Tag Archives: marriage

For better or worse –in business and marriage

“Married couples who work together to build and maintain a business assume broad responsibilities,” said Melissa Bean, now a vice chairman for JP Morgan Chase, from the floor of Congress during her years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. “Not only is their work important to our local and national economies, but their success is central to the well-being of their families.”

Husbands and wives who manage businesses together while raising their families can experience special challenges as well as joys. A few entrepreneurial Legate couples recently shared a bit about what that’s like and how their Catholic faith helps them succeed at work and at home.

Keeping work and marriage ever well

Dr. Chris Zubiate was in the behavioral health field when he met his future wife, Leah, who then worked in private equity. She became involved in behavior health through a volunteer opportunity and had her “eyes opened to a new world I had never been exposed to or really thought about,” Leah recalled.

Now married with two young children, the San Francisco Legates operate Ever Well Health Systems, a network of residential treatment facilities for adults with serious mental and emotional problems. Chris is Ever Well’s president and CEO, while Leah serves as an administrator with broad oversight of the flagship facility.

In the early years, Chris and Leah commuted two hours to their first facility – sometimes separately, sometimes together. “Initially, we weren’t covering our bills, and the time away from the family filled us with doubts,” Leah remembered. “Now, looking back, our commitment to the work was never more tested.”

On the days they commuted together “our commitment to each other was strengthened,” she added. “It allowed us to be together as a couple and reflect on our purpose and our faith.”

Work-life balance remains difficult, but having two little ones keeps the home life in the forefront. “Having the flexibility to start our work days at different times, the ability to work from home, or being able to alternate ‘late days’ is incredible at this stage and a real gift,” said Leah.

The company is open 24/7, she explained, so “it’s easy to become engulfed. We have to set boundaries with ourselves to not always be talking about work. Or for me, to not get so emotionally invested.”

Competition and compromise

Drs. Frank and Cheryl Mueller met as undergrads in the pre-med program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was attracted to Cheryl not only because she was pretty and smart, but also because she came from a Catholic family with strong work ethics and strong family ties,” Frank recalled. They were married shortly before entering medical school.

Cheryl planned to go into pediatrics, but Frank convinced her to join him in family medicine. Sharing a practice, he reasoned, would facilitate coordinating parental responsibilities.

“We have been practicing family medicine together in the same office for over 30 years,” said Cheryl. “We each have our own patients, but we cover for one another and are business partners as well as life partners.”

The San Antonio Legates’ three sons are grown now, but the Muellers remember the challenges during those child-raising years. Cheryl said she and Frank agreed that at least one of them should attend every important event in their kids’ lives.

“Even though our jobs required being ‘on call’ and responsive to our patients 24/7, we sincerely tried to be the best and most involved parents we possibly could be,” she recalled. “We both are so grateful to God and our families for providing the ability to accomplish this goal.”

Frank noted Cheryl and he have a “natural competitiveness” as to who brings in more patients or income, or who makes final decisions on managing staff or redecorating offices. “However, armed with Christian ethics and compromise, the problems get solved, and our relationship stays intact,” he said.

Passions and priorities

“For me, the challenge of being in business together is having to intuitively navigate two great passions of my life,” said Charlie Domen, president and CEO of DisplayMax Inc., a retail merchandising firm he founded in southeastern Michigan around 1993 with his wife, Susan, who is vice president. The Ann Arbor Legates admit “it is only through the foundation of faith that we are able to balance the peaks and valleys of managing business and family life.”

Charlie worked in sales and Susan was in office administration in the early 1990s when they each took side jobs merchandising products in grocery stores. That experience and their respective skill sets inspired them to start their own company offering services including inventory resets, retail fixtures, and store remodels

“Faith and our family are absolutely our priority,” Susan agreed. “However, as entrepreneurs, our business is certainly our passion. We are always open to looking at ways to improve our organization, to better serve our clients, improve processes and communication, and looking at better ways to integrate systems and software.”

Ensuring that their drive for entrepreneurial success doesn’t compromise family needs – the Domens have three daughters, ages 11 to 18 — is a key concern in addition to simply weathering the ups and downs of business.

Susan recalled a lean December when cash was tight and credit was thin. After a long-awaited receivables check finally arrived on Christmas Eve, jubilation turned to desperation when the bank placed a five-day hold on the funds. A generous bank manager came to the rescue and waived the hold. “That was our Christmas miracle,” remembered Susan. “We went out, got our tree and a few presents, and had one of our best Christmases ever!”

Faith as a guide

These couples have in common a strong faith that permeates their lives both at work and at home.

“Our Catholic faith doesn’t only inform and impact our business, it forms and impacts our hearts, our families, our schools, parishes, and workplaces,” said Charlie Domen.

“One of the more practical and basic ways our faith has impacted our business is it allows us to see each person for who they are, the way Jesus sees them, not as a human resource, but as a human person,” he explained. That translates into generous wages and benefits for employees, prayer before meals, sponsorship of charitable events, and a culture that promotes trust and teamwork.

At Ever Well, Chris and Leah Zubiate echo that perspective.

“Our Catholic faith helps us steward our employees and resources to affirm the dignity of the vulnerable people we serve,” Leah said. “A lot of what guides us is opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will. We try to be open with our employees, residents, and customers about the strength of our Catholic faith and frequently make connections between what we do for work and our personal mission to serve the mentally ill.”

That principle is reflected in the company tagline: “Everything. For everlasting change.”

The Muellers rely on faith to guide their marriage as well as their medical practice.

“Our faith has always been extremely important to both of us,” said Cheryl Mueller. “It is important to be compassionate and understanding to patients who may be discouraged or irritable because of serious health problems. Both of us feel that spirituality is an important part of healing, and we try to include this in the way that we minister to our patients and our employees.”

Frank told of how Mass, prayer, the sacraments, and even Legatus gatherings help them decompress and “enjoy life again as a married couple.”

The Muellers will celebrate 40 years together in 2019, “and God-willing, we will work together another 10 years or so before retiring,” said Frank. “It has, in all aspects, really become a family practice.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Occupational hazards – persevering with grace

Married couples know it takes “work” to make a marriage thrive.

Some spouses work not just on nurturing their relationship, but on maintaining their business.

Two Legatus couples who own and operate companies shared their experiences and lessons learned from working together in business.

Mike and Judy Thompson, members of Legatus’ Rockford, Illinois Chapter, are co-owners of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a leading global ultrasonic cleaning equipment company.

Andrew and Eva Berney, members of Legatus’ Phoenix, Arizona Chapter, for 18 years have together been running Titan Power Inc., a privately held for-profit specialty contracting business that employs 19 people.

Both couples navigated early difficulties to build businesses now thriving in competitive marketplaces. The Thompsons and Berneys also lead their respective companies with unapologetic Catholic worldviews. Both couples credit God for sustaining them in difficult times, and with blessing their businesses.

Mike and Judy Thompson – Rebuilding neglected family business

Any visitor walking through the corporate headquarters of Ultrasonic Power Corporation in northwestern Illinois will see numerous crucifixes at various entryways, and may spot Mike and Judy Thompson praying together before a meeting.

“It’s about witnessing and evangelizing. We don’t park our Catholic faith at the door. It’s a part of us and our business,” said Mike, 61, who along with Judy, his wife of 38 years and business partner, are co-CEOs of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a company they bought from Judy’s father in November 2011.

Mike and Judy were living in Houston, Texas, when they decided to purchase the company from Judy’s ailing, elderly dad. As a young married couple in the 1980s, they had previously worked for the company until Mike took a job in the oil and gas industry.

When they returned to Illinois, they found a struggling business that suffered from a lack of top-level leadership.

“Whenever the primary owner becomes ill, no matter where you are, a company might run on momentum for a time, but ownership discussions and strategic decisions about the future get delayed,” Mike said.

For more than two years, Mike and Judy worked long hours at the office to stabilize the company’s financial footing and reposition it for growth.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of taking work home,” Judy said. “There were long days trying to understand the ins and outs of the business. Eventually, we made the rule that the work stayed at work and we separated that. Because otherwise, it would be all-consuming.”

Under Mike and Judy’s leadership, Ultrasonic Power Corporation has grown its bottom line and doubled its workforce from 15 to 30 employees. The Thompsons said they strive to establish a work culture that understands that family comes first.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” Mike said. “We know we’re blessed, but we also know we’ve been put through trials. Had it not been for our faith in God, or even our association with other like-minded CEOS through the Legatus organization, I think we would have been less happy and given in somewhat to despair.” “This was definitely a learning experience for the both of us,” Judy said. “But I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”

Mike compared growing a business “in phases” to developing a marriage over many years.

“We’ve gone through a lot of those learning curves, the ups and downs, the frustrations, the feelings of despair and thinking, ‘Why the heck did we do this?’” said Mike, adding that he and Judy feel the responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

“I think Jesus was the first and greatest servantleader,” Mike said. “If we’re not serving our people and helping them to get their jobs done, tearing down any barriers and encouraging them, then we really are not going to be a successful business.”

Judy said she and Mike have also learned to complement each other for a job well done. They have grown in their faith, gotten more involved in their parish, and last year both went on a pilgrimage to Rome.

“Even on the most difficult of days,” Judy said, “We remind ourselves it is our job to get each other to heaven.”

Andrew and Eva Berney – Recognizing skill sets, faith priorities

Like any successful management team, Andrew and Eva Berney have an organizational chart.

“One of the things we discovered when we started working together as husband and wife was that there was a tendency to not know which areas you should step your foot in or not,” said Eva, who is the vice president and director of finance and administration for Titan Power, Inc.

“One of the things we did early on that helped was we created an organizational chart so that we would really be aware of what his responsibilities were and what my responsibilities were, and communicating that to the rest of our team,” Eva said.

Andrew worked at Titan Power, Inc., for seven years before he purchased the company in 1997. Eva, who had a background in property management, joined the business shortly after she and Andrew married in 2000.

“I brought a different set of skills than Andy had,” Eva said. “He’s more on the technical side of the business and I’m more of the management, HR, and accounting side.” The organizational chart helped Andy and Eva, as well as their employees, to better understand their roles in the company.

“It really helped us respect each other, and it also helped communicate to the employees who was responsible for what,” Eva said.

There were some early financial difficulties. Andy and Eva often worried about making payroll.

“We dealt with it together,” Eva said. “Both of us realized how important it was to seek counsel, so we sought counsel from professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, and people we knew who were already in business. We both realized that we don’t know everything.”

Both also relied on their Catholic faith to establish an ethical business culture. They pray everyday before work and tithe ten percent of their business earnings and personal income. They say that God has rewarded their faith with amazing growth in the company.

“We’ve seen that the more we give, the bigger the company gets,” Andrew said. “We see God working in that. And as we grow, our charitable donations grow too. He has blessed us in that area.”

“We’re very aware of how our faith and the decisions we make affect our employees,” Eva added. “We really feel that God has put them with us and we’re supposed to take care of them. We do that through our prayers and making good decisions for the company so they can have a stable environment and go home at the end of the day and be with their families.”

Andrew and Eva are already thinking about their lives after Titan Power. They recently brought their son, Stephen, aboard, and he has already shown good business instincts. Andy and Eva joke that he is their retirement plan.

“Our goal is when we retire to do more ministry work,” Eva said. “We don’t envision ourselves retiring and sitting around. We know the rewards that come from doing God’s work that He is calling us to do.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

WHAT TO SEE: The Battle on the Home Front

Indivisible
Sarah Drew, Justin Bruening, Jason George, Tia Mowry, and Madeline Carroll
Runtime: 110 min
Rated PG-13

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to think ourselves invulnerable – to stress, pain, doubt, or temptation.

Army Chaplain Darren Turner (Justin Bruening) and his wife, Heather (Sarah Drew), seem to have it all together – a solid marriage, three adorable children, and an unshakable faith. When Darren leaves for his first tour in Iraq, he waves off the cautions of those who have already served in conflict zones regarding how the experience can strain a marriage. “You ain’t never gonna be the same, and neither is your picture-perfect marriage,” warns Sgt. Michael Lewis (Jason George), a neighbor heading for his second deployment whose marital discord the Turners have witnessed firsthand. Darren and Heather echo the same naïveté: We’ve got this. We’re called to this. We’ll be just fine.

In Baghdad, Darren encourages the soldiers, just as he does his own children, to put on the “armor of God” — the shield and protection of faith. “God is no stranger to the battlefield,” Darren sermonizes.

As days turn to months, the Turners’ marital bond weakens. With only brief phone calls and a family website to keep in touch, a disconnect develops: Heather has no grasp of the horrors Darren sees, and Heather’s ordinary family stresses seem comparatively trivial to Darren. Ironically, he ministers effectively to his fellow soldiers even as his own marriage stumbles.

Returning stateside, Darren’s PTSD leaves him distant, disagreeable, and disillusioned. Healing is a long journey, as many war veterans have found.

It’s a true story: in film and in real life, the Turners resolve their issues and use their experiences to assist other military families who find the battle to save their marriages is as challenging as any enemy across the battlefield.

Indivisible may resonate most strongly with military families who have experienced the challenges of long separations and wartime trauma. Its underlying message of maintaining hope and faith and the power of God’s grace is one we can all appreciate.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along

Jennifer Roback Morse
TAN Books, 420 pages

“The Sexual Revolution has never been a grassroots movement,” writes Jennifer Roback Morse in her latest book. Rather, it was manufactured by liberal elites “justifying their preferred lifestyles, imposing their new morality” by harnessing “the coercive power of the State.” As a result, millions have suffered the effects of this revolution. In her compelling indictment, Morse identifies the Contraceptive Ideology, the Divorce Ideology, and the Gender Ideology as the three fronts that built the Sexual State — and the three fronts the Church and social conservatives must focus our own defense and attacks upon if we are ever to restore love, marriage, and family to their rightful dignity.

Order: Amazon

The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony

Dr. David Anders
EWTN Publishing, 221 pages

“This book describes my personal discovery of the Catholic teaching on marriage and the beautiful effect it had on my life,” EWTN’s popular radio and TV host, Dr. Anders, writes in his introduction. As a Protestant divinity student unhappily wed to a lapsed Catholic, his search for truth led him to Catholicism. When his wife finally followed him into the Church of her youth, their shared vision of the sacrament of marriage bonded them and strengthened their union as never before. It’s a heartfelt account of a faith journey that may inspire Catholic couples to call upon the grace of marriage and its “beautiful effect” in their own lives.

Order: Amazon

WHAT TO SEE: The Tribunal

Ryan Wesley Gilreath, Chris Petty, Laura E. Mock
Run time: 114 min
Rated PG-13

“It’s complicated.” Isn’t that how people often describe their relationships? The relationships in The Tribunal are precisely that. The film, a limited theatrical release now available on cable and streaming services, is a well-intended drama involving a petition for a declaration of nullity, or annulment, from a Church tribunal. The story is told largely in flashback style through testimony given at the hearings.

Tony (Ryan Wesley Gilreath), a concert promoter and local musician, is a lapsed Catholic who falls for Emily (Laura Mock), a good Catholic girl. When she refuses his advances and invites him to Mass, he begins to clean up his act and recover his faith.

Yet the couple’s indiscretions weaken them into a sexual relationship that ultimately leads to their breakup after Emily’s father (Jim Damron), a permanent deacon, confronts Emily about her sinful choices. Tony is devastated.

Tony’s best friend and bandmate, Joe (Chris Petty), falls in love with Emily, creating the expected tensions. Joe, who is not Catholic, is divorced from Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), who married Joe only because she was unhappily pregnant. As Joe and Emily seek an annulment of Joe’s previous marriage so they can be free to wed in the Church, they need the testimony of Tony, who knew Jessie didn’t believe in the permanence of marriage and never wanted children — both grounds for annulment. Tony hesitates to help Joe, hoping Emily might return to him instead. Emily’s father, by the way, is one of the tribunal officials. Complicated enough?

As with many lower-budget films, viewers might quibble with the acting and scriptwriting. Yet the film’s small production company, St. Michael Movies, sets its sights on producing solid Catholic stories for the New Evangelization. Where this film succeeds most is in illustrating the bouts of conscience experienced by the major players and in depicting the Church’s thoughtful and compassionate handling of the tribunal process — highlighting that annulment is certainly not a light matter and often a complicated one at that.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order

Dr. Scott Hahn
Emmaus Press
208 pages

Is there hope for the state of marriage in our culture today? Scott Hahn believes so. “If Catholics would simply live the Sacrament of Matrimony for one generation,” he writes, “we would witness a transformation of society and have a Christian culture.” Despite the prevalence of divorce, infidelity, and a myriad of aberrant ideas of what marriage and family life means, Catholics can indeed change hearts and minds if only they commit to living as they should and reap the fruits of the sacramental life of the Church. Grace, Hahn reminds, is a powerful thing; with God’s help, Catholics can keep to His plan and inspire others to do likewise.

Order: Amazon , St. Paul Center

When marriage gets tough, faithful get stronger

When Mark lost his job after 21 years of service to a nonprofit organization, it was a devastating blow for our family. The organization was downsizing and decided to dismantle its in-house print shop, of which he was the manager. That was basically the only job he’d ever known during our entire married life, and the prospect of starting all over again was frightening. It was compounded by the fact that four out of our six family members have chronic illnesses, and so adequate health insurance is an absolute necessity.

Marge Fenelon

We tried to keep the kids out of worry’s way, but weren’t completely successful. Tensions were high, and it was like walking a tightrope without a safety net. In spite of that, we rallied around Mark, assured him of our confidence in his resourcefulness and abilities, and used every opportunity to boost morale – both his and ours.

Additionally, we tried to accentuate the resourcefulness of each family member so that we could pull together as a cohesive, purposeful unit. We had to focus on what was good in our lives so that we could keep moving in a positive direction. First and foremost, that included each other. This was a crucial time for encouraging each one to do whatever he or she could to help the family and to practice sacrificial patience!

…If we judged by the images of the Holy Family on Christmas cards, we’d think they lived in total placidity. Perhaps they did at times, but likely their lives were speckled with disharmonies as well. Did St. Joseph make his decision to quietly divorce, and then in turn not divorce, Mary without any struggle? At the same time, our Blessed Mother was tending to her cousin Elizabeth as she waited for St. Joseph to make his decision, wondering if he would ever again trust her, contemplating the possibility of being stoned to death, and trying to figure out what would happen to the Child within her womb should St. Joseph abandon her. Then Jesus came, and with him came tremendous joy, but also some really tight spots… How did they handle having to suddenly pull up roots and flee to Egypt?

…Think too of the complexity of their daily life. St. Joseph, although head of the family, was actually the lowliest of the three: he was just a man, while Jesus was God and the Blessed Mother was born without original sin. Nevertheless, the Blessed Mother …was a simple housewife and bound to submissiveness to her husband and service to her son. Jesus, the King of Kings, experienced all the frailties of the human condition while at the same time having the ability to rise above them. In spite of their “celebrity status,” the Holy Family lived simply and inconspicuously, waiting patiently upon each other and loving one another completely and unconditionally.

Excerpt from Chapter Five, “Good Times and Bad” from Strengthening Your Family: A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home, © Marge Fenelon. Published by Our Sunday Visitor. Used by permission.

Award-winning author, journalist, blogger, and speaker, MARGE FENELON is weekly guest on Relevant Radio’s “Morning Air Show,” and blogger for the National Catholic Register. She’s written several books on Marian devotion and Catholic family life. Her latest title is Our Lady, Undoer of Knots: Living the Novena (A Guided Meditation from the Holy Land).

CATECHISM 101

By its very nature conjugal love requires the inviolable fidelity of the spouses. This is the consequence of the gift of themselves which they make to each other. Love seeks to be definitive; it cannot be an arrangement “until further notice.” The “intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children, demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable union between them.”

It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. Spouses who with God’s grace give this witness, often in very difficult conditions, deserve the gratitude and support of the ecclesial community.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1646, 1648

Hidden wound in marriage can heal

Next to the protection of life itself, the protection of marriage, as made by God, is one of the key concerns of Christians today. The attacks on marriage are manifest, and intensifying. But not all the factors that threaten and weaken marriage are immediately evident.

Fr. Frank Pavone

Among such threats is the impact that a past abortion has on a couple’s relationship. If either the man or the woman has been involved in an abortion in the past — either with one another or with others — the wounds of that act impact their relationship. And that impact can be mitigated to the extent that they discuss it openly with one another during marriage preparation and seek the help that is available.

Abortion creates a relational and spiritual wound. As our Priests for Life pastoral associates Dr. Theresa and Kevin Burke (cofounders of Rachel’s Vineyard) write,

“A healthy marital relationship is marked by a deep bonding between husband and wife with a foundational trust that leads to vibrant and satisfying emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy. Abortion is a traumatic death experience that is closely associated to relational/sexual intimacy creating a profound fracture of trust striking at the heart of the marital foundation (this holds true whether the event preceded a marriage, or was experienced by only one spouse). Partners experience unresolved, unspoken grief and shame as they struggle with depression, anxiety, and other painnumbing symptoms of trauma that can negatively impact marriage and family life. Extramarital affairs are not uncommon for persons with abortion in their history.”

Women who have had abortions frequently settle for relationships that do not meet their needs for love and nurturing, and in varying degrees are abusive and violent. In our healing programs, women report staying in abusive relationships as a form of self-punishment. They feel on some level, “this is what I deserve for what I did to my baby.”

Couples having marital problems may not understand that those problems are rooted in a previous abortion as they struggle with intimacy, trust, communication, sexuality and parenting issues. One who has participated in an abortion can struggle to feel worthy of the love of another person. Without healing, couples can experience serious dysfunction, and even divorce. The past abortion is like a ticking time bomb in the marriage relationship.

These wounds, furthermore, affect the living children they have. Dysfunctional marriages can lead children to seek love and attention outside the home. They may seek this attention and consolation in ways that are self-destructive.

The good news is that healing is possible. It requires, first of all, breaking the silence. There is no such thing as a “private abortion.” This is made clear in a new book by Legatus member Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More. Called Shockwaves: Abortion’s Wider Circle of Victims, this book traces the multifaceted relational wounds of abortion on a person’s family and beyond (see www.ShockwavesTheBook.com).

Marriage preparation programs need to open the door to talking about past abortions, and resources like Rachel’s Vineyard (a ministry of Priests for Life) are ready to lead couples through the healing needed to strengthen their marriage. In short, a key to strengthening marriage is promoting awareness of the wounds of abortion and the healing that can follow.

FR. FRANK PAVONE is National Director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com.

Furnace of charity melts marital loneliness

In the beginning, God declared it was not good for man to be alone, so he fashioned from his side a helpmate and an equal. She, Woman, the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh, would become his wife, and the two would “become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24). Marriage was God’s original remedy for human loneliness, and since Adam and Eve were married before the Fall, marriage is literally older than sin!

Kevin Vost, Psy.D.

In our time, however, social scientists warn of a looming epidemic of loneliness affecting people of all ages, including married people. In the mid1980s researchers found that one in ten Americans reported he had no one close to confide in, while 20 years later it had risen to one person in four – one quarter of the population has no one close in whom to confide! Now, over one-third of middle-aged and older adults report that they are lonely. While being single or having lost a spouse through death or divorce are risk factors for loneliness, nearly a third of married people report feeling lonely, too. And this can be serious business. Loneliness is a risk factor for chronic disease and decreased life expectancy, roughly equivalent to obesity or smoking. So what has gone awry and how can stronger, holier marriages help stem the tide of loneliness?

Loneliness is defined as a“perceived isolation” at the intimate emotional or the broader social level. The lonely person perceives a significant discrepancy between the relationships he or she desires and those he or she actually has. The lonely person may be alone or feel a lack of connectedness even within a crowd. A wife, for example, may feel emotional closeness to her husband and yet feel lonely at the broader social level if they have just moved to a new city for her husband’s work and she no longer has access to her familiar network of friends, co-workers, or parishioners. The same situation could hold for a husband, as well.

The most serious and tragic kind of marital loneliness, of course, is the emotional isolation that may arise between a husband and wife when one or both feel they are not appreciated or heard by the other. The busyness of modern life brings so many commitments and distractions that many married couples live separate lives within the same four walls. For decades now, excessive television viewing has decreased social connectedness, and social media and smartphones have produced broader networks of “friends” while diverting people’s attention away from those closest to them. Many need to retrain themselves to slow down, limit commitments, turn off computers, and stow cell phones in a drawer to tend to the needs of spouses, and cherish the limited time on earth with them.

St. Paul told us of God’s great gifts of faith, hope and love; that the greatest of them is love (1 Cor. 13:13). St. Thomas Aquinas compared the love of charity to the heat of a powerful furnace. When our hearts burn with the fires of charity, their far-reaching flames serve to warm strangers and even our enemies. But since those closest to the furnace receive the most heat, true charity should begin at home, and be directed most intensely toward the person with whom we are of “of one flesh.”

Let us beseech God that our eyes be opened to the faces of all the lonely people among us, perhaps even the one we wake up to every morning. Let us see the face of Christ in the person with whom He joined us as one flesh in the bonds of matrimony. Then, let’s turn up our furnaces of love to perform simple acts of thoughtfulness and kindness for our spouse daily. It’s possible for every man and wife to feel the heat of loving charity within every home, a heat that will warm the whole family, a heat they will carry out the front door to help warm a cold, lonely world.

KEVIN VOST, PSY.D. has taught psychology at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee and the University of Illinois at Springfield. His most recent book is The Catholic Guide to Loneliness. Kevin and Kathy Vost recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary.