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No, Divorce is Not the New Normal: A Catholic Psychologist's 5 Tips for a Strong & Holy Marriage

Divorce rates increase, families break apart, and the next generation suffers the effect of being raised in single-parent homes. Is this the new normal?

Thankfully, Dr. Ray Guarendi, psychologist and host of EWTN Radio’s “The Doctor is In,” recently appeared on “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo” to discuss his new book, “Simple Steps to a Stronger Marriage“.

Here are five helpful tips he suggests for Catholic couples:

1. Our Culture is Not Your Friend

Make no mistake–we currently live in the culture of death that Saint John Paul II warned of. This culture promotes pleasure, selfishness, and transactional relationships as a means to an end.

The culture of our time tells us that self-worship is empowerment; we must elevate our happiness above all else and throw away anything that does not serve us.

Jesus says the exact opposite. He tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him, (Luke 9:23).

During times of marital discourse, do not turn to this self-obsessed culture as a guide or comfort.

When asked about the high divorce rate, Dr. Guarendi states, “About 80 percent of marriages end because ‘I don’t like you anymore I don’t want to be around you, I don’t want to live with you anymore.’

“The bulk of marriages don’t have severe pathology… For the most part, it’s two people who have stopped getting along…We live in a culture that says you can have sexual relationships with anybody, anytime, anywhere. Just don’t have more than 1.86 children in marriage. Then, we will belittle you.” (2:28-2:55)

2. Learn to Be Silent – Listen to Your Partner

Not to be confused with the silent treatment, we can benefit from the power of silence. There is much to be said for learning to pause and hold our tongue.

Unfortunately, speaking to our partners out of anger is very common, in what Dr. Guarendi calls, “peak emotional surge.”

“When you most feel like saying it, delay,” he continues. “Hold for 20 seconds and the physiological urge will taper enough for you to control it.”

Good communication calls for acknowledging both – when to speak and when to listen, even though it may not be easy.

“Spouses have to understand what’s going on in the other person’s head. You may not agree with it… but you have to at least understand it. Most people want to be understood even more than they want to be agreed with,” Dr. Guarendi says.

3. Remember Your Manners

Manners. Remember those?

“Many spouses don’t have the manners of a five-year-old,” Dr. Guarendi shares.

As the years pass, spouses may take one another for granted, forgetting a quintessential life skill – manners. The way we speak to our spouse matters and saying “please” and “thank you” should always be part of our daily vocabulary.

Respecting the dignity of the spouse God entrusted you with must remain a priority.

“We expect manners from five-year-olds, but in a marriage, we get very sloppy with our spouses,” Dr. Guarendi says.

In Looking for a Spouse:

4. Shared Faith is Essential

When it comes to the role of faith in relationships, Dr. Guarendi states, “If one spouse is faith-filled, the marriage has a much longer chance of success. If both spouses are faith-filled, the divorce rate is much much lower.”  (18:28)  

Pursuing someone with the hopes of converting them later is not smart courtship and may only waste time. Sharing the Catholic faith and all the values that come with it is essential.

5. “Opposites Attract” Won’t Get You Very Far

We’ve all heard “opposites attract,” but how opposite is too opposite? Should we seek a spouse who is vastly different from ourselves?

“I have seen many marriages fail because they didn’t have enough commonality. The first commonality is faith,” Dr. Guarendi says. “Secondly, take the time you need to really get to know this person.”

“Third, make sure this person views life as you do (children, finances, family, parenting, etc.). Most importantly, find a potential spouse who takes the faith like you do,” Dr. Guarendi explains.

While dating someone so opposite to yourself may seem exciting at first, it may quickly become tiresome. Having shared morals and beliefs is important, as the relationship will often rely on this foundation.

Catholics should not take the sacrament of holy matrimony lightly, as it is a physical representation of Christ’s sacrifice in the living Eucharist.

We are called to love and be loved, and in the marital vocation, to give the complete gift of self.

Commitment is not always easy, but as Catholics, we are provided with the most perfect example: a loving Lord who will show up for us time and time again.

Watch the full segment on “The World Over”:

Click here if you cannot see the video above.

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