By Paul and Cindy Benfanti
The Story: Cindy says...Paul and I met in late summer, 1986. We were freshmen at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. We fell in love quickly and supported one another through the trials and tribulations of medical school. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of joy in those years as well. One week after our graduation at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, we were married just outside of Buffalo, NY, surrounded by our loved ones. It was a beautiful day! One that our family still talks about today. And then…it was just us. We were newly commissioned Captains in the Medical Corps, facing our future together. A few short weeks later, we headed out to Augusta, Georgia, to start our internships at D.D. Eisenhower Medical Center at Fort Gordon. We made it through medical school; the rest should be a piece of cake. Right? Wrong. I had no idea what life could throw at you. I’m a little wiser now.
Paul says... We had a wonderful wedding, surrounded by our extended family and friends. Our priest, Father Fred, was a lifelong friend of my father and had baptized all of us when we were babies. We were honored to have him perform the ceremony. He said something during the ceremony that struck both of us that day. He said, “the love you have for each other today is not enough to carry you through a lifetime of marriage together.” I thought that it was a strange thing to say to soon-to-be newlyweds. I had assumed, incorrectly, that the love we had right then was as good as it was going to get. How could there be any more love than this? Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Cindy and Paul... After 28 years of marriage, and through our experiences with Worldwide Marriage Encounter, we now understand that couples grow and change, both individually and as a couple. Throughout any marriage, it takes work to keep the relationship strong and loving. But, underlying the “work,” it is necessary to make the decision to love the other, through all of the hardships. And by “love,” we don’t mean that tingly warm infatuation that carried you through the beginnings of your relationship. We mean to make the decision to love the other, in your head, despite how your emotions may be rocking your heart. Did we understand that in the beginning? No. But, if we had, we are sure that the sailing would have been much smoother.
The Strategies: Once you’ve made the decision to love, the next step is figuring out how to make that love reach, and be felt by, your spouse. There are many ways to do this. The trick is finding the ones that work for the two of you. As we are sitting here, writing to you, we are both wanting to go on and on about our favorite ways. But, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We will be exploring these many ways in future blogs. For now, we would like to start with two basic strategies.
1. Seek empathy first: Try to understand how your spouse feels in any given situation, before you try to find the solution to the situation. That will give you perspective and compassion. And, it will help you to love your spouse through any difficult decisions. This concept is at the heart of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekends. When you attend a weekend, you will be taught how to find that empathic connection with your spouse. It changes marriages for the better.
2.Table Talk: Every couple faces problems. And that’s the way to look at it. The couple is facing a problem. You two are journeying through life together, and you come across something on your path. It disturbs your peace, your equilibrium. It is the interloper. We learned something at a Marriage Encounter Enrichment that taught us to look at ourselves seated at the kitchen table. We are seated on one side of the table and the problem is seated on the other side. And we face the problem together. Our spouse is not the problem. Often, our spouse is the only one there at the end of the day, so our emotions get directed towards our spouse. But, when we see that the problem is facing the both of us together, we can then face the problem together and seek a solution in unison. Us against the problem.
The Scripture: Romans 12:2 (NABRE)Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Dear Lord, please bless our marriages and help us continue to grow in faith and in love, with You, and with each other.
Stories, Strategies and Scripture
…to create lifelong married love
This blog is written by military couples to share the wisdom, insights, experiences and faith that they have gained in their years of Catholic marriage. Comments welcome! Share your ideas and experiences with other military couples and help us support one another in the vocation of marriage!