By the early 2000s, Dr. David Anders shared just one thing in common with his wife – contempt for each other.
“My wife and I were held together only by the barest thread of duty to our children and a vow that I regretted with all my heart,” Dr. Anders reflects.
It would have been easy for the couple to split ways. But today, Dr. Anders and his wife, Jill, are thriving in their marriage. It’s not because they spent hours in marriage therapy. Instead, the radical change in their love life is thanks to their acceptance of the Church’s teachings on marriage.
In The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage: Discovering Hidden Grace in the Sacrament of Matrimony, Dr. Anders shares his personal discovery of the beauty of Catholic marriage. In addition to sharing his own life lessons, he also tackles subjects like divorce, gay marriage, and contraception.
Here are four Catholic hard teachings that changed Dr. David and Lisa Anders’ lives and saved their own marriage:
1. The Catholic Church condemns contraception
Until they had their first son, Jonathan, the Anders practiced various forms of contraceptives in their marriage. “Sex seemed like a good, licit, marital leisure activity, but it was essentially disconnected from child bearing,” Dr. Anders writes. “The decision to have children meant making a real decision to stop contracepting. It would be years before I understood how hurtful and wrong my attitude towards sex and fertility was.”
By the early 2000s, Jill and David had stopped talking to each other. They didn’t pray together, and their relationship had sunken into what David calls “hostile negotiations.” Then David suggested that they attend a class on Natural Family Planning together. Jill refused, but David decided to go by himself and then discuss what he learned with Jill later.
Read more: What No One Wants To Tell You About NFP
“Today I appreciate that NFP is more than just a system for regulating fertility,” David writes. “It is a complete lifestyle that must be sustained by a shared philosophy that requires the virtues of selflessness, temperance, and charity.”
2. The Church believes in the sacrament of confession
“In a broken marriage, there is a temptation to hurt the other person, and a complementary temptation to carry around all the guilt, hurt, and pain that your spouse heaps on you,” Dr. Anders writes. “Sometimes, it feels as if the price of reconciliation is owning all that guilt and pain yourself.”
During his conversion to Catholicism, Dr. Anders realized that the Catholic understanding of confession taught him the difference between contrition and guilt. “Contrition is a recognition that I’ve done wrong and I sincerely want to be better,” he explains. “If I bring my contrition to the confessional, the priest absolves me, I receive grace, and I go out encouraged. This is very different from guilt. Guilt is an emotion – and not necessarily a rational one.”
Confession with a Catholic priest assured Dr. Anders that he needed to have contrition for his sins. But his experience in confession saved him from guilt. “I believe this is essential for healing in a marriage, ” he writes, reflecting on the sacrament. “Guilty spouses are like drowning victims, constantly climbing on top of each other and shoving each other under the waves. That has to end for the marriage to be healed.”
3. The Catholic Church honors Mary
After his conversion, Dr. Anders lived as a Catholic for four years without any sign of affection from his wife. But he never feared divorce papers. During those years, marriage felt like a desert. However, that desolation encouraged Dr. Anders to turn towards the Blessed Mother and her role in his life as a new Catholic man.
“Through devotion to the Blessed Virgin, I was comforted with the motherly and feminine affection even as a felt alienated from my wife,” he writes. “I entrusted Jill to her maternal care in the sincere hope that she would work on our marriage and one day bring us back together.”
4. The Catholic Church views marriage as a sacrament
“Do you know what Father Bazzel told me?” Jill asked Dr. Anders one day. “He told me that our marriage is not valid in the eyes of God or of the Church.” The couple was shocked and horrified – they hadn’t seen this coming!
But their priest’s instructions encouraged the couple to spend time reflecting on the true meaning of marriage as a sacrament and their marriage together. “Today, I am profoundly grateful for what Father Bazzel told my wife,” Dr. Anders writes. “It began the real healing of our marriage. Jill and I had both started to move closer to Christ in the confessional, but we started moving closer to each other because of a canon lawyer. It was not counseling or therapy that saved our marriage, but, incredibly, rules, regulations, and red tape.”
The couple went on to convalidate their marriage in the Catholic Church. “It was the beginning of the deepest love either of us had ever known,” Dr. Anders writes.
Today’s world breaks apart marriages and undermines human dignity. In The Catholic Church Saved My Marriage, Dr. David Anders offers Catholics a hope-filled alternative to marriage. Want to pick up a copy of the book for your own marriage or for someone you know? Head down to your local Catholic bookstore or pick up a copy through Sophia Institute Press.