Enriching a marriage to handle life’s coming changes

April 25, 2017

Married couples have “a solemn obligation to love and care for each other.” This love and care requires intentional effort.

Self-help is one of the first places many couples turn to for enriching their marriages. Many good books, webinars and online programs are available, however, one should know that research tells us many marriage enrichment workshops, retreats, weekends offer benefits greater than other self-help approaches.

The area of Marriage Enrichment of the Archdiocese offers and supports many opportunities for education, formation and sharing for all diverse ethnic groups.

The Office of Family Life Ministry focuses on highly structured programs that focus on teaching the importance of commitment, love, sacrifice, friendship and forgiveness, and also teach other areas. Programs (secular- and faith-based) also focus on communication, problem solving, adaptability and conflict resolution.

Many people think a happy and successful marriage comes naturally and all that is required is to learn and develop skills to make their marriages strong, satisfying and enduring.

Those are all very important, but it is very necessary that any enrichment opportunity help spouses to include two or more of the following characteristics:
• Brings the awareness, in both spouses, that marriage is not just between the two of them but three: that includes God in the first place;
• Shows clearly the value of sacrifice for one another;
• Teaches ways to ask and offer forgiveness;
• Gives an opportunity of making you more aware of your own goodness;
• Allows you to be more aware of your spouse’s goodness;
• Helps you focus daily on the good in each other;
• Helps you focus on the good in your relationship;
• Improving how your loving sacrifice, generosity and forgiveness are continuous, as Christ does it with us;
• Teaching you how to communicate in a positive, joyful and uplifting manner.

Unfortunately, very few couples take advantage of marriage enrichment programs like this. Most wait until their problems are severe before they seek help, and often it’s too late for education. Major interventions are required in most of the cases.

Couples looking to reaffirm their love improve intimacy and gain healthy communications skills may wish to try out a couple’s workshop.

Marriage Enrichment activities work hard to offer opportunities to English, Spanish and Vietnamese speaking couples.

In March, 28 married couples attended the 36th annual Marriage Renewal workshop, presented by the Vietnamese ministry team at the St. Dominic Archdiocesan Center.

Activities to enhance self/couple awareness included learning strategies that promote connection with each other and with the Catholic community, and experiences to help deepened one’s sense of Sacrament and service. The safe climate of the workshop provided married couples the opportunities to learn from others shared experiences.

The workshop also included Mass and Reconciliation for couples to reconcile with God and one another. The most precious gifts that the married couples gave to each other during the weekend workshop were the private time that they have for each other without distractions.

In these workshops, married couples strengthen their relationship and deepen their sense of belonging to their Catholic community. The workshop is created by couples for couples; it seeks to support marriages by creating opportunities for spouses to experience God’s unconditional love, boost their relationship skills, and motivate them to share their gifts in active service to other couples and the greater community.

The workshop enables marriages to flourish; illuminates the Sacramental nature of Marriage; and fosters communication among the couple and the sense of service to the community, the Church and the world.

We encourage couples to take time away from regular life, to learn from someone who’s been there to express selfless love, gratitude and fellowship, to grow closer to each other and to God, and have a better marriage.

The next English workshop is scheduled for Oct. 13 to 15.

Don’t give up in your efforts to grow in the human aspect as in the interior life and learn from Christ and His Mother to love to the point of carrying the cross and be crucified for the sake of love.

St. Josemaria Escriva said: “Couples have the grace of the married state — the grace they receive in the Sacrament of Marriage — which enables them to live all the human and Christian virtues in the married life: understanding, good humor, patience, forgiveness, refinement and consideration in their mutual relations... We should ask God for the strength to overcome our whims and to practice self-control, but we also need the help of a confessor or other means of formation to work out our shortcomings...” 

Maritza C. Roman-Pavajeau is an associate director of the Office of Family Life Ministry. Minh Thuy, member of the Leader Team of Marriage Renewal Workshop, also contributed to the article.