Love’s season is brief . . . only a lifetime . . . never enough
Happiness comes when
Symptoms of Spiritual Divorce
We chose the Joy Studio because our presentation is about finding the joy in our marriage, lasting joy. We don’t want our love to die.
I think we can all agree that marriage in the modern world is in a state of crises. According to recent statistics, 40% of first marriages, 60% of second, and 75% of third marriages end in divorce.
Divorce doesn't just suddenly happen. Just as illness is preceded by symptoms, so divorce is preceded by symptoms. In marriage, these symptoms are described as "the separation of minds and hearts, though the couple may show unity on the surface."
As in most things, symptoms start out small. For me, it may be a rejection suffered when Lori abruptly cuts me off while I'm trying to explain something. For Lori, it may be the lack of trust she feels when she comes home tired from a shopping trip and the first thing I ask is, “How much did you spend?”
In both cases these are like little pinches which cause us to pull back from each other. If these pinches are repeated over and over, we become disillusioned with each other and wonder if the pain is worth the effort.
We've noticed with amazement how big problems in our lives (like our child’s sickness) seem to pull us together. We overlook a lot of little irritants because we need each other to survive.
It’s the little irritants or pinches (like thoughtlessness) that take the sparkle out of our relationship. We no longer feel close. We start to walk separate paths, living like married singles. We're married but you'd hardly know it if you saw us, thus the name "married singles".
Crises are not the death of love, but the proof of love. Our love doesn't die because it's tested. If we see the test of our love as a challenge, then the test becomes the proof of our love.
Marriage Encounter can't eliminate the crises, but it does show a way of working through them. The process is what Fr. Calvo calls the Basic Law of Life and it has 3 stages:
Illusion - is our idea, dream or vision of what our marriage is going to be like. Marriage seems easy, rosy, happy-ever-after. Our love has not really been tested.
Disillusionment - 2nd stage in the Law of Life and is characterized by disappointment. I thought I knew her so well, but I don't. She's different that I expected. It's not as easy to be a good husband as I thought it would be. Feelings of loneliness, emptiness, isolation are common.
At this point we can truly say our love is tested. We either pull together or we pull apart. That's our choice. We either make a decision to love and communicate openly and lovingly, or we choose silence and hurtful communication.
If we react to disillusionments with a decision NOT to love, then we experience Symptoms of Spiritual Divorce. All couples experience some disillusionment in their marriage at some time. Fr. Calvo describes difficulties in our marriages as part of the human condition. He says, “The marriage with no problems belongs in the cemetery.” Because it's dead!
Joy - If we make a decision to love and work together, we can pull out of the disillusionment. Through open and honest communication we experience a new and deeper knowledge and understanding of one another. Then we experience the 3rd stage in the Law of Life - Joy or acceptance.
The cycle (of Illusion, Disillusionment and Joy) is repeated often throughout our lives, and in most areas of our lives. Each time we work thru disillusionment to joy it becomes easier. It’s the natural way in which we grow, learn and mature.
You may experience the Law of Life during the time of this program. You each have some illusion (some idea) of what the program will mean to you. Chances are, you'll experience some disillusionment, some disappointment. It may be more work than you expected. If that happens, look for the JOY. Be open and honest with your spouse. Share your feelings. Ask God to help you work thru to the joy. Then your love will grow stronger.
We’d like to share an example from our lives when we experienced the Law of Life.
The Illusion Stage:
I had suggested that we go to a National Marriage Encounter Conference, and make it a family vacation. Chris was agreeable. He thought he could take the time from his work. He even thought he could borrow a motorhome. Our teenage sons were free to go.
It would be stimulating and fun for us and there'd be activities for the boys.
Disillusionment Started to Creep in:
Chris's attitude seemed half-hearted. When Chris plans a vacation, I get excited and appreciate his ideas. But I suggested this vacation. Did he resent that? He began to act like it was a burden. He wasn't very excited at all. The boys started to complain about being away.
I began to feel cheated. I was disappointed in Chris: annoyed with the boys. But, I thought, once we get in that motorhome, everything will be fine. We'll enjoy the 5 hour drive and the conference will be great.
Instead of finding the joy, the disillusionment got worse. Chris informed me that he had to drive a car up to the plant, which meant we'd have to drive separately. I felt deflated. I was sick. I thought, “His damn work always comes first.” Then our older son said, "I might not be here when it's time to go." I was getting very angry - and very determined to go. At least we'll be near each other. We can stop to eat together. If I have trouble with the motorhome, I’ll get him on his cell.
Then Chris said he had bad news -- the plant wanted the car the day before. They sold their demos to a wholesaler and the truck was coming to pick them up. He would have to leave the day before me which meant I would have to go alone with the boys.
At that point I couldn't fight anymore to keep up my spirits. I was exhausted and it took too much energy to get mad. My thoughts were only black globs; I was terribly depressed. I wanted to forget the whole thing. I didn't want to go to a conference and see all those happy people. But we had already paid so I couldn't just back out.
I was feeling miserable about the whole thing. I knew Lori was disappointed and probably angry. I wanted to talk things over with her, but I was afraid of a blow-up. I knew my work was causing difficulties, but I felt helpless.
In the years before our Marriage Encounter, we would have remained silent at a time like this and just tried to suppress our hurts. We would somehow muddle thru the next few days with tension hanging over us, keeping us from enjoying our time together.
Then, many days later, after we thought everything had been swept away and forgotten -- something would happen, and all those hurt feelings would surface and cause a big blow-up. Then we'd finally talk it thru, and hug and make up.
Thru Marriage Encounter we learned communication skills which help us to work through these crises sooner and more quickly. Could we do that now?
When Lori said she wanted to talk, I knew this was very difficult for her. As we sat down, I said a silent prayer that God would be with us. I took Lori's hand and gave her my full attention. I tried not to think of my excuses or solutions to the problem. Instead I knew I had to listen to Lori and try to understand how she felt, what she was going through, and show her that I cared. When Lori asked to talk, she had made a decision to love, and I was doing the same.
As Lori talked I began to learn how depressed she was, and disappointed -- not just in me -- but also in our sons. I shared my feelings, and how trapped I felt. I promised her that once I left the plant, I'd devote my energy to having a good time. We hugged and I told her I loved her and I didn't want to hurt her.
Those words meant the most to me. To hear Chris say "I love you and I don't want to hurt you”. I knew he meant it. I knew he’d keep his promise.
I asked God for help, and a few ideas came to mind. I talked with the boys, both about their attitude and also about getting the motorhome ready -- filling the water tanks, things to check, etc.
Disillusionment didn't turn to JOY at this point, but things started to improve. With the boys having responsibilities for the motorhome, their attitude picked up. Lori and I agreed to ask the older boy (the 17 year old who didn't want to go) to help with driving. That really changed his attitude about going as I knew it would.
The trip up was very pleasant. The boys were fun to be with. They seemed to be making an effort to cheer me up, and that tickled me. I wondered what Chris had said to them. It helped me to pull myself out of the depression.
When we went to pick up Chris, we had to wait over an hour. I made the decision to love over and over, and fought back the feeling of frustration. I kept reminding myself of his words, "I love you. I don't want to hurt you!"
I felt relieved when we finally got to the conference. Gradually the feeling of joy started to come. The spirit of the conference was uplifting, and we enjoyed being with each other in such a pleasant atmosphere. We both made an extra effort to be kind to each other. The boys were happy to go on their own to the youth activities.
Strangely, it was things that could have put us deeper into a crisis state that actually became the source of our joy. Somehow the water tank in the motorhome sprang a leak while we were in the conference, and 28 gallons of water slowly poured out over the carpeted floor. It was a mess! We used rags and towels to sop up the water. Not only that – we had no running water and had to deal with that.
But we laughed about it, too. Friends would say "How's that new motorhome working out?" We'd reply, "We're not staying in a motorhome. We're staying in a boat!"
We cringed as we walked out of the gorgeous, motorhome and saw water dripping from the door step. Wet rags were draped over our lawn chairs, hoping they'd be dry by the time we got back. I wondered what people thought.
Our one son called out of the compact bathroom complaining, “Do you know what it’s like to put your pants on when the floor’s wet?” His brother called back, “Try standing on the toilet.” Next we hear a thump as he hit his head on the ceiling. A sarcastic voice shouted, “Great idea! Now I have wet foot prints on my pants.” Things like this kept us laughing.
The JOY came! We had fun together and with the boys. We made new friends and saw old ones. The boys had fun and met some great kids.
We all heard some good talks. We reflected on our lives and came away refreshed. We not only survived the crisis; we were better for it.
No love climbs to a higher level of love except from a lower level. Our challenge is to work thru the Law of Life. We can’t expect to live in the illusion stage. When disillusionment comes (and it will) we must look for the JOY.
A decision to love and communicate openly and honestly leads to growth and joy.
If we decide to be silent or hurtful it will lead to spiritual divorce. Symptoms of Spiritual Divorce are warning signs for us. We will examine them now.
Discuss the symptoms in your relationship even though it may be painful. It's important to get these negative aspects of our marriage out and clear them up so we're ready to move on to deeper levels of communication. If you don't they'll be the little thorns that keep cropping up and preventing you from getting the most out of this program.
Following this online presentation, you’ll find a handout called “Symptoms of Spiritual Divorce”. If you haven’t done it already, print a copy for each of you.
Read the list and underline any symptoms you are experiencing in your marriage. Then write your Personal Reflection (PR) as a love letter. Start with Dear (endearing name). Give yourself fully to your spouse in your letter, explaining how you contribute to each symptom you underlined. Express your feelings. Don't blame, analyze, or try to solve problems. Remember, feelings are neither right nor wrong.
Close with an expression of love. When you come together for Couple Dialogue (CD), exchange your letters with a kiss. Read thru all the answers once, then reread them one at a time and dialogue on one before going on to another.
Plan to take 25 minutes for PR, about 30 minutes for CD.
Go in peace and write with love!
The presentation you are going to next is Subjects for Understanding. This was a big help for Chris and I as we discovered several topics in which we needed to grow in understanding. We hope it brings you great joy. Your Host Couple, Jack and Jane, will be waiting for you in the Library.
Marriage Encounter Online | Contact Us