Posts tagged ‘Family Enrichment’

September 27, 2011

Watch It: Fireproof

When we concluded our Family Enrichment course this year, we not only came away with a great group of friends and a couple of books to read, but we also received a recommendation for a movie to watch. A few weeks ago, John and I got Fireproof via Netflix, and sat down to watch it for a Friday date night.

For the first time in a long time, we both managed to stay awake for the whole movie! I could end my review right there, but as much of a compliment as that is, this film deserves more. And not just because the lead role is played by Kirk Cameron.

From the start, it’s clear that this is a “Christian” film. The logos of the various production companies in the opening credits are various forms of doves, crosses, and so on, and their names are all varieties of Biblical allusions. Later on in the film, Cameron’s character comes to Christ, and his conversion is the turning point in the way he confronts his marriage.

At first glance, this may seem corny, but honestly, I don’t know how I would manage my marriage or my motherhood without God in my life. I suppose that’s the whole of this blog, in a nutshell.

In the movie, a marriage is on the brink of collapse. The couple argues every time they see one another, and can’t understand why the other does—or doesn’t do—what he or she does. (At this point, someone could have just handed them a copy of The Five Love Languages.  But then, we’d have no movie.) Thank goodness they don’t have any children, because their home is a messy enough place for the two of them to try to live.

The divorce papers have been filed when the husband’s parents come to talk to him. The father tells him that they, too, were struggling in their marriage, but now they are happier than they’ve ever been. He invites his son to participate in a “Love Dare”—forty days of using different means to show your spouse you care about him/her and about the marriage.

The husband is reluctant at best, but his father convinces him to give it a try. It’s not an easy journey, and he is often tempted to give up. The fact that his wife is developing an interest in someone else is no help.

The movie has a happy ending, and you can imagine how it turns out. Along the way, though, there are a number of twists and turns that are paced beautifully. Just when you think one element of the story is resolved, there is just a little bit more to it, and always something additive, something that drives the point just a little further home. It was very well written!

The other thing I really appreciated about this movie is that it confronts the consequences of a spouse using Internet pornography. In their relationship, this usage was both a cause of some issues and an effect of others. Whereas often in media, pornography is viewed as something that doesn’t really cause any harm to either the user or anyone else, this movie shows the very real damage it can do to a person and to a relationship. Having known couples who have had to deal with this and who have put it behind them, I found the scene in which the husband struggles with and eventually chooses not to give in to the online temptation particularly real and particularly powerful. Talk about going against the grain.

 

Fireproof is a lot of things most mainstream movies these days aren’t. Sure, the acting isn’t Oscar-worthy (but it’s really not half bad), but John and I finished the movie with a good conversation, a giant hug, and a renewed gratitude for each other and our marriage. Maybe if we weren’t already in a good place in our marriage, we would have been as reluctant to see this film as the protagonists in the movie were to open up to each other. But maybe not. There is truth and love in this movie, and those things have power.

So if you’ve been wondering where Kirk Cameron went after Growing Pains or if you’re looking for a good movie with a good message, check out Fireproof and let me know what you think!

September 26, 2011

Read It: The Five Love Languages

A lot of my writing here focuses on my life as a mother to precious little Jacob. And rightfully so. Caring for him is a big part of my life right now. But this blog is called young MARRIED mom for a reason. Being married is a pretty integral part of my life too.

I wrote a few months back about the Family Enrichment course on Matrimonial Love John and I participated in earlier this year. When we were introduced to it, I was confused and perhaps skeptical. There are a couple of things I had previously felt did not need to be taught—spirituality, how to love your spouse, and parenting.  Things I had never done before, but I figured would just come naturally.

To some extent, they did, but I realize now that these areas of my life, probably the most important ones, are those in which I am constantly relying on other people’s guidance and past experiences. I read books and blogs; I talk to family and friends; I listen to homilies at Mass and get guidance through Confession. I am not going at these things as “alone” as I thought I was. And really, things like marriage and parenting deserve more attention than the more tangible fields of expertise I can learn about in a classroom.

Now I am much more open to taking a more professional, structured approach to these seemingly fluid areas of my life. I know that love is not just a feeling, it’s a choice, and one you make each day with your heart, your mind, and your body. My mind is doing more of the work now, and I can already see how it is going to make a difference.

During our course, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman often came up. I’d heard mention of this book before, but the title, at least, seemed a little self-helpy, and the topic, as I’ve said, was one of those that I didn’t think I needed any structured help with.

At the end of our course, John and I decided to read the book together. It’s not very long, and we each read a little bit here and there, when we can. I’m not sure he’s quite finished it yet, but I have, and I pretty much can’t wait to recommend it to everyone I know, married or not.

The premise of the book is that a person is likely to give love in the same way s/he prefers to receive it. If that method, or “love language” is not the way the recipient of love can understand it, the recipient is not going to feel loved. For example, my primary love language—surprise, surprise—is Words of Affirmation. When John tells me that my hair looks nice or that dinner was good, I know that he loves and appreciates me. If I do the same for John, he’ll think it’s nice, but won’t feel my love as strongly.

Chapman’s argument is that often, the problem in a struggling marriage is that the spouses are giving love the way they want to receive it, rather than in the way their spouses can receive it. He offers a couple of different ways to determine what your spouse’s love language is, and to learn how to speak it if it’s not your “native” language, so to speak.

While we haven’t quite figured out John’s language yet, I still think this book is genius. And it doesn’t just apply to married couples. There are editions of the book for singles, men, children, teenagers, business people, and even one to apply the love language theory to one’s relationship with God. Having read only the original book, I think it’s mostly clear how the languages can be used to improve just about any relationship.

The main idea of the book is that love requires sacrifice, the giving of oneself in thoughts and works. The feeling of love can come and go, but it can also be sustained and bolstered by actions. Chapman doesn’t explicitly say he is a Christian until very late in the book, and I am sure that was intentional.  These are Christian ideals, sure, but they are also simply the way love works.

If you are married, about to get married, in a relationship, or single, read this book. As you read, think about the relationship you struggle with most. Then, if you are brave enough, make a change. Show someone important to you that you love them.

Because as the song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.” Let’s change that.

May 10, 2011

Enriching Our Marriage, Enriching Our Family

Over the course of the last year, John and I have participated in a “Family Enrichment” program, run by the International Federation for Family Development.  The program uses the Harvard Business School case study model to look at situations in marriage and family life from an objective perspective, so that couples can grow as spouses and as parents.  The course we are just wrapping up, “Matrimonial Love,” has been invaluable for a number of reasons:

  1. We’ve taken time to talk about how we communicate, where we are in our marriage, and are aware it would be a good idea to talk about where we see our family going over the next five, ten, twenty years.  (Haven’t gotten to that last bit yet.)
  2. We’ve each become more aware of how the other spouse thinks and reacts.  We know each other really well after being together for seven years, but it’s still all too easy to think the other’s reaction to a particular situation will mirror our own.  How easily we forget what we learn time and again!
  3. We’ve had conversations we may not have had otherwise on subjects like work-family balance, the order of loves within the family, and expectations and assumptions in our relationship.
  4. In the same vein, we have a better idea of warning signs for potential issues later on to keep an eye out for now.  (Gross syntax; sorry.)
  5. We’ve met incredible couples that are equally interested and invested in caring for their marriages and families through dialogue and study.

We’ve gained a great deal from the program already, but I think we won’t see most of the fruits for many years to come.  Becoming a part of a community like this has reminded us that the struggles and joys we experience in raising a family are not ours alone, and it has made great big New York City feel a little smaller in a very good way.

Because there wasn’t a New York City chapter—until now!—we latched on to a group just outside the city last year.  While the program isn’t too great a time commitment, it has been tough to figure out logistics of getting to our large group sessions in Rye, NY, finding someone to watch Jacob, etc.  Thus we are thrilled that in the fall, a new group will be born New York City!

John and I have volunteered to be the leaders of the Brooklyn group, and we’re excited to meet some new people and learn even more in the year to come.  Next year’s course is “First Steps,” which focuses on family situations involving children from infants to four years of age.  Clearly, this is very fitting for where we are right now.  What’s great about the program, though, is that you need not have children in the particular age group a course concentrates on.  Having the perspectives of couples with older and younger children only makes the process richer.

If you are, like me, a young married parent—or simply a married person, or even an old married grandpa (ha ha, Grandpa Karl!)—I encourage you to learn more about this fabulous program.

And if you’re in New York, know that we’ll be holding a trial small group and large group session in the middle of this month.  Please get in touch with me at youngmarriedmomblog [at] gmail [dot] com for more information.

Here’s to bringing out the best in our marriages, in our families, and in ourselves!

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