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.

4. Read a marriage book together.

I shared my favorite books from last year in this post (including two we read together), 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 last year through our church parish. It was so fruitful!

6. Book a marriage retreat for the upcoming year.

(Here are 10 reasons why you should go on a marriage retreat.) Or you can do a 7-day online retreat! There are 5 to choose from here.

7. 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 Jason Evert…just to name a few.

8. Do a 7-day photo challenge.

My friends at HailMarry thought of a fun challenge to do on Instagram and Facebook. Post a different picture of you and your spouse based on the idea they give you!

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

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Don’t wait to make your marriage a priority

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In a show Logan and I watched together last year, there was a man and woman who weren’t doing so well when it came to their marriage. They were barely hanging on….and I mean barely. (And sorry, I’m not going to tell you the show because this post is kind of a spoiler! I hate spoilers.)

It was really painful to watch at times, seeing two people  – who vowed to love each other for better or worse – not treat each other very well. It was even more painful to see the husband try to make things work but be shut down by the wife, who was still remembering painful things he had done in the past.

This couple ended up getting into a situation where they both thought they were going to die. Emotions in this scene were running high, obviously, since they thought it was the last time they would see each other, and they still hadn’t reconciled anything when it came to their struggling marriage.

It didn’t help when the man figured out a way that the woman could survive if he basically sacrificed himself. She was really struggling, probably because she couldn’t seem to forgive her husband for the past…yet he was willing to die for her.

As they were getting ready to enact their plan (which would lead to the husband’s death), the wife blurted out, “I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time being angry at you!”

Whoa. Talk about a lesson learned too late, right? (That scene literally kept replaying in my head for over a month!)

I have to be honest and admit that when I think about the earlier years of our marriage, I did spend way too much time being angry at Logan for the stupidest things. I was too focused on what I wanted, I didn’t spend enough time thinking about how Logan felt in any given situation, and I wasn’t thinking about things in light of eternity.

Fortunately, I’ve come a long way since then, but I still need to be reminded from time to time. Because the truth is, we don’t know how long we will have with our spouse. It could be many years (and hopefully it will be), but it could be months…or even days.

I’m not saying that to freak people out. I’m saying that so we can focus on what’s truly important. As husband and wife, our goal is to get each other to heaven. It’s easy to forget that when life is full of so many other things.

I’m saying this as a reminder (especially to me) that we might not have all of the time we think to work on our marriage. Don’t wait to make your marriage a priority until your kids are older, you have more money, or any other number of scenarios. That time might not come.

Do whatever you need to do to make things right with your spouse. Pray together, talk to each other about your struggles, go to counseling, resolve a fight the same day it happens. Ask God for guidance – he will not abandon you.

Just like we need to be prepared for when Jesus comes again, we need to be prepared for the possibility of death coming sooner than later. If Logan died tomorrow, I can honestly say that we’ve been living the best life with each other this last year. We’ve been working harder than ever on our marriage. We don’t want to have any regrets!

Thankfully for the husband and wife in the show, they ended up figuring out a way to survive together. And while they still had a heck of a lot to work through after that, they realized they didn’t want to waste any more time being mad at each other.

Marriage is going to have its hard moments, even in the best of marriages. But the important thing is to love each other through them and remember to make every single day count.

I’ll leave you with the words of Alice von Hildebrand in her book By Love Refined:

“Marriage is worth fighting for – and no sacrifice, no effort should be considered too great to achieve the noble goal of a perfect union between spouses.”


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Better Together – a 52-week marriage journal

A couple of years ago, we realized the importance of coming together on a weekly basis to prepare for the upcoming week, share concerns and struggles with each other, and to affirm each other. So we wanted to create a simple and tangible way for married couples to connect every single week.

Enter: a 52-week marriage journal. Now before you tell me, “But I don’t like to journal!” Just wait. It’s not one of those journals where you write paragraphs and paragraphs. Each week, you’ll simply write down the following:

  • what you’re thankful for
  • prayer intentions for that week
  • 3 things you need to accomplish together
  • how you will make your marriage a priority
  • a short note of encouragement to each other

That’s it! 5 simple ways to connect with each other other. Also included is a different Scripture verse (or verses) each week to read together and memorize if you’d like. See the slideshow below for a little peek:

 

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There are also a few “extra” pages, like a quarterly check-in page every 3 months, so you can evaluate how things are going. Other extras include:

  • an anniversary page
  • a date night bucket list
  • pages to write the Scripture of the week
  • extra pages to write notes to each other

 

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The PDF file is 67 pages, so I recommend printing the pages you want to use (you don’t have to use the extras!), hole punching, and then putting them in a binder. That way, you can cut up the extra notes and Scripture pages and put them in the binder pockets to grab when you need one!

You can start using the journal at any time because we leave the date blank. So if you skip a week, you can still continue using the journal…and you can print it out again every single year! We hope it’s helpful. 🙂

$10

 

 

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My favorite marriage books I read this year (2018)

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In case you didn’t know, I’m an avid reader. And I try really hard to read books in different genres! So while I’ve read over 40 books this year, a good portion of those were marriage books. (We could say 2018 was the year I read too many marriage books…)

In no particular order, I give you my favorites:

 

Praying for (and With) Your Spouse: The Way to Deeper Love by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak

Logan and I have been meaning to do a video about this book since we’ve read it together over the summer. Even though we’ve been praying together since before we were married, we still gained a lot of insights from this and it’ll probably be a book we refer to again from time to time. (There was a chapter on praying through difficult times, a chapter on praying through decisions, etc.) This would be really helpful for couples who haven’t prayed together before or haven’t been consistent about it.

 

By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand

I don’t know why I had not read this before now! It came highly recommended, and now I can’t recommend it enough. Every woman should read this, preferably in the first year or two of marriage! It’s one of those easy reads that is good to pick up every now and then for a refresher.

 

Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel

Logan and I read this together during Lent because it’s a 6-week devotional. Most days only took 5 minutes, which we usually did at night before bed. It focuses on Theology of the Body and we had some great takeaways….one being inspired to hang a crucifix above our bed. Because, sacrificial love. Highly recommend this one to married couples! (And you don’t need to be Catholic to read it!)

 

The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order by Scott Hahn

This book really inspired me (even more) to focus on the sacramentality of marriage and the importance of all sacraments as a part of our daily lives. I really had a bunch of epiphanies reading this, like God creating the marriage of Adam and Eve as the first relationship on earth because marriage is the foundation of society. Our society is failing because marriage is failing! I could go on and on but you should just read it, even if you’re not married.

 

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett

Learning about temperaments has been such a game-changer for our marriage! I’ve read the original temperament book and the one about children and wondered if I needed to read this one too, but I ended up really liking the specific examples given for married couples.

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So there you have it! I challenge you to pick one marriage book to read in 2019, because a little does go a long way. 🙂

And in case you’re curious, these are the marriage books I plan on reading in 2019:

  • The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage by Dr. David Anders
  • Amazing Grace for Married Couples: 12 Life-Changing Stories of Renewed Love by Jeff Cavins, Matthew Pinto, and Patti Armstrong

  • Three Secrets to Holiness in Marriage: A 33-Day Self-Guided Retreat for Catholic Couples by Dan and Amber Dematte (Logan and I will be reading this one together)

Did you read any marriage books this year? Which one was your favorite?

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Grieving Together

This is not a sponsored post. We did receive a free copy of the book but all opinions are our own!

There have been many surprises in our last 9+ years of marriage, but the biggest was losing our first baby boy. We didn’t see it coming, and we didn’t know if we would get through it.

I read books on pregnancy loss during the weeks and months to follow, but none of them talked about how it would affect our relationship with God and with each other. There were no Catholic resources on pregnancy loss back then, much less resources about grieving together as a married couple.

Thankfully, times have changed and resources are more available. I was thrilled to learn that Laura Kelly Fanucci (blogger at Mothering Spirit) was coming out with a book co-written with her husband. It’s called Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage. This is the book we’ve been missing! This is the book that we needed almost 9 years ago.

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Even though the focus is miscarriage, any couple experiencing any other loss (stillbirth, infant loss) will benefit from this book. They really do cover everything, including:

  • The physical experience of miscarriage
  • What the Catholic Church says about miscarried babies
  • How we can remember our babies
  • How we each grieve as mother and father
  • Prayers and quotes from the saints

Plus so much more. I’d recommend anyone to read this book, whether you’ve experienced a loss or not. There are personal stories woven throughout that give the reader so many different perspectives.

One of my favorite chapters is the one titled “Your Marriage after Miscarriage.” It didn’t hit us until years later how our loss affected our marriage. We got married in June, found out we were pregnant in August, and lost our baby in December. Those first few months of marriage happened so fast! We didn’t know what hit us, and we definitely didn’t know how to cope.

But Laura and Franco address how we each grieve as mother and father and how we grieve as a couple. It really would have been so helpful to have those insights when we were in the thick of it.

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Even though it’s been almost 9 years, and we have three more boys with us now, sometimes I feel a little silly that I can still get emotional about our loss. You would think we wouldn’t still need a resource about pregnancy loss. But grief is unpredictable.

It was only this past May that Logan and I both ended up crying over our sweet baby boy while on a marriage retreat. Grief can hit you years later! We often think about what our family would look like with another boy added to the mix.

We also think more about our baby, Levi, during the fall because that’s when I carried him. I still remember the ultrasound dates, the first time I felt him kick, and the day we found out he was a boy. The closer it gets to December 29, the more we think about the baby who really did change everything for us.

Levi

So whether you just miscarried or your loss was several years ago, read this book! Gift it to a couple in need. It makes a valuable resource for any couple, church parish, or ministry. It’s available at Our Sunday Visitor, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Free resources available include:

For anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss, know that we are praying for you!

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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 Netflix 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. Last year, Logan suggested we not take out our Jesse Tree (after struggling with it the previous two years), so I realized that he was right. 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!

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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Two marriage lessons from the Wedding at Cana

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Logan and I recently had the opportunity to attend a marriage enrichment event hosted by a local church parish (thanks to the generosity of friends!). There was a delicious 5-course meal, a different wine served with each course, and a different speaker at the end of each course. Most of the speakers were married couples, but the parish priest spoke at the end of the main entree. The topic he talked about? The Wedding at Cana. (I did mention this briefly on Instagram).

The Gospel reading at our wedding was the Wedding at Cana, and I pray the Rosary every day, so I’m not stranger to the story. In fact, it’s one of my favorite mysteries. How awesome is it that Jesus (because of Mary) chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding? What does that say about the importance of marriage?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the priest said in his brief talk. He made two points:

1. Do the work so God can do the miracle.

The servers had the difficult task of filling those six stone water jars (each twenty to thirty gallons!) with water. Can you imagine how long that took? How much work that was? But they did the work so Jesus could turn the water into wine. They were able to see the miracle because of the effort they put forth.

The same goes in marriage! I know that Logan and I did not see God working in big ways until we did the work necessary. God wants to do great things…but he also wants us to do our part. Think about how many miracles in the Bible happened because of the effort put forth by that person!

The woman with a hemorrhage knew she just needed to touch Jesus’s cloak, the Syropheoenician woman insisted on Jesus driving the demon out of her daughter, the leper prostrated himself before Jesus because he knew that Jesus could make him clean. The list goes on and on.

2. God saves the best wine for last.

On our wedding day, we think that’s the best it’s going to get. We’re so happy and we love each other more than ever! How could it get any better? But it does. We’re only 9 years in, and we’ve seen the growth in our relationship through all of the highs and lows. Our marriage is definitely better than it was on our wedding day! Can you imagine what it will be like in another thirty years? Just like Jesus saved the best wine for last at the Wedding at Cana, he saves the best wine for last in our marriage.

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All of that to say, those two points go hand-in-hand. Just like we have to do the work so God can do the miracle, we won’t get to taste that best wine by staying stagnant. Anyone who’s been married knows that it’s not easy! It takes constant effort. And just when you think you and your spouse are doing well, something happens to make you realize that there’s still work to be done. We have to constantly fill each other up!

It’s important to remember, though, that we can’t do it without God’s help. We have to seek God first and foremost. He will give us the grace we need to live our married vocation. Just take it from Fulton J. Sheen in his book, Three to Get Married:

“Two glasses that are empty cannot fill up one another. There must be a fountain of water outside the glasses, in order that they may have communion with one another. It takes three to make love.”

So make sure you’re inviting God into your marriage. Pray together, have those difficult conversations together, share everything with each other, and support each other. Keep doing the work by filling each other’s glasses, trusting that in time, God will provide that best wine.

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Gratitude in marriage

When we had a toddler and a baby, we went through a major rough patch – it was hard to see how many blessings God had given us because we were both so focused on the negative things in life. I was overwhelmed staying at home with two littles all day, Logan was frustrated with his job, we were both frustrated with our financial situation, and well, let’s face it…our marriage was struggling big time. All I could focus on was how Logan wouldn’t help me when I was clearly overwhelmed (and tired…oh so tired) and all Logan could focus on was my lack of encouragement and my crazy talk. We were both really disillusioned.

Honestly, not much has changed since then – we’ve added another kid to the mix, but I’m still overwhelmed (most days), Logan is still frustrated with his job (most days), and we’re both frustrated with our financial situation (most days).

But our marriage? It’s so much better. And I think a big part of that is because we’ve started “counting our blessings” together on a regular basis, so to speak. (I know that sounds totally cliche, but it really, really helps.)

The crazy thing is that in many ways, life is harder now than it was back then. But thankfully God has given us the grace and tools to work through it. If there was one thing I could tell myself a few years ago when I was so focused on all the negative things in my marriage, it would be this: write down (or think about) at least one thing you’re grateful for every single day.

We may not have the ideal situation regarding Logan’s job and our finances, but we are able to pay the bills and we own a house we love.

We may not be going on fancy vacations every year, but we are still able to save a little for fun things and simple trips.

We may be completely overwhelmed with our kids sometimes, but we know the pain of infertility and loss is a hard and lonely cross.

We may still have our disagreements and communication problems, but we have come a long way in appreciating each other’s differences and growing in understanding one another.

We may not have the perfect marriage, but we know our marriage is sanctifying us…and that’s the whole point – for us to grow closer to God.

Earlier this summer, we dealt with a number of health issues, house repairs, and other ridiculous occurrences in a span of one month – all of which are not unusual in themselves, but the frequency and quantity in which they occurred was very unusual. It was overwhelming and stressful, to say the least.

But even amidst all of the craziness, we had a number of good things happen as well. June was probably the most stressful month we had in a long time – but it also produced the most fun month we had in awhile. (I know that sounds impossible. But it’s true!)

It never ceases to amaze us how God can make his presence known even in the most stressful times. For each stressor, there’s usually a consolation, from a generous friend to a special family moment. Often times one of us has to remind the other of all the good things happening among all the bad things, but thinking about our blessings together has been a great source of comfort.

I know there are times where it’s really hard to think about your blessings, especially when you’re not feeling especially fond about your marriage. When everything seems to be going wrong and you don’t know what the heck God is doing through all of it. When you see everyone’s “good moments” on social media and none of their bad ones. When you think everyone else’s marriage is perfect and yours is not. When you feel like life just hasn’t turned out the way you expected.

But we’ve seen how coming together to thank God for all He has given us, especially in our marriage, has brought us closer together. Every day we thank God together for all of his blessings, and we make sure to remind each other – especially when we’re going through a rough time – that there is always something to be thankful for, even when it doesn’t always feel that way.

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“A Month for Your Marriage” Challenge

One thing I’ve realized over the years we’ve been married is that we constantly need to put effort into our marriage. It’s way too easy to let our relationship with our spouse slide to the back-burner without even realizing it!

That’s partly why we’ve been posting weekly marriage challenges on Instagram and Facebook over the last several months (#marriagemondaychallenge). It’s a reminder every single week that we need to be intentional about our marriage.

Now you can be intentional for an entire month with our challenge cards! Dedicate a month to your marriage by completing a challenge every day for 31 days. Some are simple, some require a little more effort, but every single one is meant to bring you and your spouse closer together.

It really is the little things that foster growth in a relationship, and that’s never more true than in a marriage.

Are you ready to take “A Month for Your Marriage” challenge? Click below to buy your challenge cards! Just print, cut, and put in a basket or box to pick one every day for a month. Use the hashtag #marriagechallengecards to share on Instagram and Facebook. We’d love to see them in action!

 

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Vulnerability in marriage

Over the last few months, I’ve been privileged to hear people’s stories, questions, and struggles in their marriage. And I’ve noticed something – there’s a common denominator in all of the hard stuff of marriage.

Communication.

I know it sounds so simple – learn to communicate! I’m certainly not suggesting that learning to communicate better will make your marriage perfect. Our marriage certainly isn’t and we’ve actually come a loooong way in terms of communication.

What am I saying is that it is definitely worth the effort to improve communication with your spouse, and that it’s going to take a lot more than just reading books and/or seeking counseling (but both are good things that I definitely recommend!).

It’s going to take being vulnerable with each other.

You can read allll the of the marriage books in the world and meet with a counselor together every single week, but if you’re not being vulnerable with each other? Sharing everything with each other? You’re going to have a hard time.

I’m the biggest introvert of all introverts…which means I don’t like to talk. I live in my head a lot. I’d rather journal about my feelings than talk about them. My natural instinct is to just keep everything to myself and not share them with my spouse.

Our marriage really struggled for years because of that.

How was my husband supposed to know I was struggling with everything on my plate – kids, housework, volunteer responsibilities, etc – if I didn’t share that with him? How was my husband supposed to know I felt disrespected in certain relationships if I didn’t tell him? Why did I expect my husband to read my mind and know what I was thinking at every moment?

He didn’t know. He had no way to know. Because I didn’t tell him. I kept it to myself, or thought that it was silly to share some of those things with him. The mind of an introvert can be crazy, after all. But it goes both ways…

How was I supposed to know my husband felt like he wasn’t providing enough for our family? How was I supposed to know my husband felt stuck when it came to his job situation if he didn’t tell me?

I didn’t know. I had no way to know. Because he didn’t tell me. He thought I was disappointed in him or that I’d assume he was unhappy with our current situation.

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Keeping things to yourself tends to lead to bitterness and resentment and a heck of a lot of misunderstanding. Which leads to your spouse withdrawing. With leads to two very unhappy people.

But if you’re sharing everything with each other? Your good moments, your struggles, and everything in between? That’s the kind of marriage we wanted. That’s the kind of marriage we’ve started to have.

If you’re starting to feel resentful about the fact that your spouse doesn’t pull his/her weight around the house, tell them that! (Gently, please.)

If you need encouragement from your spouse to apply for a new job, start a business, or [insert scenario here], tell them that!

If your needs aren’t being met in the bedroom, tell your spouse that! (Oh, but please, please first tell your spouse how wonderful they are and how much you love being intimate with him/her. Build up your spouse first, then say: “I would like to work on XYZ though. Can we talk about that?”)

You can’t complain about not getting something if you haven’t asked for it. And you can’t expect your spouse to read your mind.

On the flip side, if one spouse is being vulnerable and opening up about something, the other spouse needs to listen. No belittling, no mocking, none of that. The listening spouse needs to be vulnerable too by offering unconditional love and support! It can be hard, especially if a big issue is brought up, and especially if it might be painful to hear. But you can’t grow in your marriage without addressing the hard stuff. (Marriage requires a heck of a lot of humility, too.)

Sometimes I wonder now if we share too much. Did he really need to know during the World Cup that I thought Russia’s goalie was extremely handsome? Did he really need to share his, um, trip to the bathroom in extreme detail?

Perhaps that’s going to be different in everyone’s marriage. But for us, sharing absolutely everything has been a game-changer. We know what each other is thinking now because we actually say it. We know how to support each other. We know that being vulnerable with each other is exactly why we’ve grown in intimacy and in love for each other.

We know that vulnerability in our marriage is how we will get each other to Heaven.

 

I hate to say this but feel it is necessary: if you suspect your spouse is emotionally abusive, this post is not for you. Please seek the help of a counselor or spiritual director!