Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How Board Games Help my Marriage (and Pope Francis' Challenge for Us)

Marriage is awesome. It’s so great to be living out the sacrament and vocation each day, experiencing all these awesome graces from God to bring my husband closer to Heaven. But you know what another awesome perk of marriage is? I always have a playmate. Settlers of Catan, Risk, Monopoly, Agricola: All Creatures Great & Small, Legendary, Innovation, and Chess, to name a few, often slide into our free time. We both just really like board games, but these games have a greater meaning for me than their face-value awesomeness.

Many times, it seems that married people just get busy. Whether it is children, college classes, work, or individual activities, spouses can begin to lose intimate time together. We’ve never had kids (and I’m not pregnant), but I’ve been told that children need a lot of time and care. However, it really made an impression on me when, a few years ago, my Christian Marriage instructor told the class that he and his wife reserve a “date night” once a week. Yes, they have about 5-6 kids (many of them young), but he and his wife saw the need to prioritize their relationship. As many of you know, my husband and I were married a couple of weeks before we began our junior year of college. While college classes, homework, extra-curricular activities, households, and volunteering could have easily eaten up chunks of our precious time, I found that married life was so peaceful. Instead of being mega-involved in EVERYTHING (which was how I had previously lived), we took a step back. We volunteered a little bit, were involved in faith-related activities, and we were involved in our households a little.

And we played board games together.

Board games became a vehicle for our existing friendship to grow. When we play board games, we have fun together, learning more about each other with plenty of playful banter along the way. We both can get competitive at times, and games are a great way for us to recognize this while not getting completely carried away. Board games help us to not take ourselves super seriously and instead to be playful and childlike. Board games have helped deepen our marriage, and have been instrumental in continually building the foundation of love and friendship that we cherish.

Life fills with activities, but we can’t forget to nourish the friendship and communion we have with our spouses. I’m not just talking about sex, either. As Dr. Gregory Popcak wrote, “The couple who focuses solely on sex to foster a sensory attachment to each other is attached, but tenuously so.” (Popcak, Holy Sex) In our marriages, we need to build up the friendship and intimacy continuously, in physical and non-physical ways. Why is this so important? Because marriage is a BIG DEAL. My husband and I are joined together in the Sacrament. We have a huge mission from God. Just read what St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio:

“Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, "whose purpose is to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God," is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church. By celebrating it, Christian spouses profess their gratitude to God for the sublime gift bestowed on them of being able to live in their married and family lives the very love of God for people and that of the Lord Jesus for the Church, His bride.” (FC #56)

So maybe board games aren’t your thing. Maybe you’d rather hike, dance, cook, run, walk, paint, or go thrifting together. I highly encourage each of you to find a relaxing, enjoyable activity that you can do with your spouse. Make time to build up your friendship and have fun together, really communicating with each other exclusively.

Just to embellish upon the intimacy and beautiful gift of spousal love (and because I love epic quotations), here’s another fantastic quotation for you to chew on today:

“Relationships between persons actualize themselves under two profoundly different forms: two persons can be united through a common interest, by facing with each other something extraneous to themselves…this may be called a we relationship wherein the partners remain side by side, in which they walk side by side—hand in hand, even. But human beings can also turn to face on another, and in touching one another in an interpenetrating glance, give birth to a mysterious fusion of their souls. They become conscious of one another, and making the other the object of his contemplation and responses, each can spiritually immerse himself in the other. This is the I-thou relationship, in which the partners are not side by side, but face to face. Of all terrestrial communions, conjugal love is the most pronounced form of an I-thou relationship.” (Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Marriage: the mystery of faithful love)

I challenge each and every married person out there to start finding a way to enrich the relationship you have with your spouse. There’s no time like the present, and you will not regret it! J

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