THE PARENTING DARE BLOG
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THE PARENTING DARE BLOG
I love, love, love mothers.
Join our community!
Imagine this: you have a child getting married and you have to give that child and their fiance just TWO PIECES of ADVICE before they wed.
What would it be?
And how would you pick your advice? Would it be from advice you once received? Or would it be hard-earned from your own life? Would it be about faith? Family? Sacrifice? Sex? Commitment?
What do you think is VITAL in the marital relationship?
I have been thinking about this a lot this year.
Why? Well, three of my sons planned weddings this year.
Eric married Jessica Ragas in March:
Mitch married Lucy Clark in May:
And Matthew is marrying Abbey Motley this week:
And so, as I have watched these boys of mine separate from me (which is as it should and must be), I have found myself wanting to look them in the eye and share my best thoughts.
Interestingly, those best thoughts have looked a lot like the roadway system in downtown Dallas, a criss-crossing, massively intertwining structure, going a million different ways at one time.
To help me sort out those thoughts, whenever I would wake up in the middle of the night (which was often, thank you, Menopause), I would pretend to give a toast to my child of the moment.
“There will be a million things that will divide you. Work. Kids. You will need to work to stay close to one another. There are many ways to do that. I’ve always liked the idea of date night once a week, but when the kids come, it can be tricky to leave the home. So choose one night a week where you can sit together without interruption, without screens and just talk over your life and your week together. Lean into each other. Share what is going on below the water line.”
“Every relationship will hit a crossroads, where the infatuation wears off and you are face to face with a very real person. It is at that moment where you have to choose. Child, choose your spouse. Every day. Choose your spouse. Allow your love to deepen into something of great worth. That is where the gold is, child.”
“Be faithful to each other. Satan will do everything and anything to get you to stray from each other. Remember that the grass ain't greener. You still have to mow on that side of the fence.”
“If you are blessed with children, work hard to NOT become a child-centered family. Keep it a couple-centered family. Keep your relationship strong. Keep building into each other. Don’t give your best parts only to your kids. Reserve some of that best for each other.”
“Protect your relationship by doing all of the things that help a relationship. Pray about the problems that come up before you talk with him or her. Figure out each other’s love languages and utilize them. Apologize. Be sensitive to their needs. Enjoy one another. Let your eyes light up when you see them. Laugh more often.”
As you can see, Lori has a lot of thoughts on marriage and what makes a marriage strong. But as those thoughts flowed in and out of me, I knew that I wasn’t hitting the Most Important Things.
And I made myself think VERY SPECIFICALLY about my marriage. Russ and I have been married for 33 years. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I had to narrow our life into just TWO KEY COMPONENTS, what would they be?
Well, the first one won’t be a surprise. The second one, however, might be.
The FIRST thing that has helped me in my marriage: keeping God first.
For years I thought Russ could and should fill me. Well, that’s too great of an ask. That’s the role that only God can fill. Once I made that adjustment, our relationship really deepened.
So my biggest piece of advice for any married couple, but especially newly married couples: let God be your Savior, not your spouse. Turn to God for all of the good gifts. He can and will fill. He will give peace. Understanding. Patience. Joy. Again, all the good gifts.
Your spouse cannot bear the full weight of you. I thought, for many years, that my husband could and should. I was wrong. Turning to GOD the FATHER for healing and wholeness allows me to show up in my marriage ready to give and love in a way that is beyond me.
That’s the biggest piece of advice: don’t turn to your “other” to be your savior. You have a Savior. Utilize Him. He will guide, fill, bless you with everything you need, making you WHOLE and HOLY.
Okay. Now. I have a second HUGE piece of advice, which, at first glance, might seem totally and completely crazy. But hang with me.
I believe the next best thing any couple can do for your marriage is practice Natural Family Planning.
What is Natural Family Planning? Simply put, it is all about understanding the woman’s natural cycles in her body, allowing the couple to be able to prayerfully decide if they are open to conceiving a life or not.
Why focus on the woman’s cycle? Well, the man is basically able to reproduce at any second of any day in the month. The woman’s hormonal cycle, however, ebbs and flows. There are times when she can conceive and other times when she cannot conceive.
Learning about those cycles and listening to them is absolutely life changing. In all the ways.
Here’s the interesting part: practicing NFP sounds archaic. Who would do such a thing, eh?
In fact, in the year 1987, when Russ and I were preparing for our July 23, 1988 wedding, I was totally underwhelmed by our Natural Family Planning class. I didn’t like the instructor and I certainly didn’t appreciate her telling me how I should wipe. I mean, of all things.
I knew that I could manage my marital life by going on the Pill and calling it good. After all, that’s what everyone else was doing and it was fine for them. So it should be fine for me and my future husband, right?
So on the way to my childhood home, where my fiancé was going to drop me off, I spoke my mind. “I don’t like NFP and I would like to go on the Pill.”
I remember exactly where we were driving, just south of Crete, Nebraska, on the curves going towards my hometown of Wilber. Russ was quiet. Oddly quiet.
Then he simply stated, “Okay, if that’s what you want to do. But then we will also become Lutheran because I won’t be a shopping cart Catholic.”
My first response was anger. Then more anger. How and why would he take such a stand against me? Didn’t he LOVE me?
Long story short, we didn’t change religions but I did change my mind about NFP and to this day, I praise my husband for taking that stand because Natural Family Planning has been the most immense and surprising blessing in our lives.
Okay. Why? Well, let me just explain some things without getting too detailed or intimate.
First of all, couples that practice Natural Family Planning have an extremely low divorce rate. Since I want to give my children every advantage at having a strong marriage, why wouldn’t I want them to go all in with Natural Family Planning?
Why is NFP so good for a marriage?
When a couple practices Natural Family Planning, there is a natural “tuning into” the woman’s biology. Yes, there is the pleasure of the sex act, but there is also a deeper “knowing” or maybe the better way to say this: there is an acknowledgement of the power of sex. And with each encounter, the couple is able to weigh that into their own lives.
Are they at a place in the woman’s cycle where it is totally filled with Green Lights? Or is there a cautionary flag? Then the couple must communicate about their wants and desires and such. Are they ready for a baby?
And as that happens, the sex act becomes much more than just an encounter. It becomes a place of constant communication on intimate matters.
Long story short, God is privy to the most confidential and almost classified aspects of married life. He is the CREATOR of life. And with every sexual union, the couple understands that at a very real level.
That sounds grand, doesn’t it? But in reality, it is also a place of intense frustration. I mean, tell me I cannot have something, especially when ovulation hormones are flowing like a river. Ha. It has not always been pretty. But I would also say that sexual tension is actually pretty healthy for a relationship.
It makes the reunion that much more enjoyable.
Or...if the couple decides to “go for it” at the time of the month when they KNOW they can conceive? Well, wow. Ovulation sex is just about the best sex in the world. I have asked my husband why that is so. And he has said, “Well, if I am going to pay for that act for the next 18 years, then it better be damn good.”
Ha. I love my husband. For sure, when ovulation sex occurs, there is a deeper allowing or surrendering taking place, which brings everything to a crazy intense level of union.
Natural Family Planning. It is difficult. Amazing. Fabulous. Powerful. All the good things.
So to my adult children. As you take the next step and get married, these are my two best pieces of advice:
Let God be your Savior. Not your spouse. Let GOD into your interior life. Turn to HIM first, allowing Him to smooth the rough parts within.
And then, allow God into your fertility. Let Him be part of that intimate aspect of your married life. It will naturally flow into everything else, making your communication better, your faithfulness stronger. Your surrendering in this area will actually protect your relationship.
Again, if it had been up to me, I would have chosen the easier path. But praise God, I married your father, a man that wanted to stay faithful to the teaching of the Catholic Church.
And that has made all of the difference.
Cheers to you. And may you enjoy all of the fruitfulness of a strong, Christ-centered marriage.
(Friends, I would love love love to hear your best two pieces of marital advice! Write them in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will share your thoughts with Matt and Abbey...and Eric and Jessica...and Mitchell and Lucy! I love this life and am SO GLAD you are in it!)
P.S. Yes, we are busy around here, but my next retreat for MOTHERS is the first weekend of December! I cannot wait! Find out more: MOTHER RETREAT.
I'm Lori Doerneman
Wife. Mom. Catholic.
Idealist with 8 kids,
keeping it real.
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