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Filtering by Tag: Defending Marriage

Marriage is Healing, Part IV--Respectful Communication

alec vanderboom

(Make sure you read part one and part two and part three first.)

(Special note: everything contained in this series of posts are pre-approved by my husband. It's hard to find the narrow way when speaking about your marriage on the internet. I didn't want to come across as a glib "we're perfect and have no problems, isn't God great?", but I didn't want to disrespect my husband's and my real need for privacy either. I tried to find the middle way. God's healing mercy is real. My prayer is to give Hope)

This is the part that Amy asked me to write about --respectful communication with my husband--and honestly, I don't have it yet. I just know there is a piece of the puzzle missing for me.

I love my husband.
I enjoy his company.
I admire his virtues.
I find him hot in both baseball caps and in sweater vests.
I believe in his leadership of our family because I see the Holy Spirit working in him.

Yet, I can not seem to keep this annoyingly disrespectful tone out of my voice when we're talking about something I disagree with him about.

I can't even tell you what I'm doing wrong yet--I just see his sudden "nails on a chalk board" reaction to my voice, and I know now to quickly stop, say "I'm sorry for disrespecting you" and wait until the air is fully clear.

I'm only at step one of learning how to respect my husband unconditionally (meaningfully apologize when I screw up)--but that one step is huge. I'm getting new love letters on the kitchen table! So I'm just really motivated to keep going. I really think this "Respect for my Husband" is huge and sort of applies to everything from healing our disunity to our Bishops to Better Knowing the Lord, My God.

If anyone has ideas on how to better respect our husband jump into the comments, or better yet, write your own post and link to us. Husbands, if you have thoughts on "Respect" please chime in.
(Remember personal anecdotes are awesome--that's how I remember new concepts--but always check with your beloved spouse before airing private moments in public!)


(To briefly recap for new readers)

So--watching the movie Fireproof helped me kickstart a conversation with my husband about "What 3 things can I do to show you respect." He picked tithing, doing evening prayer together, and not using my father's credit card. Three months later, those tasks are much easier for me.
I also learned that chronic complaining about my hard days with our kids was a form of disrespect to my husband. I'm now working on ironing his work shirts and keeping hand towels in the kitchen (acts of service). Respectful communication itself continues to elude me.

Reading this book "Love and Respect" helped. (I checked it out of my local library)

This book is wordy, you just need to read the first chapter. There is a picture of a "Conflict" Cycle. In theory, couples are always in a "race to the top" for outdoing each other in showing love or respect--or in a downward spiral. Basically she feels unloved (or overwhelmed I'd add with childrearing) so she acts disrespectful, then the man feels hurt and this ugly race happens. Things can get ugly really fast.

The stuff in the a blog post by the Author sounded like Greek but also somehow made sense to me.

"The secret is this:  A husband is motivated to love in response to a wife showing him unconditional respect.  

Paul, as well, shares God’s secret.  “The wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33b NIV).  This is his summary statement on marriage to the wife in the most significant treatise on marriage in the New Testament.Did you know that God does not command a wife to agape-love her husband?  Only the husband is commanded to agape-love (Ephesians 5:33a).   Agape-love is that God-like unconditional love.
The Mysterious Island
Why is a wife not commanded to agape-love?  God designed a wife to love.  She loves to love.  For this reason, a husband does not doubt his wife’s love.  What he doubts is her respect for him.  During an argument, if she shouts, “I love you a ton but don’t feel any respect for you!” he’ll become an island unto himself.  A mysterious island.
That is equal to a husband shouting, “I respect you more than any other human being, especially since you received a million dollar inheritance from your old man, but I don’t love you, never have.”  What wife will jump in the air and click her heels over that comment?  She is devastated and would never get over it.
As a wife needs love like she needs air, so a husband needs respect like he needs air.  He is devastated and never gets over the declaration, “Nobody could ever respect you.”
I recognize myself in this, but I still don't understand what "unconditional respect" to your husband means or even looks like in practice. I'm eager to learn. This healing of Eve's sin starts with me!

Marriage is Healing, Part III --A Truce on the Housework Wars

alec vanderboom

(Make sure you read part one and part two first.)

(Special note: everything contained in this series of posts are pre-approved by my husband. It's hard to find the narrow way when speaking about your marriage on the internet. I didn't want to come across as a glib "we're perfect and have no problems, isn't God great?", but I didn't want to disrespect my husband's and my real need for privacy either. I tried to find the middle way. God's healing mercy is real. My prayer is to give Hope)

A surprising thing happened when Jon went on his first retreat last May. I'd pre-paid for a weekend at a nearby Benedictine Monestary for his 40th Birthday Present back in February. (Pre-payment is very important when making a retreat. It keeps your commitment). When I made the reservation, I was still pregnant and full of Hope and Charity. I didn't want this important milestone brushed under the rug in the choas of having a new baby.

Then the new baby came--and she had colic.

I sort of bravely shoved my reluctant husband out the door on his retreat weekend. He was leaving me for 72 hours with the following

a colicky seven week old newborn
a teething toddler
a non-sleeping through the night five year old
a seven year old
an nine year old
a dog
and a cat.

When I shut the porch door behind him, I told myself "Let go of the housework this weekend! No expectations! As long as I keep everyone breathing for the next 72 hours, I get to count that as success.

I pictured him coming home on Sunday evening to miles of dirty dishes, unwashed laundry and a listing dog that hadn't been walked properly in days.

Here is the shocking part. Housework was easier when he was gone. I was busy on that solo weekend, but I felt better. Everything went into two piles, either I did it, or it didn't get done. Here's the pile that wasn't open---"leave it for Jon to do when he gets home." It was amazing how much I could get done--and how much peace I had when things didn't get done--when I was alone.  

Each night, I went to bed tired--but in a clean room, with a candle burning, fresh flowers on  the windowsill and clean sheets on the bed. I had time to chat with my honey on the phone, read a good book, and chat leisurely with my daughters. That's an abnormal outcome for me.

While I was cleaning up on retreat weekend, God told me "I want you to do all the housework when Jon comes home." 

Like a true daughter of Mary, I said "that is impossible!"

Then, I said reluctantly, "Okay, I'll give it a trial period of two weeks."

When Jon came home, I told him he couldn't help me with housework. He was sort of shocked. He felt uncomfortable. I kept telling him "it's only two weeks."

You see, I thought I was doing this experiment FOR ME.

I have incredible problems with housework. I have ADD-Indecision, so housework is hard for me. I hate making back to back decisions. Guess what cleaning a house is--a trillion little back to back decisions. Often, I start working on one project (the dishes), and then I go off on another (organizing the plastic lids) before abandoning the entire purpose to go sort the clean clothes from the dryer. For an extra layer of challenge, I'm a gifted student who remains a horrid perfectionist. So in the middle of housecleaning I start beating myself up over not doing this "right" or "well." (By the way, my perfectionism is so bad, for years I didn't think I qualified as a perfectionist because I didn't do anything perfectly!) On top of everything, I have low stamina for stress, anxiety and I have anger issues. So rather than feel depressed when I'm upset at myself--I start yelling at everyone else--it's THEIR fault that our house is messy. 

Housecleaning and me equals recipe for disaster and a quick descent into serious sin.

Now contrast my attitude with my husband. My husband was raised by a mother and grandmother who ran a Sea Side Hotel in New Jersey. He learned how to keep a house clean from professionals. He also served in the Army Reserves. The man has a calm, orderly nature that actually finds steam cleaning a living room, and polishing shoes relaxing!

So if we were sitting down in marital counseling, a priest or therapist could easily say "divide the chores according to likes and ability" and Abigail would say "not it" for housecleaning, and Jon would say "my pleasure!"

The reason why Marital Life is so exciting is that God does not hand out life experiences based on what we "like or dislike." God hands out tasks that are "good for our soul."

So for two weeks in early June, I told Jon he couldn't do housework. He couldn't clean the table for Saturday dinner. He had to sit around while I did the pancakes. At first it was so cool. He said "What do I do?" I said "pull up a chair and talk to me while I cook."

I realized that this is what I really wanted while I did my domestic tasks. I didn't need his help. I needed his company.

After a few days of this, he said "Well..... I guess I'll go check on the dehumidifier...." There was another shock. When I didn't burden Jon down with all of my unfinished "wife" concerns, he was free to do tasks around the house that were bothering him. This was a surprise. 

We had just bought our first house and were moving from apartment dwelling "call the landlord about it" to "Man, guess I've got to figure out how to fix this myself." My husband had all kinds of new concerns and worries about how to keep us safe and comfortable in the new house. When I stopped unloading my own to do list on his shoulders--help me move that, I didn't get this finished today because the baby was crying--then my husband started fixing big worries on our family. 

Turns out, my husband has his own To Do List from God that often includes things that are completely off my radar. For example, we have an original oil heating furnace from 1950--with the oil drum storage inside our basement. My husband figured out how to install ceremic electric heaters this winter, so it appears that we won't have a $200 a month heating bill. Do you know how relaxing it is to NOT leave in fear of the cold weather coming this October? 

That is a BIG HELP my husband handed me--all because I didn't ask him to set the table for me every night before dinner.

Another funny note, my husband changed tons of diapers when our first two kids were born 18 months apart. He actually developed a terrible allergy to diaper wipes and dish soap. We tried all kinds of new soaps and different wipes. Nothing works. It's so hard because he can use a wipe or soap twice or three times without a reaction--but if he tips the balance this incredibly painful eczema starts. It takes months of expensive prescription steroids to fix.

When everything was falling apart during Baby Abigail's colic I told my husband "You can not change even one diaper!" Everything was so hard, I knew we couldn't handle even one break out of his eczema. It was far easier to change every diaper than live with the consequences of even a mini-break out, like what happened with Miss Tess.

So here is the funny part, now that I change each and every diaper (okay --sometimes he still pitches in using paper towels), but now that I change almost every single diaper for two little girls--I don't notice diaper changing duty anymore. It has disappeared from my day. It's invisible work. What I used to do was thing "Oh, this is a nasty one." "Uh, should have left that messy one for Jon." "Why do the awful messes always happen when he's at work?" Now that it's firmly my job, the nasty thoughts are gone!

Also, dish-washing duty. We have a new dishwasher that the seller unexpectedly added to our house during the sale (God at work!), but many times dishes still need to be washed before Jon cooks a special dish like Nutella crepes. (Oh, you mean you always finish the pots and pans after each and every meal? Well, I'm a terrible housekeeper. See notes above). So there is this funny moment when my husband has to ask me to clean a pot for him. I can tell its hard on him. 

It is this beautiful --I need you to wash my feet for me moment-- inside our regular Daily Life. When my husband was a bachelor, he could wash the dishes himself. Since he's not, he has to ask his wife for help. I think its good for us to practice such an important act of humility on something as mundane as doing the dishes.

We're now about four months into following God's advice that "Abby does all the housework." We're still tweaking it. For example, my husband is much better at doing the deep cleaning. I think he's getting a pattern at getting our house "fixed" each Saturday. So I think we are drifting from clear black and white rules, to a more relaxed pattern. Still, I think the general gist is "don't divide the chores 50/50".

The crazy part about this truce is that fighting about housework was 90% of our weekly fights. Once we stopped fighting about housework--it was a little scary, because suddenly we started fighting about THE BIG STUFF. (When I say "we were fighting", I mean me. I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who starts 99.9% of the disagreements in our marriage). 

Once I stopped feeling put down because I did all the housework, or overwhelmed about the housework, or depressed about the housework--I could start looking around with clear eyes and see what truly needed to be fixed in my soul, in my life, and in my marriage.

I stopped asking my husband to set the table.
I started asking him to write me love letters.

That transition, honestly, was a little scary. There were a couple of days during the Ugly Time when I said "I wish I was fighting with you about the housework." Fighting with my husband about housework is safe and limited. Fighting about "Do you let God truly Romance Your Soul" is vast and frightening. Yet guess which intense discussion is more likely to matter in heaven?

So that is my challenge to you lovely Christian wives. Stop fighting about the housework. Wash the dishes yourself. Then ask your husband to fix a broken speaker so that you can slow dance to Pandora in the living room tonight. At least for me, I learned that I need my husband to to be my protector, my provider and my hunky dancing partner a heck of a lot more than I need him to be my fellow "maid of all work."

Notes From My Husband: Jon said he heard a Norwegian Study on NPR yesterday that said that couples who evenly split chores were more likely to get divorced.

Marriage is Healing, Part II

alec vanderboom

(Make sure you read part one first.)

(Special note: everything contained in this series of posts are pre-approved by my husband. It's hard to find the narrow way when speaking about your marriage on the internet. I didn't want to come across as a glib "we're perfect and have no problems, isn't God great?", but I didn't want to disrespect my husband's and my real need for privacy either. I tried to find the middle way. God's healing mercy is real. My prayer is to give Hope)

John Eldredge's book, Fathered by God:Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You, was a game charger for me.

This man is a Carmelite. I know that he's a Protestant Pastor who's probably never read St. John of the Cross--but Christ is Christ, and this man found his way into the deepest secrets of the Carmelite spirituality without having once tasted the Eucharist. A good prayer life is the gateway to Truth.

Here is my favorite part: God As Lover

"John Wesley was thirty-five when he experience the now famous "warming" of his heart--not his mind--towards Christ...."the difficulty as John Julian said "is the term Lover as applied to our Lord." Revisions now in hymnbooks now read, Jesus, Savoir of my soul, or Jesus, Refuge of my soul," which are touching but nothing close to what Wesley meant. He meant Lover."

Men who have fallen in love with God are often referred to in the church as 'mystics' a term that gives a sort of honor while at the same time effecting a dismissal. Mystic, meaning 'inexplicable,' which devolves into 'unreasonable.' Mystic, meaning also "exceptional: , as opposed to perfectly normal. (Large print edition, page 192)

This book is written specifically to men--but the whole thing is amazing, and as a woman who was poorly Fathered by a Man, and who is In Love with a Man, and who is the Mother  of a young man, this book was an amazing read.

The chapter that helped my marriage this past summer is Chapter Six, called "the Lover." Elderedge's theory is that the journey of men is a journey of "initiation." We've lost a sense of Fatherhood in our modern culture--so it means that guys get stuck in stages.

There is a natural progression Beloved Son-to Cowboy--to Warrior--to Lover--to King--to Sage. Modern day guys often get "stuck" in one stage--or skip over whole stages completely and that causes spiritual trouble--distance from God.

As a wife, I was totally shocked to discover that my husband was having trouble with stages of his masculinity. I know that sounds stupid. I'd totally accepted that my grating, annoyingly prim feminist upbringing and hurtful experiences at a radical college were serious obstacles to fully embracing my vocation as a wife and mother. I witnessed how God was slowly using my day to day experiences as a stay-at-home mother to heal serious cracks in my soul.

Yet, somehow, I just assumed from the outside that my husband had it easier.

My husband was doing everything "right."

He'd stepped up to become the sole provider of our family.
He changed diapers.
He joyfully welcomed new babies into his life with all of their joyful messiness and sleeplessness.
He said he loved me.
He drove me to church and sat in the pew with me.
He made love to me often.

Somehow, my husband, the artist, the Carmelite, the mountain climber--wasn't a Lover. He had gotten stuck in the "warrior for Christ" stage and was having trouble moving into Holy, Song of Songs type love for God and for me.

He said he couldn't  let Beauty saturate him.

We would sit together in Mass, a new church dripping with beautiful stain glass windows and the Holy Mysteries of the Rosary, and He wouldn't FEEL God kissing his soul.

And I was sitting next to him, feeling those personal soul kisses, and I didn't realize that he wasn't experience that intense, personal, Romantic love from God also.

So when I blithely told him, "I need more Romance from you...."
He told me "I can't do that. I don't even feel that way about God.... this is a bigger problem than you..."

That was scary. For him. For me.

I know this seems selfish, but I walked around a lot this summer crying about this. I cried during our new Pastor's installation Mass. I cried while my whole family went happily fishing. I felt like that lonely scene during Marie Antoinette, when she just feels so helpless about her marriage and she says "I can't believe that a pretty girl like me is having these kind of problems..."

Then my husband told me "Don't you think this is bigger than you? Don't you think God is even more sad than you..."

And so that became my prayer. "Jesus, this hurts you even more than it hurts me. Go fix it!"

It didn't help that we both had baggage from previous sexual partners before our union. Yet somehow, in my imperfect theology, I'd let that fact rob us from truly relaxing and "delighting" in our sex life. It was like "Oh, I once was a whore, I once used an aborficent, I once had good sex with this man before we were lawfully married... so I better button down and muddle through the sexual part of our marriage at year eleven--um, especially now that we're trying to make out with a colicky baby screaming in a cradle in our dining room--what else can I expect at this stage of my life..."

Not talking to my husband about our sex life was the unnecessary hair shirt I wore in my marriage. I was how I paid for all of my sexual sins before we became knowledgeable, faithful Catholics.

(I can't talk about sex with him because its too scary. I can't talk about it because I'd be too vulnerable. He's so tired from working a hard job, just for me, how can I tell him I'm anything but totally happy? What else can I expect as a Mother of a newborn, anyway?)

And it got really depressing really fast. Because as an Open to Life Catholic, I couldn't just tell myself "oh just wait six months until the baby stops having colic, then your sexual union with Jon will really take off..."

Because, as far as I knew, we could have ANOTHER colicky baby in nine months.... at age 37, I could potentially have four or five new Baby Abigails in my life...we sort of needed to find a way to become Lovers in the middle of colic.

This debate I was having in my soul was so hidden--I didn't even know it was going on, until I read a passage from Fathered by God "Even now, at the stage they ought to act like kings, many men are frightened by their wives because she feels like the verdict on them...It brings a terrible ambiguity into the heart of the lover. So does early sexual experimentation. For years I was a cautious lover towards [my wife], and it hurt her. Even on our wedding night she wondered, "why doesn't he want me passionately?" (page 202)

It hurt me to read my unexpressed pain in black and white words inside a strangers book. I actually ran upstairs into my sleeping children's bedroom and cried on their bedroom floor. It felt so painful. It felt like frost bite must feel when the blood starts recirculating back into a numb limb. I didn't even know I wanted "passionate pursuit."

I just knew that the polite democratic discussions about starting sex during the throws of colic--"So do you sort of want to.." "Okay, well maybe we can try a little bit..." "Whoops, better skip ahead before the toddler wakes up..." those types of discussions were crushing me. I wanted to be pursued. I wanted to pursue him.

(Much later, we were visiting my Dad's college and I noticed the anti-rape signs all over campus. It was like "I wasn't sure how she was feeling, so I asked!" Rape is everywhere in College, so we train men --always Ask before Sex, because otherwise You Are A Rapist. But the reality is that Sex is NEVER good for girls outside of marriage. Emotionally it is not safe, so physically for us, it is not going to feel good. So the truth that those posters should have said on this Methodist College Campus is "Don't sleep with someone who isn't wearing your wedding ring on their finger.")

Once you get married, however, it's hard to turn off that line of thinking. Our culture is so messed up about sex, it's hard to suddenly flip and say Okay, now Sex is fine. For me it was "Am I a slut for wanting my husband when he's tired?" and I think for him it it was "Am I allowed to kiss her passionately while she's standing there fuming about the unwashed laundry with circles under her eyes and a fresh c-section scar from bearing the last fruit of our marriage on her stomach?"

The answers to both questions, and I think Mr Jesus and our Catholic Church would agree, is YES, desire for your spouse is always a beautiful holy thing.

Truly, I need to know that I'm sexy right after having a fifth c-section.
God thinks I'm Beautiful after Childbirth--so why would it be so strange to my husband to think that he can love me at those exact moments that God finds me so loveable?

So thank you Mr. Eldredge! We might never meet for a personal thank you until Heaven, but thanks to your bravely honest book, I now have a heck of a better shot at getting there!

Marriage is Healing, Part I

alec vanderboom

(Special note: everything contained in this series of posts are pre-approved by my husband. It's hard to find the narrow way when speaking about your marriage on the internet. I didn't want to come across as a glib "we're perfect and have no problems, isn't God great?", but I didn't want to disrespect my husband's and my real need for privacy either. I tried to find the middle way. God's healing mercy is real. My prayer is to give Hope)

When I woke up today, my early morning commuter husband had already

a) turned on the electric heater in my kitchen making everything warm and toasty
b) made our first ever pot of French Press Coffee
c) left a love note on our kitchen table.

That last act of romance warmed my heart the most!

I can easily write a mushy post about "Why I love my Husband," but what I want to try to accomplish in the next series of posts is "Why I love God," because He teaches my husband how to Romance my heart, and my Soul and my Body.

God pursues me. This isn't a theoretical debate we're having in my mind, heart and body. "Do you think I exist Abby?" "I dunno God, do you exist?" "Well, lets break it down into a mathematical equation..."

God wants me. He goes after me. He gets jealous. He gets perturbed. He tells me to do something--I refuse and after much back and forth I finally follow His totally useless, impossible, embarrassing suggestion....and lo and behold--He's right. And I think "Ahhh, God..... You truly Get Me! You Really Do Love Me! I'm Yours!"

God romances my Soul.

(At some point I'd like to skip ahead to the part where we're living in romance without all my"Kiss Me Kate" prelude drama, but that is much further ahead in my hike up Mount Carmel, right now I'm just grateful Mr. Jesus and I are getting all kissy face at all.)

In the middle of this "I'm totally underwater with a colic baby" episode this summer, I decided that I wanted my husband to Romance me. This request was not handed to him in a clear legal memo with helpful bullet points. Instead, I flung my need disrespectfully in his face when he asked me simply "Do you think I should take my car in for repairs on Monday since I have the day off for our anniversary?"

(He's said the above comment in a completely sincere tone while bouncing a feisty Miss Chillipepper on his hip and emptying the dishwasher for me.)

I have this immediate intense reaction: "This is the first thing you think about for our anniversary?" And it all comes out in one awful messy spool. "I finally got us a babysitter for all five kids, our first babysitter in five years--and we put no thought into what we are going to do together on Monday all week--but you can think about your stupid car needing an oil change at 5,000 miles on Monday?"

(I may or may not have said something worse than the word stupid but lets pretend I don't cuss when I'm angry, okay? A Southern Lady has to pretend to have some class on the internet)

Then I flounced out of the kitchen, took my first shower of the day at 5 PM in the afternoon--because that is how we mothers of colic infants sometimes roll--and cried hysterically in the shower. My heart broke. I made all of these noisy sobs that probably broke my husband's heart (did I mention that we live in a tiny house where the shower is next-door to the kitchen?) When I realized he could probably hear me, I just cried louder. "Served him right the lout!" and "my life totally sucks!" Then I came out, dried my eyes on a towel and tried to sort things out in my mind. Then I tried to go and talk to my husband in a somewhat more respectful tone "I just really need more date nights alone with you...."

And he said "I don't believe you...."

As in how can "I need more date nights" make you go off like a nuclear warhead out of no where.
"There must be something more to it than that!" "Why are you so mad at me?"

But there wasn't anything else I was mad about. A girl who is drowning under an annoying constant crying baby, really needs to dream about going to a quiet French Bistro in another town away from her offspring--or at least this sinful girl does.

(I'm kind of like Esau trading in my birthright for a bowl of soup. I'm pretty shallow that way.)

Well, this marital spat happened the night before my husband left for his 40th Birthday Retreat with the Benedictine Monks. We patched things up before he left. He went sought spiritual direction, and the healing power of Confession from a Monk--and this is the really funny part to me--the Monk basically said "Wow, Women are totally strange, you poor thing!"

"It was perfectly understandable that you wanted to take your car in for maintenance. You had the time off. This was a task that needed to be done. Why would your wife take that so personally?"

(unspoken subtext being--Wow, that must be so hard for you to constantly live with a totally irrational, alien species....)

When my husband told me this story when he came home, I just started laughing. Basically, I made a Monk feel better about his vocation! Oh yes, praying for hours is hard, working the farm is tough, but thank God I'm a Monk because hanging out with an irrational, irascible wife sounds like hell indeed!

That would be me, Mr. Jesus. Setting such a poor example of marriage that I make a Monk feel better about being celibate.

I thought things were patched up after his retreat--and things got better, and then they got worse. This "I need romance" she said, "I'm giving you everything I have and more... I've got a killer commute, an awful job, and a colic baby that stays up all night, what else could you possibly want from me since I'm working myself to the bone for you here, there is nothing left to give...." he says, argument kept coming up.

I tripped over it all of the time.

I never had an argument that didn't get worked out within an hour--maybe three days back when we were newlyweds.

This just felt weird.
And Hopeless.

And I started driving my minivan around town, suddenly sobbing hysterically to morose First Album Taylor Swift songs about unrequited love--at age 37, with five kids in the backseat!

Ugly times.

In the middle of this, all I could do was pray.

(And get really, really scared. Because I thought we were doing things "right." Having lots of babies. Trusting in God. Starting a long commute because He picked out this new house for us. I felt blindsided. I never heard  of in love, previously all lovey, dovey Catholic couples with lots of babies suddenly having troubles in their marriage. The only troubled ones I heard about were the ones that shocked us with a divorce. I started thinking about my second grade friend whose Catholic parents of six talked about divorce--and the Carmel family in my old parish who got divorced, and I started reading horrible articles about the Tipper/Gore divorce)

First, I prayed that God would teach my husband how to Romance me.
That didn't get anywhere.

Then I gave up and told God, "You romance me directly."
As in, I need romance, He can't give me it, so you have too..

Then after a long time --(From the May to the beginning of August) a Catholic priest from the Order of the Little Sisters of the Poor sat down at our table during the Feast of St. Clare, and said "this is how you write a love letter..."

I'm not kidding.

We were talking about some general subject. The priest said "My parents wrote love letters...." And then very directly told my husband "This is how you write a love letter. Abby, When you had Hannah in the hospital room, I felt this.... When you had Alex, I felt this.... "

It was actually painful to sit there and listen to this priest give advice about my marriage.
I needed that love letter from my husband so badly.

All the kids were messing around. My husband was tending to them and nodding politely--and I wanted to start jumping up and down saying "Listen to this, this is super important...."

When the priest said "When I made love to you on our wedding night, I felt this..." My cheeks got bright red with shame and I wanted to escape under the table.  My husband couldn't write a love letter like that to me, because we were sinners on our wedding night. We used contraception. We hadn't waited... This love letter advice wasn't going to work because it was for other Catholic couples, pure ones in a different era.

I decided right then and there that this simple advice wasn't going to work for us.

Yet my husband did listen to the priest.
He learned how to write a love letter.
He told me that he needed it to be in an envelope, on nice paper that I can save.

So I went to Goodwill and bought some old Martha Stewart wedding invites for $2.

Almost every morning there is a love letter waiting for me from my husband. Everything in there is holy. (My husband prays before he writes it.). Love letters make my heart happy.

Now I have a shoebox in my closet titled "Love Letters."

Once I picked up a very special one and accidentally smeared baby poop on it. I was so sad--because I wanted to save it. Then I started laughing because baby poop is actually how I answer my husband's love letter. (As in, He and Mr. Jesus tell me they love me, and my response back isn't so much a sweet note back but to submerge myself more in baby poop and the uncomfortable parts of motherhood).

Sometimes my girls find the love notes, and they love being the postman..."Mommy, there's a letter here for you!' You can't imagine the joy it gives my 9 year old to see that her Dad wrote her Mommy a love letter.

God answers prayers.
God loves marriage.
Marriage is a healing sacrament for both spouses.