"Big Four" Highlights


Marriage Drift

A 5-step guide for husbands

By Mike Phelan

If our anti-marriage culture affords any benefit, it is an awareness that even good Catholic couples should not take the strength of their relationship for granted. How many of us have been shocked to find that friends who seemingly had a solid marriage are in crisis? Seeing that no marriage is beyond a drift into loneliness and isolation is instructive and humbling.

Could you find yourself in such a situation, too?


The drift likely will become apparent to you long after your wife has sensed it. The key to avoiding a gradual alienation is to keep in mind the foundation of your love, a memory of the sweet moments and occasions that drew you and your wife together in the first place.

The memories of falling in love with your wife are in the mind, accessible and worth pondering again and again. I recall one particular moment when Sharon and I dated. We had gone to dinner, and then for a walk, and it was time to take her home. But after pulling up to her house in the pickup truck, neither of us was ready to say goodbye, so we just talked and then she lay her head on my arm, facing me. We simply gazed at each other, saying absolutely nothing for many minutes, and I reached to her face and moved her hair aside to see her whole, smiling face.

“I am loved, I am trusted,” I remember thinking. “This cannot end. She is beautiful. This cannot end. We must marry.”

Is staying in love possible? Yes, although maturity brings us past the self-absorption of early erotic love, but here is where the “work” of love becomes necessary. The saying “Love is spelled T-I-M-E” remains popular because it is true. No relationship can thrive without time together. In the case of my own marriage, with six children still at home, weeks can pass without serious time together for Sharon and me. Here are a few points you may want to ponder:

1) Have fairly regular “date nights” to avoid the drift of isolation.

2) Watch at least annually your wedding video or view the photo album. Revisit the moment when you acted in full freedom while in love through the exchange of vows.

3) As a husband called to “Love your wife as Christ loved the Church,” you are called to be first a lover in the home. You carve out this time, then you provide the opportunity by planning the date. A wife whose husband does this usually grows in love and appreciation.

4) The habit of “making time” is essential to the deep need our wives have to be cherished, listened to, and sacrificed for. Our wives want our full attention. We can pack away our attention “A game” early in marriage, and this is also a cause of marital drift. On our “A game,” we gazed into her eyes, seeing there her soul, giving our full attention to her. This too is an essential part of staying in love.

5) We are called as the first lovers in the home to suffer the intimacy of listening, of being present, undistracted for good amounts of time. Reading this, some men may be saying, “Too much work. We’re doing fine. Love changes.” Be careful. Is this how Christ, our Bridegroom, loves us? Never. His love for his disciples was demonstrably attentive, present, passionate. With his help, we husbands can grow to be true lovers, if imperfect ones, and such husbands are absolutely necessary to convince the world of the power of Christian marriage.

Mike Phelan, Director of Marriage and Respect Life for the Diocese of Phoenix, holds a master’s degree from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.