Tag Archives: Stay-At-Home Moms

For The Husbands

I’ve had a request for some ideas for husbands in terms of marriage and spiritual leadership.  I decided to create a list of ten things (in no particular order) that regularly come up in counseling sessions, daily life and in spiritual conversations.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  I personally have a lot of work to do.  We all do.  The point is to know what needs work and then work on it.  Keep in mind that doing these things can be fun.  Just because it takes some effort doesn’t mean it has to be drudgery.  It all depends on your attitude.  The rewards are well worth it.  So, here you go husbands.  I hope you find something useful here.

1)      Mutual submission:

A lot is said about wives submitting to husbands.  Yet, husbands are also called to submission.  Jesus Christ is the model.  He is the Bridegroom.  How does the Bridegroom behave towards his Bride, the Church?  He does not consider his position as God (the ultimate leader) as something to be grasped at, but humbles himself as a slave.*  Are you that way towards your bride, or are you constantly trying to dominate and overrule her choices and opinions?  Jesus submitted to the point of death for his Bride.  “Husbands, love your wives, as Jesus Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it.”*  Would you die for your bride?  Are you willing to let even a small part of you “die” so that she can have her way?  Do you sacrifice with joy or do you allow resentment to build in your heart?

2)      Non-sexual touch and affection:

If your wife thinks you want sex every time you touch her, that’s a problem.  She needs hugs, kisses, hand-holding and physical closeness that has no “sexual strings” attached.  Many men regard women as sexual objects to be used for their own pleasure.  Not good.  Your wife is a person, a human being, a child of God, not a blow-up doll.  Treat her accordingly.  Jesus treated women with respect.  Follow his lead.  Find out what she likes.  It won’t do much good to hold her hand if she doesn’t like hand-holding.  When you know what she likes, you know her.  Then you can deliver the affection, with no expectations of having sex.

3)      Kind, respectful speech and humor:

No name-calling, even when you are angry and frustrated.  No name-calling.  No curse words.  Do not swear at your wife or your children.  Speak to them as Jesus would speak to the Church, with love.  Don’t say hurtful things to your wife and then try to cover it up with, “I was only kidding around.”  Don’t say things you will wish you could retract.  Oh, and did I say, “No name-calling?”  Bridle your tongue.*

4)      Eye contact and undivided attention:

When your wife speaks, listen, even if you think it is not relevant to you.  If you are unable to listen for some valid reason, tell her so.  Tell her you want to hear about it, and that you will listen as soon as you get a chance.  Then, keep that promise.  Also, give her eye contact.  Mute the TV, pause the game, whatever you have to do to look her in the eye and really listen.  If you forget what she said a few minutes ago, you probably weren’t really listening.  Develop your listening skills if you want to be a good husband.

5)      Conversation:

Being a good listener is part of being a good conversationalist.  Yeah, I know, men are all about “report” (just give me the facts) and women are all about “rapport” (let’s be in synch with each other mentally and emotionally).  So, conversation means different things to men and women.  That’s why men generally have shorter phone calls than women (get the gist of things and hang up).  Nevertheless, men, try to develop your rapport with your wife.  Listen and respond with more than a grunt.  Be happy with her when she’s happy.  Be sad with her when she’s sad.  Show some empathy.  Tune in.

6)      Follow through on promises, big and small:

Be faithful to your wedding vows.  That’s a big one.  Take out the trash when you say, “Ok, I’ll take it out.”  That’s a small one.  A promise is a promise.  We can’t trust someone in big things if we can’t trust him in small things.*  By the way, fidelity also means getting rid of and avoiding pornography in your life, your home, your computer, your phone, etc.  We are all called to purity and chastity within our vocations whether we are married or single.  You chose one, special woman out of millions.  Love her and her alone.  Forsake all others, even the paper or cyber ones.  As the Scripture says, “Rejoice with the wife of your youth.  Let her breasts satisfy you at all times.”*  And, yes, guys, that means the Victoria’s Secret catalog needs to go, too.

7)      Acts of service:

Find out what means “love” to her.  Do it.  Say it.  Mean it.  If it’s washing her car, wash it.  If it’s flowers, get them.  If it’s taking the kids away so she can rest, take them.  Get the picture?

8)      Spiritual initiative:

“Man up” and be a holy, spiritual Christian man.  Jesus chose twelve, ordinary, “unlearned”* men to be his apostles.  Quit making the ladies and the clergy do all the “spiritual work.”  The clergy is only there to prepare us, the laity, to do the real work.  That means go to church, pray with your family, read and study your Bible and your Catechism, know your faith, share your faith and be prepared to defend it against secularism, relativism, hedonism and any other “ism” that distorts truth.  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”*  That ought to make a guy feel like wielding the sword of the Spirit to defend his family from the powers of darkness.  Look at it this way: if you heard someone breaking into your home, would you send your wife to deal with it while you stayed in bed?

9)      If you have children, be active and engaged with them:

You are a role model, whether you want to be or not.  You are either a good one or a bad one.  Be a good one.  Love your children with your time, your attention, and your presence.  It isn’t enough to be a financial provider.  They need their dad, not just dad’s money.  It also shows that the sex you have with your wife means more to you than lust or physical pleasure.  It means that you and your wife share in God’s creative power together and God blessed that union by creating new human beings.  If you want to know why sex is sacred and not to be used, abused or taken for granted, spend time with your children and look deeply into their eyes.  Yep, that’s why God made sex.

10)  Ask your wife what she needs/wants/likes:

There is no better expert on how to treat your wife than…your wife.  No two people are the same.  No two wives are the same.  Talk to your wife.  Ask her how you are doing as a husband.  Ask her where you can improve, and then, actually work on it.  You and your wife decided to create something that never existed before; your marriage.  Your marriage is not there to serve you.  You are there to serve your marriage and your spouse.  Find out what you need to do better and what you are already doing well, for the sake of your marriage.  With a humble heart, ask God to help you.

 

*I’ll let you look up these Scriptures on your own.  Good way to show some initiative, men!

Marriage: A Real Vocation

Recently, I was asked to participate in a discussion group about marriage.  The question posed to me was, “What are some of the biggest marriage issues you see in your therapy practice?”  I could have talked for hours about communication issues, money issues, unrealistic expectations, family-of-origin issues, gender differences, etc.  But, since it was a Catholic group with limited time, I decided to go more to the heart of the matter.  So, I began by saying that I believe three things are being extracted from marriage by society: vocation, sacrament and covenant.  One thing is being injected to replace these three things: self-centeredness.

Many people do not think of marriage as a vocation.  Rather than a divine calling, marriage becomes just another item on a list of “Things That Will Make Me Happy.”  A vocation is something to devote one’s life to.  It transcends feelings and emotions and relies on work, sacrifice, priority and commitment to bear the fruit of genuine joy and happiness that people long for.  Self-centeredness says, “This marriage is about making me happy.”  Vocation says, “We are in this marriage to serve God and each other.  It is our primary calling, not just our desire.”

Some non-Catholic Christian denominations ordain both women and men to the ministry.  I have seen it cause conflict in a marriage when both spouses feel called to the vocation of ministry.  The marriage and family becomes something to “work around” while they pursue their vocations.  There are essentially three vocations competing for attention and devotion in this scenario.  Even when only one spouse is called to the ministry it can be difficult for that person to devote enough time to both vocations.

I love that the Catholic Church regards marriage as a Sacrament.  It is “an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.”  Marriage is a vehicle by which people receive God’s grace.  The “outward sign” is the couple.  The marriage reflects Christ as the Groom and the Church as his Bride.  From the beginning, “a man leaves his mother and father, a woman leaves her home, and the two become one.”  Christ and his Church are united as one body.  A happy marriage requires lots of grace.

It’s not surprising that the secular world has lost sight of the sacramental aspect of marriage.  Unfortunately, so has much of Christendom.  A few years ago, I attended a wedding where the minister actually made a point of saying, “This is not a sacrament, as some might think.”  I knew that some Christians disagreed that marriage is a sacrament, but I was surprised to hear that rejection stated as part of a wedding ceremony.  I was also saddened by the reminder that so many fellow Christians have been denied the graces available through the sacramental life of the Church because of the Reformation.

Most folks these days think of marriage as a contract rather than a covenant.  A contract says, “We have a deal, at least, unless one of us breaks the deal.”  Covenant says, “We’re family now.  We are blood relatives.”   Both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant of God were sealed by blood.  The family of God is a blood relationship.  A blood relative is always a blood relative, regardless of legal proceedings.  This is why the Catholic Church says that if a couple is validly married in the eyes of the Church, they stay married for life.  A legal divorce does not change the blood relationship.  A covenant is not a legal state of being, but a relational state of being.  A contract protects people from each other.  A covenant embraces people as family.

A self-centered approach to life does not fit well with the ideas of vocation, sacrament or covenant.  The Church, of course, has always known this.  As society becomes increasingly “me” oriented, marriage and family life feels the strain.  Generally speaking, as the family goes, so goes the society.  Although I can’t discuss the concepts of vocation, sacrament and covenant with all of my marriage therapy clients, I can help them to see the toxic character of self-centeredness and the joys of true commitment.  Hopefully, some of God’s grace enters the relationship that way.

Quite frankly, many couples would spend a lot less money on marriage therapists if they only took advantage of the Sacrament of Confession.  But that’s a topic for another day.

For another interesting article about marriage as a vocation read this.