by Jeff Cortez
During these unprecedented times of “self-quarantine” are you feeling isolated? anxious? disconnected to your spouse? Well…you are not alone. With everyone home in “locked-down” mode many married couples are facing relationship challenges…feeling a little edgy and perhaps arguing a little more, being less patient with each other or just lacking intimacy…connection. If you can relate, then keep reading….there is hope.
When stress enters our lives we have two ways we can respond to the stimulus, we can either allow our minds to accelerate the problem and dwell on the worst case scenario or we can choose to shift our mindset and focus on what is good, positive, and praiseworthy. As a Christian, I like to turn to scripture for guidance on how best to deal with the challenges of life because I believe that the Holy Bible has all the answers to life. Take a look at Philippians 4:8, it reads “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
In this post I would like to share with you 4 ways to reconnect with your spouse and reignite your love. In many cases couples feel disconnected because there is simply a lack of emotional connection, but the good news is that we all have the ability to change that if we really want to. I encourage you to try these 4 ways of reconnecting and make a commitment for the sake of your relationship to embrace them as new habits.
1. Increase the Quantity and Quality of Communication
2. Do Activities Together As a Couple
3. Have a Vision for Your Marriage and Set Goals Together
4. Pray Together and For Each Other
A contributing factor that leads to married couples feeling disconnected is a lack of communication. I would be willing to bet that if you looked back at your relationship in the early stages (e.g. dating, engaged, just married) your level of communication (quantity and quality) was a 10 on a scale of 1-10. Do you remember the emotional state of your early relationship? Embrace that memory for a second and hold on to that feeling….do you want to feel that connection again? Of course, you do, we all desire that. Well… I am here to tell you that if you make a decision today that you will do everything you can to do your part, and strive to increase your level of communication to a 10, you will certainly reconnect and reignite your love for each other!!
Let me share with you a simple but powerful tool to help you reconnect on a deeper emotional level. My wife and I learned this effective communication tool on a Catholic marriage enrichment weekend – Worldwide Marriage Encounter (www.wwme.org). The tool is called “Dialogue”, it’s simple and anyone can do it. Here’s how it works:
1. One spouse proposes a topic they want to talk about (e.g. communication, finances, in-laws, kids, career, etc.).
2. One spouse (does not need to be the same person who proposed the topic) comes up with a “dialogue question” that both husband and wife agree to talk about (e.g. As a result of the recent pandemic, our son may not be able to have his high school graduation ceremony, how do I feel about that?)
3. The husband and wife will write a short letter to each other in response to the chosen dialogue question. The love letter is written for 10 minutes maximum with 20% of the letter focused on ideas/thoughts and 80% focused on the feeling the writer is experiencing relative to the question. Key point here to remember is to keep it to 10 minutes and to focus on the “feeling”.
4. After the letter is written, husband and wife will exchange their love letter and “dialogue” for a maximum of 10 minutes. The goal here is to focus on dialoging on the strongest feeling of the two – husband or wife (e.g. if the wife has the strongest feeling on a scale of 1-10, you dialogue on the wife’s feeling) with the aim to understand your spouse’s feelings. Key point to remember here is to keep it to 10 minutes maximum and no problem solving, judgment or downplaying of your spouse’s feelings. You want this to be a “No Judgment Zone” otherwise it will not be safe to share and be authentic.
My wife and I have been practicing this technique for many years ever since we learned about it and I can tell you that if done correctly and consistently, your relationship will bear much fruit. This simple tool and habit will take your marriage to the next level and increase your intimacy in a deep and profound way beyond your imagination!!
Another way to reconnect with your spouse is to be intentional about the way you spend time together. We all are given 24 hours a day and it’s up to us on how we use it…will we make the most of it? or let it go to waste? Time is a commodity, make the most of it while we have it and give time to your spouse as a gift!
Make time to identify activities that you like to do as a couple that helps you feel connected to your spouse, whether it be going for a walk, working on a home project, or engaging in outdoor activities like biking, create a list and commit to making it a priority in your life. It may seem trivial but often times it’s the small simple things in life that mean the most to us and pay long-term dividends. There is something special about looking forward to something that you both enjoy doing and then following through on it as a commitment to one another…it raises your hearts and connects you emotionally.
Whenever we embark on a journey with a goal to succeed, we must begin with a vision, because the vision points you to where you want to go and it will fuel the journey…marriage is no different. Habakkuk 2:2-3 says “Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision; Make it plain upon tablets, so that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is a witness for the appointed time, a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint. If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”
What an inspiring message of hope for married couples! No matter how challenging it gets…keep your vision before you and DO NOT give up! Keep at it…it will surely come! I firmly believe that married couples MUST come up with a vision together and remind each other of that vision. When couples have a common purpose or goal that is bigger than themselves and believe in their hearts that it’s possible for them…they will stop at nothing to make it a reality!! That sense of mission is exciting, it’s personal, it’s YOURS! If you create that vision for your marriage, set goals together and work towards achieving that desired state…it will cement your relationship!!
There is no doubt that marriage can be very challenging, psychologically and emotionally. Tragically about 50% of marriages in the United Sates end in divorce…..it doesn’t have to end that way. As Christians, we have to remind ourselves that we are people of faith and hope, we are not alone on this journey. The Catechism of The Catholic Church, paragraph 1641 and 1642, states that Christian married couples receive their own special gifts (grace) with the intention to perfect the couple’s love and to strengthen their indissoluble unity, and that Christ is the source of that grace.
Christian married couples should tap into this special grace through prayer. Inviting Christ into your marriage through prayer will enable you to allow God’s special grace to work through you so that you may love your spouse with God’s supernatural love and transform your marriage!
The Sacrament of Marriage is a fire of love, if you wish to set it ablaze, then consider implementing the 4 ways to reconnect with your spouse. To recap; increase the quality of your communication, make it a priority to do activities together as a couple, create a vision for your marriage and work together towards it, and invite Christ into your marriage through prayer. If you put these practices in place you will reconnect and reignite your love!!
There is no doubt that being a parent is hard work! Many parents question and doubt their abilities in raising their children, and wonder if they are making the right decisions. The outcomes in life are a result of the decisions we make every day, and one of the most important decisions we can make as parents, is how we raise, train and prepare our children for life. As parents, we want to equip our children with the right mindset to make good choices in life so that they can live happy, healthy, vibrant and successful lives!
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it”. As Christian parents, it’s important that we heed these words in order to establish a solid foundation of principles and values that will help our children navigate through life. Without instruction, structure, and proper formation, our children will drift aimlessly, uncertain about who they are and how they should live their lives.
Being a Christian parent can at times seem like it’s all uphill, the pull and pressure of society can be very challenging and overwhelming, especially if you are a single parent. In my 26 years of parenting, I’ve learned that Christian parents need a road map to help them raise their children in accordance with God’s plan. In this post I will share 4 Christian parenting tips that will make a positive impact. A good training foundation that parents can start with includes the following;
As a parent I believe it’s important that we give our children a set of Christian principles to live by. Why? Because without them they will wander like lost sheep. Teaching our children Christian principles will help shape their identity and belief system. The reason why this is important is because everything they do will stem from their understanding of their identity and belief system. In raising our 4 children we make it a priority to teach and consistently remind the kids about the importance of learning and embracing different core principles that can help them make good decisions and successfully navigate through life.
One of the core principles we like to remind our children about is “You Reap What You Sow”. I like to refer to 2 Corinthians 9:6 that says “Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”, and Galatians 6:7 that states “Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows”.
The power of this principle is that it applies to everyone, whether we believe it or not, we cannot evade it. This is a good principle to teach our kids because they learn that there are consequences in life, good and bad. It’s also very empowering because they can be in control of their outcomes based on the decisions they make. It’s an opportunity for them to take a step back and re-evaluate their outcomes and ask themselves, what types of seeds am I sowing? If they don’t like the results they are getting then maybe it’s time to re-prioritize and sow different seeds. If you want tomatoes …you need to sow tomato seeds. The law of the harvest!
I love this quote by Charles Swindoll “The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes”. Whenever our kids are faced with a challenge or problem, this is another good principle to remind them of. Let’s face it, no one likes to see their kids down and discouraged, it breaks our heart, but as parents, we must be there to support them to lift their spirits and give them hope for a brighter future.
The reality is that life can be difficult, people can be challenging, but how our children respond (their attitude) can make all the difference. Sometimes they cannot change their circumstances or the people they interact with, but they do have control of their attitude. It’s important that our kids realize that no one or anything can steal their joy and hope, unless they allow it.
A positive attitude is attractive and contagious, it’s uplifting and inspiring! Let’s inspire our kids to embrace a positive “I CAN” attitude in everything they do…school work, sports, relationships, and spiritual life. This principle will serve them well throughout their lives to confront the challenges of life and to achieve their aspirations!
I believe that a person’s actions are a representation of their thoughts and beliefs. As a Christian it can be very difficult at times not to conform to what everyone else is doing, especially for our children. There is the pressure of feeling like an outsider and not being accepted. I get it, no one likes to feel rejected, but as Christians parents, we must help our kids find the courage within themselves and “Dare to Be Different“, to be a light of inspiration to others regardless of how difficult it may be… we are called to do that as Christians.
Romans 12:2 says “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect”. When our children renew their minds through Holy Scripture, Christian books and music, and proper parental guidance, they will be inspired and empowered to align their behavior with their Christian beliefs. As parents, we should be “Role Models” of good and honorable behavior, to live consistent with our Christian faith…our actions and faith should be congruent.
An invaluable principle we can teach our children is to become a person of character. A person of character is someone who is consistent and committed to living their lives in accordance with their values and principles. As Christian parents, we should set high ethical standards for our kids and encourage them not to compromise them for anyone. Our world so desperately needs to see more examples of integrity, let’s teach our children that their words and actions should be in alignment because their future will depend on it.
This is a great quote from Frank Outlaw to share with your kids, it reads:
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny”.
Parenting is about leadership, we have a duty and obligation to lead and equip our children to win in life. To lay a solid foundation of morals, values, and principles. We MUST make it a priority in our lives to invest time and energy in properly raising our kids by teaching them Christian principles and the A (attitude), B (behavior), C (character) of life!
Claudia: We tell the couples it is a privilege for us to be able to present, not only because we feel like we are giving them something really, really close to our hearts that we want them to have, but because we’re reminded of all the… other couples that are with us on the journey.
Jeff: It’s the gift that keeps giving. It’s like the more you give, the more you receive. It’s a blessing.
Claudia: We just would like for the couples we present to realize that [even if] there may not be mentors around them or examples of happy marriages, there are many, many happy marriages. We want them to see that and experience that and to have hope [and not] worry about the statistics around them. There is the grace of God, and when you bring him into the relationship, you live it out in a completely different way than if you did it on your own. That’s what we want for them to take away, that His way is better than our way.
Jeff: I think if we didn’t say yes to God, we would be completely different. I also believe that when you do invite God into your life, there will be times when He asks you to step outside of your comfort zone, but when you do, you grow so much from that. We’ve done a lot; we were invited to step out of our comfort zone, and when we did, we [were] afraid, but then we realized this is amazing, this is great, it’s so fulfilling. I believe we found our purpose, and that is the marriage ministry.
Building may sound like an unusual word to use when referring to family, however, there is no way to overstate the fact that the family unit is the solid foundation on which an entire society is built and without it no civilization has ever survived! The family is where individuals learn the basic building blocks of how to love, trust and bond with others in order to become productive members of society. It is in the family that we are formed in the habits, behaviors, expectations, values, and choices that we carry with us into our adult relationships.
Therefore, it is essential to put in place STRUCTURES and framework that promote a sense of belonging, safety, hope, forgiveness and unity in the lifegiving BASECAMP of the Marriage and Family institution. As husbands and wives, this is our FIRST and most important ministry and priority above all others. In this busy world it is easy to lose that perspective. Especially in a culture that supports HYPER individualism and independence versus the value of healthy interdependent, complimentary relationships. However, it is in the core premise of the Christian faith that we were created for relationship, to love and be loved by God and one another. This is the meaning of life and the true source of joy. It turns out that many important studies, including a 75-year long Harvard study, have concluded that true happiness and health are dependent upon meaningful connections and relationships in our lives. Therefore, building a healthy, happy family MUST first begin by building a family culture of unconditional trust, love and dialogue between family members. This is the cement foundation of family.
Culture is the shared characteristics and practices shared by people in a place and time. Every institution, including government, corporate businesses, sports teams, the music, art and fashion industries all have a culture in and of themselves; an identity, if you will. For example, during a television interview this past Winter, snowboard Olympian Shaun White spoke about the “snowboard culture” being all about “what you wear” and “what music you listen to”. Similarly, in a family environment, there is food, faith, values, traditions and customs that are practiced which make up a part of their identity. Sharing RITUALS together as a family such as dinner time, watching certain shows or movies, attending mass or church services regularly, enjoying outdoor activities or anything that involves laughing, learning, playing, praying, serving or just being together are all lifegiving ways of belonging to and building family relationships. Finding common ground, especially at an early age, is an integral part of the formation that helps family members overcome fear, doubt, confusion and loneliness. This is where we find joy! How would you describe your family culture? Is it one seeping with toxic habits like sarcasm, cynicism, deceit, and criticism OR do you strive for a spirit of unity, kindness, forgiveness and relentlessly trying to love one another despite your imperfections? These are the bricks the build on top of the foundation.
Your family environment can either syphon the joy out of everyone or be a sanctuary of hope and support from the world we live in. This definitely does NOT mean being a perfect family, but rather building an atmosphere of real intimacy, moral values and security that begins with the parents and trickles down to the children. The family is the training ground for life and love. As parents we must never underestimate its’ value or whether the sacrifices are worth the effort. There will always be good days and bad days, as well as times for asking for forgiveness and healing but in the end every member must know they are loved and a valuable part of something much greater than themselves. These structures, to name a few, are what holds everything together when the storms come.
One of the most amazing lessons we learn as toddlers is the universal law of cause and effect. If you put your hand on the stove, you get burned and it hurts. In contrast, if you keep getting on your bike when you fall off, you eventually learn how to ride on your own and it feels great. Every child feels proud when they learn that their positive actions can create great outcomes. They cheer, “I did it!” They can also quickly feel the sting of a selfish decision and its’ effect on others. As we grow we learn that every action has a reaction, that decisions have consequences and that after we plant comes the harvest.
You would think by the time we are adults we would realize the power behind our intentions, the critical connection between our habits and behaviors, and the effects they cause in every aspect of our lives and relationships. I suppose it is easier to believe in chance, luck, or fate but living with intention means proactively taking responsibility for our choices and the results they produce. It means being strategic about what we choose to do, where we choose to go and whom we chose to go with because every choice matters! In fact, every choice we make (and have made) leads us closer, or further, to the love and life we long for. That means we have the ability to make new choices and get different results. Living intentionally means being able to figure out what stepping stones will get you closer to your goal and having the determination to take each step, avoiding distractions along the way! The gaps you experience from where you are in life to that future you desire are only a cause and effect away from happening. It is, and always has been, our decisions that drive our lives.
Loving intentionally is the same thing. It means YOU decide the type of relationship you want to have. Love is a choice, a choice to be fully committed or not. Change is a choice, a choice to go through the hard work and sacrifice that is necessary, or not. If we look back on our lives and create stepping stones from where we were before to where we are now, it would be pretty easy to figure out which choices we made that got us here. What is standing between you and your vision of a fulfilled life? Do you fear, doubt, regret or blame? You can choose not to anymore. What limitation, what obstacle, what excuse is keeping you from that yearning, aching, pressing nudge that tells you, you were meant for more? Your choices can set you free. Do you dream about your career being more fulfilling, your marriage being more joy filled, your health being stronger or your life or finances being more stable? What changes would you have to make, hurdles would you have to climb, faith would you have to muster up to fulfill those dreams that you value?
Make the decision today to lead yourself to a better place! You can do it, you were created to do it! Whether it is learning something new, changing a habit, finding a resource, or gaining a new perspective, it will be the choices you make that get you there or not, and you owe it to yourself to try!
What a genius invention marriage is! Ok, hold on, before you jump ( like water on a hot pan of oil) let me explain… If you were the creator of the universe and wanted to develop a plan in which individuals could learn to love each other selflessly and unconditionally, to practice virtues like forgiveness, and to carry one another’s burden’s (all while allowing for free will) this would truly be a monumental invention. Notice I emphasized the word “learn”, this is because, of course, we never really do all of these things perfectly but it really is a brilliant idea that two people are able to walk this journey of life refining each other’s character to become better people and being an actual living witness to each other’s lives.
Now, even though we do a lot to get in the way of that plan, imagine if we just embraced this mindset that marriage is really bigger than just the two of us. How different our attitude would be towards our spouse and how we could better control our negative behaviors. If we try to see the institution of marriage as greater than just the two of us, we set the bar higher to create a purpose and vision for our relationship.