About two weeks ago over 300 ladies graduated from The Catholic Wife Academy when the 4 week course ended.
It is not an exaggeration to say that this pilot class changed my life and my marriage.
It is a powerful thing to be surrounded by women, most of whom I have never met, that are living lives so in sync with mine. All of those in the course were married and catholic and women. Because of that, we share so many of the same joys and struggles and fears and heartaches.
More than anything I was impacted by the stories and situations of the married women in the course. Very often the stories shared simply let me know that I was not alone in my struggles. And that is a very powerful thing. In fact, as the course went on, people started to write this very concept in the threads on Facebook. They’d write, “This is hard, but please know that you are not alone in this struggle. We also struggled with this early in marriage.”
It can be such a gift to simply know that the sometimes secret hurts of our marriage are not freakish or strange. They are endured and solved by women just like us…and therefore, there is hope.
Did the course videos and Facebook discussions solve all the marital problems of the women in this course? Hardly. Marriage will always be difficult and some problems need time or even professional attention.
But, I feel confident that we all learned a lot–both about marriage and about ourselves.
One of the things that I have come to believe quite strongly as a result of this course is this:
SEX IS ALWAYS A PART OF MARITAL PROBLEMS.
The 3rd week of this 4 week course was sex week. The whole week explored physical intimacy in marriage, starting with its sacramental roots and ending with some real, practical tips for better sex. I had no doubt that this week would bring about the most excitement. For many that signed up for the course, this was the first real chance they had ever had to talk about sex in a real and respectful way.
But, what surprised me is ALL that came up in conversations that week.
Many problems had surfaced during week 2 while we discussed emotional intimacy, but the real deep, painful, hidden issues all came out during sex week.
And although I continue NOT to be a marriage expert, after much prayer and reflection, here is why I believe SEX lies at the heart of all marital problems:
SEX ALLOWS US TO SEE LOVE IN THE MOST PURE WAY.
In marriage we are called to make a COMPLETE GIFT OF SELF in love. We are called to look to the needs of our spouse before our own, and to work together for a greater, holier good. But, life is complicated. We try to live out this COMPLETE GIFT OF SELF in all we do, but the work of raising kids and being part of a community and earning a living are complicated. There are other factors and people that complicate our days. Very often, although we do love our spouse and work together with them, life makes this COMPLETE GIFT OF SELF in love difficult to fully experience.
Sex, on the other hand, offers us a completely uncomplicated opportunity to give and receive love fully. As JPII teaches us, our physical bodies help us understand who we are and how we are asked to love.
Also, as is often the case, sex offers us a clear view of how we do not fully give ourselves to our spouse. It makes clear to us the parts of ourselves we hold back. Sex can also bring to the surface feelings of being used as a result of the way our spouse takes without giving.
Real, true COMPLETE GIFT OF SELF in love demands full vulnerability. In life, vulnerability means complete honesty and openness. Vulnerability in sex mean nakedness and honesty–two things that are nearly impossible to fake.
Discussing sex brought up so many of these big issues because of the link between sex and vulnerability.
The physical relationship we share with our husband reveals so much. A healthy, active sex life reveals that you make your husband a priority, that you feel connected to him, that you care about his needs, he cares about your needs, and that you think of each other as more than just a roommate or co-worker in the job of raising a family.
Countless things can put a strain on sex in marriage–illness, pregnancy, babies, exhaustion, and work travel, to name just a few. And it can be very easy to let sex fall to the side.
But, I urge you to not think of sex as “just one more thing” you have to worry about when you are already overwhelmed.
Sex sits at the very heart of your marriage. It is not extra. God created sex to keep us closely bonded with our husbands, even through the years of stress and babies and moves.
Remember, sex offers us the only real opportunity we have in marriage to LOVE FULLY, without complication or delay or confusion. Sex is pure and real and powerful.
Remember that ladies…always.
Your sister in Christ,