Take Your Marriage Beyond OK

Getting regular ‘tune-ups’ can enrich even the best relationships

Sarah Bartel

Why would a normal couple with a good marriage invest time, energy, and money in marriage enrichment? Most of us can see the need for couples in crisis to read self-help books, take seminars, get counseling, or go on special retreats. But if you think your marriage is cruising along anywhere between “okay” to “pretty good,” why bother?

Think of it this way. If you want your car to run as well as it can, you bring it in for regular tune-ups. Regular care and maintenance ensure optimum performance. And if you are a teacher, a lawyer, a psychologist, or other professional or technical worker, you’re usually required to take continuing education courses in order to keep your certification current. Even parish priests have ongoing education requirements! Life-long learning keeps us sharp, inspired, up-to-date, and informed about best practices. It challenges us to bring our “A-game” to our field.

Is your marriage more important than your car? Your work?  

We need to be willing to invest in regular care and maintenance for this most important relationship, as much if not more than we do with our car or career. To have the best marriage possible—the most joy-filled, super-solid, radiant marriage, which God intends for you—we need to be willing to keep growing, to keep learning, to get inspired, to sharpen our skills, and to aim for excellence. Regularly! That’s what marriage enrichment is all about. Here is a “course offerings catalog” of Catholic and Christian marriage enrichment resources for you to consider for your ongoing marriage education. Aim for 25 “credit hours” a year!

  1. Check out www.foryourmarriage.org, the website sponsored by our U.S. Catholic Bishops.
  • Read three articles. (5 credits)
  • Read and do the website's Daily Marriage Tips for seven days. (5 credits)
  • Sign up for its newsletter by email, or follow on Facebook or Twitter. (10 credits)
  1. Read a book that improves your relationship skills. Try Christian counselor Gary Chapman’s classic, The Five Love Languages, or humorous Catholic counselor Gregory Popcak’s For Better . . . FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage or Holy Sex!  (20 credits per book)

  2. Read a book that deepens your knowledge about the Catholic vision of marriage. (20 credits each)
  • Something old: Fulton Sheen’s classic, Three to Get Married.
  • Something new: The Human Person, a presentation of St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” by J. Brian Bransfield.
  • Something borrowed and something blue: Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, available at the Archdiocese of Seattle Library Media Center. (Did you know that the gracious library staff will mail you materials? You only pay return postage when you return them in reusable blue mailing pouches.)
  1. Together, watch the inspiring six-part “Humanum Series” of short video documentaries, free on YouTube. These well-produced Catholic series draws on many cultures and discusses the beauty of being created man and woman, the gift of marriage, and the contribution of marriage to society. (5 credits per video. “Extra credit” if you watch them all!)
  1. Sign up for a marriage enrichment retreat. Spending a whole weekend together focusing on your marriage is profoundly transformative. Whether it deepens intimacy, increases joy, or strengthens communication, or helps forge a common vision, great fruit is sure to come from the investment of a whole weekend in your marriage.  Some retreats available in our Archdiocese include:
  • “Habits of a Very Loving Marriage,” led by Fr. Pat Freitag, May 15-17 at the Archbishop Brunett Retreat and Faith Formation Center at the Palisades. Fr. Freitag uses the work of Stephen R. Covey’s “Seven Habits” (and the “8th Habit”) to empower couples to communicate successfully.
  • “Marriage Encounter.” Decades of Catholic couples have benefitted from the excellent communication and dialogue skills taught at Marriage Encounter weekends. For upcoming dates check out www.seattlewwme.org.
  • “Living in Love.” This “Theology of the Body” retreat energizes romance and renews the joy of being a man and a woman in love. It incorporates insights into masculinity and femininity from the sciences and introduces practical ways to live as self-gift to each other. Full disclosure: my husband and I are passionately enthusiastic about these retreats and help facilitate them. Check livinginlove.org/events/ for upcoming dates in the area.

(25 credit hours per retreat)

Don’t be afraid to earn “extra credit” in marriage enrichment! The renewed energy and inspiration from your investment of time and energy blesses not only your own marriage, but your family, friends, and the whole church. 

Reprinted with permission.

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