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What to do when you realize your marriage might be in trouble

COUPLE
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It is essential to keep the flame of love alive, especially when the couple goes through the challenging phases.

I love plants. Right inside the entrance of my house, I have a small palm tree that has followed me from home to home every time I have moved.

Months ago, all of its leaves fell off, leaving just a bare stump. What an eyesore that was! My little palm tree looked so unprotected – and unattractive. My husband suggested that I throw it away because it looked so bad and made the living room look ugly. But I was reluctant to get rid of it. So I decided to give it a change of environment.

Rather than see my little palm end up in a dumpster, I wanted to save it. I took it outside to the garden and placed it where it could receive light and shade. Weeks went by and it seemed like the stem was lifeless. I never stopped watering and fertilizing it, but from time to time I was actually quite tempted to throw it away because all I could see was a trunk that “looked dead.”

Weeks went by, and suddenly I saw that new leaves had begun to sprout. My plant came back to life! What it needed was a change in its environment and some special care, especially my patience. Today, my little palm tree is full of life-filled leaves.

I’ve decided to leave the palm tree where I saw it sprout back to life, near the entrance of my house, not only because it did well, but as a daily reminder that in all situations, no matter how dead or withered something is or may seem, we can always hope that it can be resurrected. It was not my plant’s time to die – and I was not about to let that happen – but rather, it was time for me to act to make the necessary changes to properly nourish and protect it and provide it with special care so as to help it recover.

My plant reminded me then – and still reminds me today – of a similar lesson we must keep in mind to nurture conjugal love and to safeguard our marriage. There are times when it seems that everything has withered in our marriage, that there is nothing left to do to save it – but that is most definitely not always the case. On the contrary: this is precisely the moment when we realize that our marriage is again in need of special care and protective barriers – and unconditional love – so as to revive the relationship.

Just as my plant began to show signs that it needed a change because it appeared to be dying, couples begin to show signs that their conjugal love needs some help, that the marriage needs extra care, or that there are changes that need to be made.

Here are some signs that your marriage might be needing some extra tender loving care:

When you begin to feel lazy and apathetic or start feeling annoyed at serving your spouse. Remember that service is a means and expression of love and that we get married to serve each other and to be of “mutual help” to one another.

When we refuse the intimate marital self-giving to our spouse without a just reason, but for selfish reasons. Remember that every time we give ourselves intimately in the marital embrace we are renewing our love and wedding vows.

When we begin to feel attraction toward another person. Let’s be honest with ourselves and recognize that love does not blind us to the fact that there are other attractive people around us, even more attractive than our own spouse. But we are called to make every effort to keep custody over our senses and avoid looking at anyone other than our spouse with sexual and emotional interest. If you begin to feel you’re being drawn by and attracted to someone else, it’s time to stop and make an emotional and moral inventory, taking time to seriously look at yourself and your marriage, and talk it over with your spouse. If, on the other hand, you cave in to feelings and the temptation to start taking extra care of your appearance, and go to work or the gym eager to see that other person, beware! You are walking on quicksand.

When there are financial problems. It’s normal to feel stress when finances are tight. However, it’s best to focus on what really has true value and is priceless. Everything will be resolved more easily and fruitfully if, as a couple, you remain calm and united in financially challenging times.

When you like to spend more time with friends than with your spouse. You and your spouse are meant to be each other’s best friend, and that requires that you nurture the bond of friendship between you, before and above all other friendships.

When either of you chooses to go on vacation alone with friends instead of with your spouse or children. This is becoming an increasingly common practice among many young couples today. But they seem not to realize that they are opening the door to a number of potential threats, leaving their marriage relationship in a more vulnerable state. These types of non-spousal trips are not a prudent way to vacation.

When one or the other goes through an illness or some other serious problem. There will be times when one spouse will have to paddle harder than the other to get the family through rough waters because the other spouse is in some way incapacitated. Unity among spouses is key, and is the very source of the strength both will need to weather and get through the vicissitudes they are facing. Whatever the challenge may be, this is precisely the moment to live out, not only in words but in deeds, the promises made when you exchanged wedding vows: “For richer or poorer, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health…”

Remember that love, especially conjugal love, is like a little plant that needs to be continuously watered and fertilized and cared for if we are to keep it alive. If your marriage goes through a time of leafless and lifeless withering, commend yourself to God with all your heart – because He often showers us with an abundance of His mercy precisely when our hopes seem most dry.

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