beautiful. I’m not trying to be cliché. Every marriage has struggles, and ours have made our marriage stronger and sweeter. We are just finishing up preparing our third engaged couple for marriage, and my favorite piece of advice to give each couple is to not be afraid of the potential hard stuff- you know, the sickness part of the “in sickness and health” vow. This is when you get the opportunity to choose love for your spouse and to fully live out your vocation the way it was intended. Suffering helps us to grow in unity more than anything else when we make a gift of it.

We learned that lesson quickly as we began to realize that we may not be able to get pregnant and my physical pain was slowly getting worse.

“Be fruitful.” He said. “Multiply.” He said.

But we couldn’t. Is He sure He wrote that correctly?

These words would mentally and emotionally beat me up over the years. God has designed for us this beautiful vocation of marriage where He invites us to become one flesh and experience a little piece of heaven on earth. But He doesn’t stop there. He allows us mere humans to be co-creators of new life with Him – to be present as He drops a fresh little soul into a fresh little human embryo. To bear fruit. It really is amazing.

Its amazingness is one of the reasons why infertility is so hard. Man, I just wish my body could do all those special little things that make conception and implantation possible! But it doesn’t. So those “fruitful” and “multiply” words made me feel insignificant – not because we weren’t actually being very fruitful, but because we couldn’t see it.

CCC 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.”

I eventually learned that being fruitful doesn’t just mean biological children. It’s far from it! Consider how fruitful priests and nuns are. It took awhile for me to get there because the focus for me (especially in Catholic circles) has always felt directed towards being open to life in the context of pregnancy, children, schooling, more pregnancy, more children, and then schooling again. These are beautiful events and desires, but when one cannot take part in those activities and conversations, it’s easy to feel insignificant.

Y’all, we are more than our ability to have and raise children. We are also more than our inability to do these things.

I know what some of you are thinking right now: “Ahh Mary, hold the phone -I’m pretty sure it is most important for me to bear children…” or something like that. I don’t know exactly the right answer, but I am challenging that idea. What does that say about me who cannot bear children? That God has preserved someone like me from doing something so important through no fault of our own? That I am not as important? That the fruits of my marriage will never be as good? I’m just not sure He works like that. So I’m simply encouraging us to look at it differently. 

Yes, bearing children is important. We need to populate the world. But that’s going to happen as many people continue to become parents. The focus should not necessarily be on the next child, but on this: “What is God calling us to do today?” Sometimes it will be to have another child, but sometimes it won’t. It can be just as selfish to desire another child as it can be to decide to be done growing your family.

“Open to life” requires more than just not using birth control. What are the gifts God has given you to sprinkle into the world as an individual? As a couple? Are you and your spouse achieving pregnancy on purpose because you have discerned that God said it is time or by “accident” (excluding hyper-fertility situations) because you’re not using NFP correctly? Are you open to the fact that God may be calling you to have more children? God has gifted us with the knowledge to effectively avoid pregnancy and intentionally achieve pregnancy in a couple with normal fertility. Do we appreciate that gift and respect His timing? 

Discover all of your gifts

Because of my infertility, I was forced to pursue desires and open gifts I didn’t know I had. Now I wonder if I would have reached this potential if I had been able to bear children. Not because those gifts didn’t exist, but because no one was encouraging me to look for them! My own beautiful and wonderful Church wasn’t even challenging and affirming me in that way. Would I have the same fighting spirit and foster the same desire to help other women and couples?

I learned that I am a good speaker and motivator. I started a ministry to empower women to know their bodies and get them the right help. I am becoming a Creighton Model Practitioner. I learned I can write blogs and rap lyrics that I’ve written myself. We were trained in marriage preparation. We adopted our daughter. I became a founding member of The Wise Fools media group. I give advice. I make people laugh. I volunteer. I cook for friends…and strangers if needed. There is a lot more I have to learn and a lot more I have to give. 

Fertile or not, God has given us each unique gifts and abilities to share with the world. This is not just a story about bearing fruits of your life and marriage, but how beauty is born from suffering and difficult situations. Imagine what fruit can grow during the days you are abstaining!

Bear the whole fruit tray

Ironically, we celebrated our daughter’s second birthday party one year ago with a “Two-tti fruitie” theme because she loves fruit so much. We literally rejoiced in the life of one of the fruits of our marriage with a fruit-themed party. What a corny sentence, but how appropriate? Just like our favorite fruit trays, the fruits of our lives and marriages come in an intricate and beautiful variety of ways, shapes, flavors, colors, and sizes. 

As much as I would love to sit on the couch with a fork and a fresh watermelon, it is good for me to discover and pursue other fruits. After all, who do we think invented all those delicious combinations? Bear the whole fruit tray and add some whipped cream to our Creator’s own bowl of fruity goodness.

 

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Mary Bruno is a former Physical Therapist Assistant of 6 years who “retired” the day she and her husband welcomed their adopted daughter into the world three years ago. Her long-time struggle with pain and infertility inspired her to start a ministry – “Taking Back the Terms” – nearly 4 years ago to make use of her suffering by helping other women to find better women’s health solutions that treat the whole woman more effectively. She is passionate about her Catholic faith and hopes that her ministries will help shed a light of love and understanding on authentic faith and women’s health. Presently, Mary is training to become a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner and is thrilled to connect women of all ages to this system that truly helps us appreciate our gift of fertility. She is also a founding member of Wise Fools Media Group where she podcasts. Find her @takingbacktheterms on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, and read her blog here.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Marriage

We’re celebrating 10 years of marriage this month! We can hardly believe it’s been a decade since we walked down the aisle and committed ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives.

To celebrate, we’re giving away some resources to one lucky reader. Find the details in the bottom of this post! (Edited 6/15/19 to add: giveaway is now closed!)

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June 12, 2009

Since it’s been quite the adventure since our wedding day, we’ve learned quite a few things…and we’re still learning. Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned in 10 years of marriage (but honestly, we could put a lot more!):

  1. Always, always have fun together. Seriously. Being silly and laughing together is what has gotten us through some difficult times.
  2. You can’t change your spouse – you can only change yourself. Trying to change each other will only lead to frustration. But if we try to change ourselves first? That’s when growth happens. Ask us how we know…
  3. Take time away, regularly, with just the two of you. Date nights, retreats, you name it. One day your kids will be out of the house and you’ll be retired, and it’ll be just the two of you! So do everything you can to foster your relationship together.
  4. Just like most jobs require continuing education, so does your marriage. Read marriage books, attend marriage enrichment nights, read blog posts about marriage. There are so many awesome resources out there that can help you and your spouse grow closer together. (See our giveaway at the end of the post for some resources you can win!)
  5. Things are never as bad as they seem. Why yes, when you can’t stop fighting with each other, your kids are climbing the walls, and everything in your house seems to be breaking and in need of repair…life feels pretty overwhelming. But God works through all of that!
  6. A marriage consists of a husband, a wife, and God – and no one else. It’s important to set boundaries with other relationships, especially if they’re causing issues in your marriage.
  7. Everything comes down to communication. Share everything with each other, and don’t expect to be able to read each other’s minds.
  8. Prayer first, marriage second, and everything else will follow. We can’t do anything without God! If we put him first, our spouse second, then we will have the grace to do everything else.
  9. Every marriage is different…so don’t compare! Just because it’s more common for the women to cook and the men to handle finances, doesn’t mean you have to do the same in your marriage. Do whatever works best for your marriage! And forget the stereotypes.
  10. Small acts of love make a big difference. Fixing a cup of coffee for your spouse, texting a sweet message while one of you is at work, or letting your spouse sleep in while you handle breakfast with your kiddos. These small gestures really do help a marriage thrive, so remember to do them often!

What lesson would you add to our list?


Now for the giveaway! All of the following is provided by us and will go to one lucky winner:

  • Our Joy-filled Marriage: Couple’s Journal
  • Intimate Graces: How Practicing the Works of Mercy Brings Out the Best in Marriage by Teresa Tomeo and Dominick Pastore
  • Amazing Grace for Married Couples: 12 Life-Changing Stories of Renewed Love by Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, and Patti Armstrong
  • The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman

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7 ways to bring Mary into your marriage

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During our wedding ceremony, we presented flowers to the Blessed Mother, entrusting our marriage to her.

praying for your spouse

Honestly, I don’t think we fully grasped the importance of that at the time. But as years have gone by, we’ve realized more and more just how vital our Mother is to our marriage.

She is the ultimate example of what it means to say “yes” to God’s will and to trust Him in everything. Her fiat – her “yes” – led to the salvation of the whole world. Not only did she have the perfect marriage, she was the perfect mother. As a woman, I look to Mary as a guide as I strive to become a better wife and mother.

But a man could totally consider Mary as an example too! She was so trusting and self-sacrificial, two qualities essential in a marriage. The most awesome priests we know are the ones with a devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Plus, the devil is terrified of Mary – have you noticed that many statues of Mary have her crushing the serpent? She is the WOMAN. Her prayers are so powerful, as she can literally whisper into the ear of Jesus. And he listens to her, just like he did from the very beginning of his ministry at the wedding at Cana.

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Jesus gave his mother to us (see John 19:26-27), and it brings him great joy when we honor her.

How can you bring Mary into your marriage? Here are some ideas:

  1. Place a statue of Mary in your home, specifically in your bedroom.
  2. Pray the Rosary together.
  3. Have images of Mary hanging on your walls, especially in your bedroom.
  4. Create a Marian garden in your yard. (We did this last year! See our video at the end of this post.)
  5. Celebrate Marian feast days. (One of our faves is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12!)
  6. Read 33 Days to Morning Glory and prepare for a Marian consecration together. (We’re doing this right now!)
  7. If your church has a place for flowers in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother, present those to her together and pray a Hail Mary for your marriage.

Do you have any other ideas to add to the list?

Natural Family Planning: A Man’s Perspective

We have our first guest post! Fellow Catholics Online member, Tim Lucchesi, of Chaste Love was gracious enough to share his thoughts about Natural Family Planning. It’s not too often you hear a man’s perspective, and we love what he has to say on the topic…

 

Natural Family Planning: A Man’s Perspective

Approximately four years ago, I attended Holy Mass with my girlfriend, took her on a brief walk through a park, got down on one knee and asked her to be my bride. She nodded and quickly said, “uh yeah!” And after the whirlwind of excitement, the chaos began!

We had to find a date that worked for both her parish and our busy schedules, we had to create an invite list, a back up invite list, and a registry. We had to discuss fonts and budgets and of course create a Pinterest-inspired announcement for social media.

And we had to learn about Natural Family Planning.

 

The journey begins

Like most people, I knew very little about Natural Family Planning prior to getting engaged. Both my experience as a youth minister and my personal commitment to the virtue of chastity had helped me know a little bit, but not enough.

On the other hand, my bride-to-be had nearly eight years of experience in learning the Creighton Model method while charting her cycle. Plus, she had nearly as many years as a high-risk obstetric nurse. Not to mention the fact that her mother had been an NFP instructor for nearly 30 years.

We went to our required engagement retreat and heard a wonderful couple share their personal witness of having used NFP in their marriage. We sat there as couples around us moaned and mumbled impolite things about the Church’s teaching. Then we attended a slightly awkward “intro session” to learn about the method we had chosen.

It quickly became clear to me that Natural Family Planning was very much centered on the woman and her reproductive system. So as an engaged man, and now as a husband and father, I was left asking a question, “Where do I fit in?”

 

Common concerns about NFP

Many people have concerns about using NFP for family planning. The birth-control pill just seems so simple. But putting aside all the moral and relationship-based reasons to not use contraception, the pill is poison. I will not put my wife’s mental and physical health at risk so I can have a feeling of control over my fertility. She deserves better! All women deserve better.

Perhaps the most common, and yet often unspoken reason why people decide not to use NFP is because of the fear of failure. This failure could be user error or method ineffectiveness, but regardless the fear remains. And if avoiding pregnancy is your goal, you can be just as successful at avoiding pregnancy by using NFP as you would by using contraception. But with NFP, you avoid all the risky side effects.

Many people want to achieve a pregnancy only at the precise time of their choosing. And I completely understand that instinct! Pregnancy can be difficult! And raising children, while rewarding, is the most difficult task I will ever undertake. But using contraception leads to a false sense of control and certainty. And when contraception fails, that sense of control is shattered, leading to higher stress in an already challenging situation. A key part of using NFP is remaining open to life. So no matter what happens, you are better prepared to receive new life. Even in the most unexpected of times.

 

NFP and charting…not the same thing

Looking back over the years, I realize that I was wrong about something that is key to successfully using NFP. Charting a woman’s cycle is primarily about the woman’s health and fertility. But Natural Family Planning is about the husband, the wife, the children, and God. It’s about bonding with my bride; spiritually, physically, intellectually, communicatively, and emotionally (aka SPICE).

NFP assists me in loving my wife. More importantly, NFP allows God to love my wife through me. And simply put, the more I can love my wife, the better I can love our children.

As a man, I am not called to love part of my wife, but every aspect of her very being. It’s my duty to share my whole self with my bride. And I desire to share my good days, my bad days, my hopes, my fears, my joys, and even my fertility. Anything less would be selfish. Anything less would not be selfless love.

 

The gift of fertility, NFP, and the Church’s teachings

I desire to do God’s will. And it isn’t easy. But NFP is a tool that helps me to do so. With my whole heart, I believe that God desires us to have children. And I believe that God won’t give us more children than we can handle.

I refuse to see fertility as a burden. By giving me reproductive abilities and blessing me with children, God has shared with my bride and me the very essence and power of His love and creation. A power, with which, God created all the planets in all the galaxies throughout the universe. But even more significantly, God has trusted us with the spiritual growth and guidance of unique souls.

So with that in mind, I am immensely thankful for the gift of my fertility, the Church’s teachings on sexuality, and for the science behind Natural Family Planning. All of these have made me a better husband, a better father, and a better man.

 

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Tim Lucchesi is Director of Chaste Love Ministry. But more importantly, he is a beloved son of God, a husband to an amazing woman and the father of two children: the most beautiful little girl and his precious baby son. Tim loves cheesecake and sees every superhero movie that he can. After six years in parish and regional youth ministry, Tim felt called to create Chaste Love, because everyone deserves healthy relationships. Check out his work at chastelove.org or @thechastelove on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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If you want to hear some of our thoughts about NFP, check out our video:

 

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The enemy wants to destroy your marriage

We recently went on our 4th marriage retreat! As always, it was the perfect time to reconnect and reevaluate our marriage, our family life, and our prayer life together. By now, we’ve realized that the enemy likes to attack us in the days and weeks after we return from a marriage retreat. Last year, when we got in a huge fight on the way home! Thankfully, God made sure to remind us early on in this retreat that the enemy can be sneaky…

Throughout the weekend, there are several periods of “couple reflection time” – we spend about an hour or so with just the two of us, praying together, answering reflection questions, and talking about how life is going and what we can do to improve.

During the very first couple reflection time of the weekend, we were sitting on a bench in front of a pond, filled with fish and turtles. The weather was beautiful, so we were enjoying the outdoors while having a great conversation – bringing up struggles in our marriage and how to grow together. That short time together was so fruitful, and we were feeling pretty good about it while excited about the rest of the weekend. We knew God was with us and could feel the Holy Spirit moving!

As we closed that time together in prayer, we both opened our eyes at the same time and realized there was a snake in the water, swimming across right in front of us. From then on, we were both distracted in our prayer and couldn’t take our eyes off the snake. (With good reason – snakes are the worst!)

Afterwards, we couldn’t help but think of what a great metaphor that was in married life (and life in general). There are times where we are doing really well in our relationship with God and with each other, and that’s exactly when the enemy is going to try to distract us. A lot of times we won’t even realize our focus is being drawn away from what’s important.

We all know that the enemy is going to attack us when we’re weak, but we tend to forget that he can be sneaky and distract us when we’re strong too.

That’s why it’s important to come together on a regular basis, to share our hearts with each other. We need to make sure we’re keeping our focus on God and not being drawn away by the enemy.

A marriage retreat is a great time for us to do that – and why we try to go on one every year – but sometimes life circumstances don’t allow for us to go away for a weekend. That’s okay, though! We can still set aside time together – whether it’s a few hours one day, or an overnight date, or any other scenario – where we reevaluate all areas of life and where we have intentional conversation together.

“To heal the wounds of sin, man and woman need the help of the grace that God in his infinite mercy never refuses them. Without his help man and woman cannot achieve the union of their lives for which God created them ‘in the beginning.’”  -The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1608

Here’s our video after our last marriage retreat, where we share our takeaway and why we go on retreats often:

And here’s the video we did after our retreat last year, when we got in a fight on the way home:

 

Intentional conversation between spouses

It’s easy to forget that we should constantly be learning about our spouse. Even though we became friends in high school (15 years ago!!) and have been married for almost 10 years, there’s still a lot we don’t know about each other. And we actually talk to each other a lot!

Last year, we decided to each pick 10 questions to ask each other (scroll to the bottom of the post to see that video). And it was really interesting to see how much we learned from each other just in those few minutes. The crazy thing is, we didn’t even talk about spiritual matters! Most of the questions were kind of silly, like, “Whom would you most want as a dinner guest?”

It’s important to talk about the hard stuff too, though. Husband and wife are meant to be “one flesh” – not only in the physical sense, but emotionally and spiritually too. So that means praying together and sharing everything with each other.

Although we do talk a lot and share a lot with each other, we realized that we don’t set time aside specifically to talk without distractions (kids, TV, phones, etc.) – except for marriage retreats and the occasional date night. Conversation usually just happens whenever and often we get frustrated at the distractions that pop up (or when one of us decides to bring up a tough subject right before bed when the other is ready to sleep…oops). So one thing we are doing is prioritizing distraction-free conversation. Once or twice a month, we will put it on the calendar, maybe pick a special snack or drink to share, and talk about our hopes, dreams, and struggles with each other.

That being said, we also want to be more intentional about our conversation daily and weekly too. We decided not to watch TV at all last week and realized doing so opens up enough time to just sit and talk with each other, which is so important to do on a regular basis.

In case you need some ideas on what to talk about, here are a few to get you started!

 

Questions to ask each other daily:

-What was the highlight of your day today?

-Did you spend time in prayer today?

-How can I pray for you?

-What is one thing I can do to help you today?

 

Questions to ask each other weekly:

-Which compliment/gesture/act of kindness did I say/do for you this week that you appreciated the most?

-Did I do anything to hurt you this week? How could I have handled it differently?

-Are you struggling with anything right now? How can I support you in that?

 

Questions to ask each other monthly:

-How are our priorities right now? Are we putting prayer first and our marriage second?

-How is our family life? Do we need to make any changes?

-Which spending area do we need to cut back on?

-What goal can we set for the upcoming month?

 

You can also google “conversation starters” and find so many different questions to ask each other. Make it a monthly occurrence at least. Or you can download our list of conversation starters by clicking here or the image below!

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Do you set aside time to talk periodically? What does that look like for you and your spouse?