Posts tagged: Spirituality

Polarize or Grow?

Did you manage some carefree timelessness with your spouse this week? Go ahead and count what you did with your Valentine. And keep trying!

Today we will turn our attention to some of the writings of David Schnarch, from his book, Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy in Committed Relationships.

Do opposites attract?

When we first fell in love, didn’t our beloved seem exactly like us? We shared the same values, ideals, and hopes for the future. We found ourselves in agreement on nearly everything. We felt perfect for each other!

Have our honeymoon, rose-colored glasses dimmed a bit since then?

Schnarch would say we are perfect for each other, not because we’re the same, but precisely because our differences are so complementary. We tend to find life partners whose strengths complement our weaknesses and vice versa. For instance, where one of us feels comfortable with relating emotionally, the other focuses on the intellectual. One may be an extravert while the other is an introvert, or value logic while the first loves creativity.

Like a crucible that holds molten metal as it is refined, our marriages support us while we are forged into better people. Ideally, the Marriage Crucible of everyday struggles helps us learn from each other and grow in our weak areas. We’ll become well-rounded and more whole by adding the other’s perspective to our own.

Sadly, in most cases, we miss that opportunity. The husband sees his spouse excel at the nitty-gritty of finances, so he lets her take over those responsibilities. Or the wife sees him as a spiritual leader, so she focuses on the role of worldly thinker. One’s nurturing instincts are strong, so the other expects her or him to become the primary caretaker of the children.

We tend to polarize into more extreme versions of ourselves, and we lose admiration for our spouses’ differences. We begin to feel our strengths are more important than theirs. The logical thinker relinquishes desire to be creative and is irritated by the spouse’s “flightiness” or “immaturity.” Meanwhile, the creative spouse begins to see the logical spouse as boring or restrictive. I’m remembering Harold Higgins in My Fair Lady singing Lerner’s lyrics, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Held in the confines of a committed relationship, resistance to growth can worsen until it feels intolerable. The irritation of daily interactions will force us to make a choice. We can give up and move on, looking for a relationship with someone new who is “just like us,” or we can tough it out and choose to round out our abilities, to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones, while we are supported by our spouse and by our commitment to our marriage.

I know a couple with a newly retired husband, but the wife is still working. He, bless him, has taken over all that she used to do: cleaning, shopping, laundry, and cooking. When she comes home tired from work, dinner is ready. That wise couple is growing strong and flexible within the Marriage Crucible, and no doubt, he has gained great respect for all she previously accomplished. I hear she will retire later this year. I bet she will return the favor and take on many of his tasks.

In another book, The Exceptional Seven Percent: Nine Secrets of the World’s Happiest Couples, Gregory K. Popcak describes traits of the happiest couples, those in what he calls a Spiritual Peer Marriage. Both husband and wife are competent at all aspects of family life, and they know they are equal, they don’t have to prove it. In a “dance of competence,” they desire to never take the other for granted so they accomplish what needs to be done without worrying about whose responsibility a task is.

I believe if we aren’t growing, we are stagnating. If we aren’t becoming closer, we’re moving apart. But a marriage where both partners stretch to learn and develop remains fresh and exciting. Will we settle for less?

What does your spouse take care of that you could benefit from doing? How can you grow by learning from your beloved’s strengths?

Gentlemen, if your wife handles communication with your children, reach out to them yourself. If they are grown, call them up just to chat. You’ll be amazed at what it means to you and them.

Ladies, do we expect our husbands take care of things we’d rather not do? At my house it might be home and car maintenance and taxes. I really don’t want to change the car’s oil, but I could learn from him how to let little hurts roll off my back. And I really should tackle some of those phone calls that require assertiveness.

Choose one of your partner’s strengths that you’d like to develop and decide how to begin.

In the meantime, as a gift, do one task today that is usually your spouse’s responsibility.

Two Bible verses to ponder:

  • These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)
  • Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be saved because of you? And don’t you husbands realize that your wives might be saved because of you? (1 Corinthians 7:16 NLT)

Thank you for investing four more minutes in your relationship!

Carefree Timelessness

Welcome to “4 Minutes 4 Marriage!”

For 12 years I’ve written Lenten posts that highlight the recommendations of counselors, therapists, and advisors.  This year’s focus is Marriage, and I plan to reintroduce some of the best marriage advice I’ve found.

4-minute posts may seem long and daunting, but rather than considering them too wordy to read right now, try to think of them as a very short, time-efficient Marriage course. You don’t even need to drive to class!hat said, let’s jump right in and use our 4 minutes well. Your relationship is worth it!

What do you want your marriage to be like? Close your eyes and imagine your spouse gazing at you with that, “I can’t believe how blessed I am” expression that melts your heart. Would you like to grow even closer to your special someone?

Matthew Kelly writes that the key to thriving relationships is carefree timelessness. By this he means spending time with people without an agenda, simply to enjoy their company. No matter what the relationship, whether spouse to spouse, parent to child, friend to friend, or person to God, increase carefree timelessness and it will deepen.

Watching TV together doesn’t count. Neither does reading your text messages side by side. Carefree timelessness is unscheduled, unhurried moments when you can focus on each other and let the time and the conversation meander and develop on its own.

Remember when you first met the love of your life? How easily the hours could pass spent in one another’s company. Conversations were easy and fun; you never ran out of topics to cover, not because you needed to exchange information, simply because you enjoyed knowing more about each other. Or remember how close you felt to the people who shared your last vacation? Strolls along the beach, hikes on forest trails, or easy games of Frisbee don’t accomplish concrete goals, but rather social and relational ones. We relax on vacation. We realize how much we value the people close to us.

Sadly, our busy-ness today is an enemy of growing intimacy and deepening relationships. We are too harried to slow down and enjoy each other. What a lost opportunity to share with our families the down time that seems so simple and yet draws us so close. Maybe due to tight finances, we give up our date night or take “stay-cations” and don’t leave home. Yet, if we don’t get away from our day-to-day responsibilities, we risk focusing on work, yard, or home projects, rather than refreshing our spirits.

And, oh dear, our Sabbaths suffer from overfilled schedules. Given to us as a gift from our Creator to help us renew ourselves and our relationships, Sundays instead become a day to cram in what we think we must accomplish before the next workweek begins: laundry, homework, unfinished office work, or shopping. Sabbaths are meant for renewal of ourselves and our relationships.

Our lives find their meaning in our relationships. Ask the people lying in the hospital, soon to leave this earth, what made their lives important. It’s the people who keep vigil at their bedside, the people they’ve loved or served, who are the monuments to their existence. The lives they’ve touched and improved give testimony to their accomplishments more than their promotions or patents do.

Yes, we need to work, and our employment is an opportunity to minister to the world by how we behave and what we produce. However, it is our love that will survive us and influence others profoundly.


There’s a country song, “She Thinks We’re Just Fishin’,” which portrays a dad realizing the times he spends fishing with his little girl are moments they both will remember and treasure. Go “fishing” with someone important to you!

We make time for our children:

  • One dad jogs with each of his young adult children when they get together. I can imagine the interesting conversations caught between breaths.
  • Another father sets aside Sunday afternoons to call each of his grown daughters, simply to catch up and stay connected.
  • One friend never listens to the radio while driving her children, preferring the spontaneous conversations that seem easier while sitting beside each other, rather than face to face.
  • My mother used to suggest window-shopping walks downtown at night after our small-town stores had closed. I don’t recall any life-changing conversations, but those walks told me she valued our time together, when time was a scarce commodity for a single mother.

If we can do it for our children, we can do it for our spouses.

So, this week’s homework: Spend a little carefree time with your spouse. No agenda, no goals to meet. Simply appreciate the moments together. Mute your cellphones. Turn off the TV. (You can pre-record the Olympics, so you don’t miss anything.) Take a walk. Or just hold hands and talk. Focus on him or her and the joy of shared time. Don’t problem solve. Reminisce. Dream. And don’t forget to schedule your next carefree time together.

Our marriage will improve if we regularly spend carefree timelessness with our beloved. We will move into higher levels of intimacy, perhaps sharing our hopes and goals, our fears and needs, and our efforts to become the best version of ourselves.

P.S. If you’d really like to test the parameters of this tool to intimacy, spend some carefree timelessness in prayer. Visit God in a chapel or sit in an easy chair near a window and turn your attention to him. Recognize you are in his presence always and everywhere. Chat with him. And listen.


You can learn more about Matthew Kelly at





Spiritual Calm

Given that I profess to believe that

  • God is all good,
  • God is all loving,
  • God is all powerful,
  • God wants what is best for me,
  • And true happiness comes from following His will,


Then why am I not spiritually calm?

There can be many reasons, but let’s look at 4:

  1. We know what God wants, but we don’t do it. Even St. Paul wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15 Maybe we fail to do what we should because of:
  • Resistance to change
    • Comfortable with what we know, we are satisfied with our current situation.
    • We’ve feel we’ve done enough and are good enough.
  • Fears, such as:
    • What He has in store for us will be painful.
    • Service will take time away from our families and their needs.
    • We won’t be good enough at what God asks us to do.
    • He might lead us to death like the martyrs.
  • Contrariness or choosing short-term over long-term gain
    • I don’t want to.
    • I don’t have time.
    • Maybe tomorrow.
  • Wounds from the past
    • Criticism, judgment, or belittling has left us with low self-confidence.
    • Accusations from others of being a goody-goody, showing off, or seeming self-righteous.
    • Continued focus on our weaknesses makes it hard to believe we can do what He asks.


With all the above excuses for not doing what we know we should, we must remind ourselves that our all-loving God wants what is best for us, and true happiness comes from following His will.

But there is another wound from the past…

  • Someone who represented God, or who pretended to, hurt us and/or someone we love.

In this case, imagine Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple. Or remember that Jesus was hardest on the Pharisees, the religious leaders. I believe the few examples of Jesus’ anger show He wants His church leaders to be Good Shepherds to His people, protecting the lambs rather than wounding them. I am so sorry you were hurt by the very people who should have shown you the most loving kindness. Please seek the healing you need to restore your spirit and know that, though we all are imperfect humans, this should not have happened to you.

2. The second reason we might not be spiritually calm is we don’t know what God’s will is. But the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice.” 1 Kings 19:12

Sometimes we seek to choose between two options. If one (or both) were a bad thing, such as intentionally hurting an innocent person, we’d know it wasn’t God’s will. No dilemma Sometimes we seek to choose between two options. If one (or both) were a bad thing, such as intentionally hurting an innocent person, we’d know it wasn’t God’s will. No dilemma. But we might struggle to discern which direction God wants us to go when both are good choices, such as which career to follow, or whether to marry or consider a religious vocation as a single.

There is no substitute for prayer at these times, and even fasting. Consulting other trusted individuals who are wise mentors or counselors is helpful for pointing out areas you might have not considered, but the choice must be yours. Sincerely ask yourself if you really do know, but don’t want to admit it because of fear.

  • Imagine for a few days you’ve made choice A. How does it make you feel? Do the same with choice B.
  • If one choice seems more attractive, might it be that God is leading you by that attraction?
  • Would your strengths serve one choice better than the other? Might God have been preparing you for this choice by your life experiences, even the difficult ones?
  • Take time away from your routine to be free to think and pray through the decision. Ask God to lead you, and to redirect you if you are not making the choice He wants.


3. A third possibility is we are overwhelmed with non-spiritual matters.For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the Lord.” Exodus 35:2


How balanced is your life? Have you set any boundaries that ensure time for spirituality, creativity, family closeness, or fun? Are you so tired that when you do have time, the only thing you have enough energy to do is sit in front of the TV? And then you fall asleep?

We are doing ourselves no favors by forgetting that God gave us one day each week to rest and refresh. On that day we should be enjoying our families, moving closer to Him through prayer or spiritual reading, and expressing our creative, fun side. Take one day a week, or start with part of a day, for growth and renewal. Snatch a few minutes each day for yourself. Don’t work through your vacation time. You need it. Your family needs it!


4. Perhaps we aren’t calm because our relationship with God is weak. How can we trust someone we don’t know?


Matthew Kelly writes about a very dependable way to deepen any relationship, be it with God, spouse, best friend, or children. He calls it, Carefree Timelessness. By this he means spending time without an agenda, simply to enjoy someone’s company. No matter what the relationship, increase carefree timelessness and it will deepen.

Remember being newly in love? How you could spend hours together without needing to accomplish anything? Remember the last time you felt really close to and connected with someone? Were you enjoying carefree timelessness? Probably so.

Spend some carefree timelessness with God. Visit Him in church, or sit in an easy chair near a window and turn your attention to Him. Recognize you are in His presence always and everywhere. Chat with Him. And listen.


I end this exploration of Calm with a disclaimer. Don’t expect to remain spiritually calm, even when you obey God’s nudges. We will find peace from obedience, but in my experience, it won’t be long before God nudges us back out of our new comfort zone and encourages us toward more growth. Then He will lead us to more joy!

Happy Easter!

WordPress Themes