“Ask a Priest: What If I Feel Marriage Holds Me Back?”

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Q: Sometimes I feel trapped in the vocation I am in. I am married, and don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and son so much, and I think my husband is the best a woman could pray for. But I have so much passion to do and be more for God than marital life would not allow. Also … how do you tell a husband that you aren’t interested in physical intimacy? This is the cause of 90% of our squabbles (I’ve been married for over 10 years). – A.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Every path to holiness is usually a path filled with crosses. That seems to be what you are facing now.

The key thing is to see, with the eyes of faith, that your fidelity to your marriage can be precisely the quickest path to holiness. It can be a genuine way to serve God.

As a married woman and a mom, you called to a particular form of living out the Gospel. You might feel the urge to be in adoration all day or to be a missionary in a foreign land. But that obviously isn’t the path to which God is calling you, at least not now.

But let’s step back a moment.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that God had called you to religious life when you were young. For whatever reason you chose the married life. God respects that choice. He will give you the grace you need to live that life if you are faithful to your prayer and commitments.

Married life for you might not be as easy as following a religious vocation. But what’s done is done. God respected your free will. Now you simply called to live out the consequences of your choice.

I don’t want any of this to sound fatalistic. On the positive side you should try to see that your day-to-day commitment to your husband and children can be a powerful means of grace for yourself and them and others around you. Your example might be helping other women in ways you don’t even realize.

This doesn’t exclude doing more for God, of course. Perhaps you can dedicate more time to volunteer work, such as visiting shut-ins or teaching catechism to young people.

There are also married women who dedicate some of their time to apostolic activities right in their own parishes (see, for example, the “Walking with Purpose” website).

You and your loved ones might also consider doing family missions (see “Family Missions Company,” for example, or Mission Youth). In some missions like this, you go door-to-door — in Holy Week, for instance — and share the faith and invite people to go to confession and attend the liturgies of the Easter triduum.

In this way you can do more for God while still attending to the needs of your family. For growth in holiness is compatible with your life as a wife and mother.

Regarding those squabbles with your husband in regard to physical intimacy: This is a normal area of disconnect for couples married for about 10 years.

Try to see this situation as an opportunity. Your sacrament (your marriage) will continue to be a source of grace in your own lives and for the world around you only if your relationship with your husband continues to grow and deepen. This always requires attention to four areas of intimacy: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

The point here is that you still have more to discover about each other, and more (and deeper) joys to encounter. But you have to choose to pursue growth together.

It sounds as though these squabbles (as you put it) are a sign that your relationship might be ready for a season of transition. I would encourage you to take advantage of that. Learn about how to continue growing your marriage – and learn about it together.

You could go on a marriage renewal retreat (see Worldwide Marriage Renewal, for example).

Also, you could read some good marriage books together (for example, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman, or Holy Sex! A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving by Dr. Gregory Popcak).

If your husband is not open to those kinds of things, you can read the books on your own and then try to apply what you learn to your marriage. (Another worthwhile book for you would be Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men.)

Remember: Nothing that takes you away from your marriage or causes it to stop growing is going to help you feel more fulfilled. So it’s important to be intentional in your efforts to continue growing in the marriage.

For more material about marriage from a Catholic perspective, you can visit this site: http://www.foryourmarriage.org/the-vocation-of-marriage/. I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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