The Alliance of Catholic Marriage Organisations exists out of a shared desire to be united around our service to the Church and our commitment to offer clearer, more joined-up pathways of support for couples. The Alliance recognises that this commitment is best achieved through the deepening of our relationships – not formal structures – but with the hope that a more visible display of our unity will be a blessing to the Church and the couples we serve.
Here a list of tips from Marriage Encounter to help couples through the current pandemic crisis:
Tip 1 As a couple
Take your own space and respect each other’s space at the same time. Share planned moments together, such as a romantic dinner or activity together, rediscovering board games, or watching a movie. Having a shared goal can help you endure and support each other more. Forced cohabitation can create discomfort, misunderstandings and discussions. Solving the problem now, clearing up misunderstandings, is the way to maintain a peaceful atmosphere at home. Respect the silences and moments of solitude of the other, they are precious: thinking, reasoning, relaxing in solitude can often be the way to abandon negative thoughts and rediscover yourself.
Tip 2 Managing Stress and Developing resilience
Stress is an adaptation reaction that depends a lot on how we see the events and situations we face. Resilience indicates the ability to cope positively with negative events. To develop it, we need to adopt a constructive attitude, remaining open to the opportunities that life can offer in every situation. With a resilient attitude, we can best manage our stress, using our resources in a way that is useful for ourselves and those around us. eg the house can be seen as a refuge rather than a prison, and time as found rather than lost.
Tip 3 Giving Dignity to every aspect of the day
We bravely face a completely different and mostly slowed down daily routine. It seems important to give space and time to small gestures: the rite of breakfast, the care of our body, the time spent with our children, the reading of newspapers(without over exposing ourselves too much to anxious news), the coffee break, the evening aperitif, preparing meals, organising the time to devote to a good movie or reading a book, in addition certainly to work time. In this particular moment, each of these activities regains dignity and time.
Tip 4 Managing Negative Emotions
When we are agitated, our perception of risk changes greatly. A good way to get rid of the load of emotions that understandably stir inside us these days is first of all to recognise them for what they are (for example: I feel scared or I feel sad) and then to let them go, without trying to solve them, control them or hide them. A practical tip is to try simple relaxation techniques ( like concentrating for 5-10 minutes on slow, regular breathing).
Tip 5 Applying digital minimalism
Never as in this period can a digital diet come in more handy. Perhaps we should take a moment to reflect on the value that social networks have for us. What do they add to our daily life? What do they take away? What is the best use we can make of them to enrich our lives? Being bombarded with information from morning to night because we compulsively look at our mobile phones, rather than reassuring ourselves, risks increasing the cognitive load and consequently the feeling of being constantly under pressure. It is better to just consult official sources, avoid word-of-mouth and update yourself once or twice a day on how the situation is developing
REALITY – We are HUMAN
We would like to start with some words of Pope Francis, taken from his New Year homily 2018: “You can have flaws, be anxious, and even be angry, but do not forget that your life is the greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you. Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.”
We know that couples can hit rock bottom quite hard, especially after long periods of romance in their marriage. The reality at such times is that we become two individuals with differences that need to be reconciled. It can be a heartbreaking time.
We have to remind ourselves that we are human be-ings, not just human do-ings. With the world’s pace of life, the demands of economic survival becoming even more challenging, plus the stresses involved in bringing up a family these days, we might be forgiven for wondering ‘when do I/we get a chance to be’? The Word of God through scripture looks into the deepest aspects of our humanity, the negative ones but also our integrity, humility and honesty. St Paul for example, makes it clear that our humanity is not to be judged by the world’s wisdom. Jesus “has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom” (1 Corinthians 30). In the Gospels, Jesus has set out a ‘blueprint’ for how He would like us to live out those attributes in our life. These are commonly called the Be-attitudes; how we can Be more like Jesus. For us couples, it means always being able to approach each other. This might include being ‘gentle’ towards one another, sharing each others ‘sadness’, seeking what is ‘right’ for our marriage, and being ‘merciful’ and ‘peacemakers’ when things go wrong. Pope Francis would certainly encourage us to do this.
Brian and Maureen Devine
Coordinators Two In One Flesh
A young wife was saying recently that the issues in her marriage had got worse during lockdown and she felt hopeless. She was searching for help and found it in a virtual programme for distressed marriages. Now, they are working towards a better future. There is hope and there are resources to fuel that hope.
This past half year has been like no other and marriages have been tested in the furnace of affliction, leaving many couples hurt and bewildered. Wondering …what IS going on? I thought we were happy, I thought our marriage was secure but now…we pick fights, argue, ignore, shame, or manipulate each other. The kindness and encouragement we once showed each other, the teamwork that made our days go smoothly, seems to have gone out the window! Criticism has replaced encouragement, defensiveness replaced listening and contempt and impatience with each other leads to longer and longer silences. We cannot get through to each other anymore. It is so much easier to be kind, understanding and encouraging to others than to each other. An important truth is that love is not fully realised until it involves the hard work of accepting what we judge are the faults and failings of the one closest to us. In order for love, to be truly love, it must involve sacrifice and selflessness.
How can we do that? We need to be willing to learn new and better ways to communicate our love, to forgive, to focus on the other. As couples, we can decide to use our pain to be the motivator to take us forward to a better tomorrow: that new landscape, a place of hope and growth enables us to go forward, learning new and better ways to live our marriage. That is sacrifice and selflessness in action. We need to offer the best of ourselves to our marriages.
Clive & Kathy Jones