The journey through this pandemic will be long. Our thanks to Nigel & Rose Stokes of the SmartLoving family for this contribution to help couples to grow in their love.
Roger Carr-Jones Marriage & Family Life Coordinator
Over the past number of months every one of us has been experiencing a completely new way of life this year. On this beautiful planet that God created the one thing which every human, with our myriad of differences, currently has in common is an awareness or experience of a tiny virus that has stopped us in our tracks and forced us to face life anew.
Of course that awareness and experience is different for each of us and for the countries in which we live. In some places the first onslaught has abated for the time being, in others the crisis is currently in full swing and in yet other places people are waiting for the virus to strike.
For couples the experience of lock down over the months has thrown up many things, some good and some bad. On the negative side it has generally been noted that lock down caused an increase in couple tensions with counselling services having to set up online provision and sadly, there has been an increase both in couples seeking divorce and in restraining orders being issued. Couples preparing for marriage have had to navigate the significant stress and disappointment of seeing their wedding plans in ruins, not knowing when they may be able to marry, or choose to come to an agreement to give up long held dreams in favour of a much smaller event. There have been very many good things, though, which have happened in the lives of couples during this time.
Married thirty two years with five children, Francine and Byron Pirola of the international Catholic organisation SmartLoving which provides marriage enrichment retreats and resources, marriage preparation courses and workshops for couples under stress (all live and online) write at https://smartloving.org/closing-the-gap-on-marital-distancing/:
“Firstly, not every marriage has taken a downward turn. We hear plenty of people saying how great this has been for their relationship, and in our case that is also true. While the workload for Byron has escalated, it’s now quite measured for Francine. We’re happily working from home with two ‘still at home kids’ doing our thing. We have a quick lunch together most days before getting back to work… and it’s nice – really nice.
Even though we’re not chilling out together doing couple things, it’s definitely better than the alternative that had Byron working long days at the office or on a plane while Francine was at her office. The occasional conversations while the kettle boils are precious touch points in our day even though sporadic and brief.
And another big upside… we can pop a quick load of washing on, unpack the dishwasher, or bake a packet mix cake in the time it takes for that kettle to boil – little domestic milestones that liberate some of our ‘after work’ hours from household chores.”
During this time many couples have discovered great advantages personally, as a couple, for their children and their family as a whole. Having had to get off the normal treadmill of their lives because of the new circumstances many couples and families have had the opportunity to do simple things like taking a walk together or playing board games and quizzes which have given them opportunities for talking more. This is a great antidote to the usual cause of couple disharmony (that inevitably leads to disharmony in a family) described by the Pirolas:
“Normally, we’d say that one of the principle contributors to marriage stress is absenteeism. Long work hours, busy schedules, individual recreational pursuits all add up to less and less time together as a couple. Most marriages are on a starvation diet when it comes to couple time and it really takes a toll.”
It can be very hard to believe that great good can come from the worldwide suffering and devastation of this pandemic but our promise of eternal happiness comes from the greatest suffering and sacrifice of all - of Christ at Calvary and this points us to the hope we can have in the Lord that, with His help, good can be brought forth from terrible circumstances. Whether we’re journeying through this current situation as single, divorced, married, young, old, with family or not, with good health or not, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances we can all ask God to show us what He wants us personally to learn and take to heart. We can be absolutely sure that He is with us and will guide our way if we let Him do so.
In addition to the useful links above, at https://smartloving.org/blog/ you will find a wealth of useful articles on all sorts of aspects of marriage. Whether you have been married for many years, are in the early stages of a relationship, thinking of setting a date for your wedding, newlywed, divorced and pondering your marriage there is something to interest everyone and you could sign up for the SmartLoving eNews to get the eBook free at https://smartloving.org/sign-up-for-sl-enews/
At https://smartloving.org/ you will find all the online courses including Breakthrough for couples under stress, the Marriage Kit for all married couples, Smart Loving Fertility to naturally manage your fertility and SmartLoving Theology which applies St. JPII’s Theology of the Body to spiritual exercises for couples. Why not consider becoming a parish mentor couple for the online courses which prepare engaged couples? Whilst guiding them at the start of their journey, you keep your own marriage vibrant and energised! You both need to be Catholic and married for five years. If you enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org further details can be sent.