Making Choices: Honey, Let’s Build an Ark (or, You Want to Do What?) By Steve and Kathy Beirne

If you are watching some of the many home repair shows on HGTV, you’re not alone! Home design shows are very popular, and an important element of them involves marital decision–making. Does the couple want a city or country location?  What is on their wish list and how important is it?

In one show, a woman was so intent on having French doors that she threw a hammer through a window so it would have to be replaced! In other cases, something that seemed important at first becomes less so as the show progresses.  If you have seen Love it or List It, you know that it is really based on the couple having different ideas about their home—one wants to fix up the home they have and the other wants to move.

All of us face decisions that we have to work through, whether it’s about where we want to live, or about jobs, children, or finances. Are there steps to work though these challenges?  You might find the following guidelines for making decisions helpful.

Be honest—It is very hard to make a mutually satisfying decision if you keep some pieces of information to yourself. For instance, if you can’t swim and hate the water, then be open about it when your spouse brings up the idea of a cruise. Sometimes we aren’t proud to trot out our fears or previous bad experiences, but if they help us make a good, clear decision, we need to trust our partner and be open.

Draw up a list —Put down all the positives and negatives that you can think of around the decision at hand. What are the good things about moving far away? What are the bad things? Each of you will have your own take on these (maybe something on your “good” list will show up on your spouse’s “bad” list) but it will help to clarify what your values are around the choice at hand.

Consult others—If it seems appropriate, consult with those who might have information that would help you make a more informed opinion.

Don’t assume—Check out what you think your spouse is thinking to make sure if it is accurate. Again, back to the house shows, you won’t know how important an element of a decision is unless you ask . Is it of the highest importance that you live near family, or just desirable?

Let go of past mistakes—No couple has a perfect score on making decisions, so let the ones that didn’t work out so well go. Often even mistakes have elements in them you can learn from, which makes some “bad” decisions really only partly bad. Besides, bringing up the past may make your partner defensive and create a difficult climate for making the current decision.

Be flexible—Don’t try to sell your partner on your idea, or point out the worst features of their side . Can you remember a decision you were initially against that turned out better than you thought?

Be respectful—This is the most important element of every interaction in your marriage. You are trying to do the best thing for your marriage, so do it with respect for each other and for all opinions expressed.

Weigh The Choice—If one of you wants something very badly and the other doesn’t feel like it’s that important, weigh the passion as well as the merit of the choice. If one person wants a trip to Disney World, for example, and the other is not excited about it but also not opposed to it, then let the strength of the desire be part of the equation. Sometimes it’s worth giving in to something your spouse really wants. The gratitude factor can be very nice!

Of course the home improvement shows are just TV, but the couples in the shows always seem to come out happy with the decisions they made. We build our lives one choice at a time, so use the best building blocks you can when making big decisions.

Steve and Kathy Beirne have extensive experience in marriage and family education, catechetics, and marriage ministry. They are the editors and publishers of Foundations Newsletter, FACET premarital resource, and Catholic and Newly Married, an award winning book published by ACTA publications.  They live in Portland, Maine, and are the parents of 7 children and grandparents of 5. You can visit their websites, facetsite.com, or foundationsnewsletter.net, or contact them at foundationseditor@gmail.com

“The Bride Without Shoes” by John Bosio

November 18, 1972. It was the day after our wedding.barefoot-bride

I remember driving on Interstate 70 east, away from Kansas City toward the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. It was a snowy and windy day, but inside our little car, a 1970 orange-colored Maverick, it was warm and cozy. It was the place where we wanted to be. It was our car. It represented our new world. It was just the two of us, starting our life together. We had dreamed of spending our honeymoon strolling the Ozarks hills and visiting many quaint places. The snow that was coming down, wet and heavy, was redesigning our plans. That did not bother us. What was important to us was that we were together. It snowed for two days. On the third day, although there were ten inches of snow on the ground, we decided to get out to explore the area.

As we were leaving our hotel, I realized that Teri did not bring shoes that I thought were appropriate for walking in the snow. She was wearing dress shoes. So, wanting to exert my newly acquired role and responsibility of “provider,” I said to Teri, “Let’s go buy you a pair of boots.” So, off we went in the car looking for a place to buy boots.

Gallant Gesture

After a few miles on winding country roads, we came upon a small town where the streets were barely passable. There we found a shoe store. I got out of the car and stood in the street, ankle deep in snow. I wondered how Teri would get to the store through piles of slush and mud without getting wet and dirty. Then I had an idea. I walked to the passenger side of the car, opened the door and picked Teri up in my arms. There I was, at the center of town, carrying my beautiful bride to buy her shoes. I carried her all the way inside the store while bystanders who had noticed what was happening started clapping.

That was a gallant gesture, that impressed my young bride, and it has remained a vivid memory in Teri’s mind. In fact, it has become the source of teasing between us. From time to time she reminds me of what I did and asks when I am going to carry her again with so much enthusiasm.

Mutual Sacrifice

The fact is that I have, and she too has carried me many times. Spouses that want to succeed need to learn to carry each other’s burdens. Teri carried me when I was sick; she looked after my needs and helped me recuperate after surgery. She carried me when I lost my job; she supported me for six moths while I was looking for another job. I have done the same for her. When she went back to school, I accepted the sacrifice of evenings and weekends scheduled around her schoolwork.

One critical lesson we learned about helping each other is the importance of a positive attitude. Just imagine how today we would remember the event described above had I picked up my new bride and complained that she was too heavy, and that my feet were getting wet and muddy.

A study on “Sacrifice as a Predictor of Marital Outcomes” published in Family Process found that couples’ attitudes toward sacrifice affect their happiness and satisfaction. The authors write: “Sacrifice may be one of the more tangible ways that partners can demonstrate genuine commitment to the relationship in the day-to-day of life together.”

Self-giving and sacrifice are essential elements of Christian love. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his encyclical “God Is Love” that married love is not self-seeking, but seeks the good of the beloved, and mature love is ready and willing for sacrifice.

In embracing the necessary sacrifices required in marriage Christian spouses have the benefit of their faith. They know that God stands by them with his graces ready to help them grow in love through the sacrifices they make. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us: “Christ dwells with them [the spouses], gives them the strength to take up their crosses and to follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, and to bear one another’s burdens.” (#1642)

Questions for reflection:

  1. Can you share an example of a time when you gave up something in order to help your spouse with a pressing need?
  2. Reflect on the attitude you display when you forego something you want in order to accommodate your spouse. Do you complain? Do you keep score of the favors you do?
  3. How often do you pray for God’s help in the face of sacrifices you are asked to make for the sake of the relationship?John Bosio and his wife of 40 years, Teri, volunteer their expertise in family life to the local diocese, parish, and community. Learn about his books and programs for married couples at www.happy–together.net.

“Our Beautiful Mother” by Deacon Stephen Bowling

motherAs one of my priest friends has said to me many times, “Mother’s Day is the one Sunday where everyone expects and demands that you to preach sentimentally.”

Yes, Mom is usually the most perfect of people for most of us . . . or pretty darn close anyway.

The work of a mother is never done . . . it is always ongoing. Or as Dr. Carrie Gress quipped, “Motherhood became almost easy once I accepted that it is hard.”

Mothers seek to soothe the hurting, build up the discouraged, and tend the sick. They encourage the downtrodden and rearrange difficulties to be what their loved ones most need them to be. Perhaps most importantly, mothers teach not only by word and example, but especially by patient forbearance toward those who need to learn.

Mothers are patient, mothers are kind, mothers rejoice with the truth. Mothers always protect, always trust, always hope and always persevere. We know that a mother is about love, about helping us find justice, about helping us feel mercy.

We long for these qualities all of our lives and we never outgrow them. We declare these attributes as good; we seek them as people fumbling in the unknown dark with just a small candle to light our way. We know that our mothers are always to be there for us . . . no matter how far we might roam.

All of these are the things we long for in our mothers . . . and most especially we long for them in our Holy Mother, the Church.

These things are not just simple definitions of motherhood; they are some of the highest aspirations for its perfection as well. That ideal vision we all long for is something that the Church strives always to honor and achieve . . . even when we sometimes fall short.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan perhaps said it best. In his remarks at the Los Angeles Prayer Breakfast in 2010 he said that the “Church is not always perfect anymore than our natural family is, for they are both made up of flawed human beings.

I’d like to think that in BOTH, everyone really works hard to try and get it right – and also I hope that they work real hard at saying they’re sorry and trying to make amends – even when it’s tough.

But even when things are not as we might wish, we’re STILL proud . . . we LOVE OUR HOLY MOTHER and we LOVE being a part of her.

We STILL heartily appreciate the wisdom that our mother’s have passed on to us. We WANT to be with her always, especially at those pivotal moments in life.

You see the Church is not JUST an institution . . .

It’s not JUST a clearly defined set of creedal and moral convictions . . .

It’s not JUST a great agent of charity and education . . .

It’s not JUST a great place to pray and worship . . .

All of those things are essential, yes, but first and foremost it’s our spiritual home” . . . and our mother.

So say we all.