Following up on last week's blog tour where I reviewed Jean Heimann's new book Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, Jean and her husband Bill return to Can We Cana? for some advice on How to Stay Married 10 Years & Then Some.
1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?
Bill & Jean: We have been married 22 years and have no biological children. Bill has an adult son from a previous marriage, which was formally annulled by the Catholic Church prior to our marriage in the Church in 1992.
2. Name 3 things that have helped you to stay married this long.
Jean: Our strong Catholic faith bonded us from the beginning and has kept us together over the years. We are “equally yoked” as the Protestants say. We were both actively involved in leadership roles in various ministries prior to our marriage (and continue to be) and saw eye to eye on the important issues that face engaged couples: openness to life, putting God first in our lives, serving others, stewardship, our roles as husband and wife. We were highly compatible from the beginning and continue to remain that way. We both view marriage as a covenant bond and as lifetime commitment and plan to remain together until death do us part. Second, I believe that while I tend to expect perfection from myself, Bill has never expected that from me, probably because he knows how truly imperfect I am. He is very understanding when I fail or make mistakes and also very forgiving. Forgiveness is essential in marriage, as there are times when we disappoint or fail our partner. If Jesus can forgive others, we, too, need to be able to emulate that quality. Third, a sense of humor along with a strong trust in God during trials and times of difficulty keeps us on the right track. Bill has taught me how to take myself and situations less seriously. He knows exactly what to say to make me laugh and how to help ease the tension during stressful times.
Bill: When we were married, it was Bill, Jesus, and Jean who were joined in union in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Jesus has always been at the center of our marriage. Jean and I make time to pray together every day. I always remember the saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” We pray the Night Prayer, the Rosary, a daily prayer to St. Joseph, as well as our Family Consecration prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We were prayer intercessors for a diocesan prayer group before we met and we continue to pray for the needs of others. I am fortunate to work at a job where I am able to recite the Rosary and I often offer up my Rosary for Jean’s special intentions. I know that Jean prays for me every day and she encourages me when I am going through tough times – that means a lot to me. Due to my work hours, I am only able to attend Mass one extra day besides Sunday, but it helps to know that I have a wife who attends Mass daily and is offering up prayers for me at Mass. Second, our love for one another is a permanent, lasting commitment. We are growing old together and are blessed with one another’s company. Third, listen to one another. It’s important to have someone there for you who will listen to you and encourage you.
3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?
Jean: Our Faith has sustained us in numerous trials: illnesses, long periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, inability to have children of our own, deaths of family members, and many other sufferings we never anticipated. God has blessed us with abundant graces to sustain us and even transcend these trials. All these sufferings simply make us stronger and help us grow closer to one another and to God, if we surrender them to Him.
4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?
Jean: Be yourself. Don’t ever compromise your values to please the other person. Be chaste. Save your virginity to give to your spouse as a wedding gift on your wedding night. Be honest and sincere with yourself and with the other person about your expectations in marriage. Don’t be afraid to discuss all the “hot button” issues that you will be facing in marriage. When you have found that special someone, schedule an appointment with a priest to prepare yourself and your partner for marriage.
5. What advice would you give newlyweds?
Jean: Be patient with one another. Never go to bed angry. Pray together every day.
6. What advice would you give new parents or couples who are trying to have children?
Jean: Learn about Natural Family Planning and practice it, if necessary. It is natural, holistic, healthy, and a practice in partnership. It creates a natural bond between the married couple, drawing them into a more intimate union. Avoid artificial means of contraception, which separate the sexual act from pro-creation. The Church disapproves of these because they block the self-giving relationship between husband and wife, which should be a natural part of marriage, but they also are very unhealthy. They can endanger the woman’s health, cause an early abortion, and eventually ruin the couple’s love life.
Be aware that there are many methods of helping couples who are infertile today. I had been diagnosed with endometriosis ten years prior to our marriage and had three surgeries performed by a Catholic gynecologist for it. When we were married, I was told that I had a 50-50 chance of conceiving, but it never happened. I was devastated until I accepted the fact that it was not God’s will for me. Today, there are more effective methods for helping couples conceive that coincide with Catholic teachings, such as the CREIGHTON MODEL FertilityCare™ System (CrMS) and the new women's health science of NaProTECHNOLOGY. [Editor's Note: For my interview of the founder of the Creighton Model and NaProTechnology on the occasion of Pope Paul VI's beatification in Rome, click here.] There are also now a number of support groups, including some that are Catholic, for those who deal with difficulty in conceiving a child. There are also now Catholic clinics, such as the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction and the National Center for Women's Health in Omaha, Nebraska.
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann October 2014
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