COMMON CHALLENGES FOR NEWLYWEDS
As a Catholic psychotherapist I have worked with dozens of couples in my 25 plus years in practice. While each situation is certainly unique, there are some fundamental issues that present themselves over and over. I would like to present three issues and offer my best advice to newlyweds.
The first issue is a developmental one: know whose team you are on. This may sound ridiculous but it is a huge problem! Before we fall in love and marry, our major affiliation is with our families of origin. These are the families we were born into, the ones we grew up in. They are usually composed of our mother, father, and siblings. We are members of this home team, so to speak. Our loyalty and commitment has been to these folks all our life. When we marry, this situation, out of necessity, must change. When we fall in love and begin to talk seriously of marriage, we are talking of forming a new home team. As a member of this new team, I must switch my commitment and loyalty to my spouse. This does not mean that I no longer love and respect my original family members. What it means is that when there is a conflict of timing or interest, my allegiance must be with my spouse. This loyalty and commitment between spouses is the foundation upon which our new family will be built. It’s biblical: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one body.”(Genesis 2:24)
The second issue I want to address is confusing the ideal with the real. From the time we are children we begin to think of what kind of life we want to have when we grow up. These fantasies are helpful in keeping us inspired to stay on track with our studies, etc. However, they can get in the way when we finally do marry. Often these fantasies have become so important to us that we spend all our time, effort, and energy trying to make them real. This is done in a way that diminishes the reality of our life. In other words, instead of loving my spouse for who he really is, I try to turn him into the husband of my dreams. Both men and women are guilty of this, and as you might imagine, it is extremely toxic to marriages. Instead of seeing your spouse through this idealized lens, where you focus on how he/she doesn’t quite measure up; look at him/her anew, remembering the qualities that initially attracted you. Thank God every day for the wonderful man/woman he has brought into your life. As you develop this attitude of gratitude, you will find that your love for your spouse will deepen and grow stronger.
The third issue I would like to address is the absence of God in the marriage relationship. When couples trust God and seek His Will for their lives, they make very different and much better choices for themselves. When God is not present, it can all too easily become a tug of war between spouses as to who will get their way. Perhaps the biggest lie around is that we will be happy if we get what we want. Just look around, those “lucky enough” to get what they want are often the most miserable people of all. When we humble ourselves to seek God’s Will for us, we get what we need. We are also brought to the place where we can live the good plan God has for our lives. Again, it’s scriptural, Jeremiah 29:11. Humbling ourselves is so important. Pride destroys marriages because pride blocks love.
I have a prayer that I use with couples. I am including it here. I have couples read it together both morning and night. It invites God into their relationship, and opens minds and melts hearts.
See post dated April 13, 2012. A Prayer for Married Couples