By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
For married physical therapists Jeremy and Jenna Bell, the beginning of marriage was a sprint. The Davenport couple bought a home, welcomed a puppy and then found out they were expecting a baby, all within three months of their 2013 wedding at St. Ambrose University’s Christ the King Chapel.
“Life was changing for us very quickly,” Jenna recalled while playing with their now 1-year-old son, Jackson. “We embraced that it was God’s plan for us, even though everything was happening all at once. It was an exciting time. It was challenging, as well.”
The newlywed phase of a relationship is often full of love and excitement, but it is also a time of transition for couples. It’s a time in which two individuals are coming together as one to build a life and grow through the changes.
Faith is an essential part of this process for Catholic couples. “Faith enables a couple to remember that marriage is something bigger than the both of them,” said Greg Popcak, a marriage counselor and co-author with wife Lisa of “Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage.” “It reminds them that they have not just made promises to each other, but to God, and it enables them to remember — on the days that they wonder why they ever chose each other — that God called them together and wants them to learn from each other so that both can become the people he created them to be.”
Michelle Hayek, a teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, married longtime boyfriend Andrew this summer at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Bettendorf. In this early stage of marriage, the 20-somethings are trying to figure out their roles in the house. When she lived alone, it wasn’t something she had to consciously think about.
What they’ve discovered in their first few months of marriage is a sense of balance. “I’m more of a planner and organizer and he is more of a fly-off-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy! He’s more humorous, I’m more serious. He makes me see the more fun side of things and I make him more organized.” She’s enjoyed the fact that Andrew loves to cook.
Michelle believes that Catholic marriage prep helped make the transition to married life much smoother. “Marriage prep helped us talk about financial situations and how to really trust in one another and allow God into our house as well as into our relationship.” If and when they do encounter rough patches, she has confidence that faith, prayer and thankfulness will get them through.
Adam and Stephanie Kaefring, members of St. Mary Parish in Solon, enjoy working on their fixer-upper home and hope to start a family. Married in 2013, they realized early on in their marriage that each had unique ways of taking care of domestic responsibilities. “We’re both organized, and we had different ideas on how things should be done,” Stephanie said.
“Towels turned out to be a big deal,” Adam chimed in. They had different folding methods, and efforts to correct each other sometimes turned into arguments and hurt feelings.
Two years into their marriage, the 20-somethings are constantly working on compromise. Prayer has been an essential part of helping them do this. Adam said, “When we start to fight, if we can pray before we keep going it cools down the moment.”
Craig and Lauren Cunningham, members of St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, have been married about 15 months. Lauren, 25, admits the biggest challenge for her was being able to take alone time after disagreements in their small apartment. Ultimately, this ended up being a good thing. “I had to learn to communicated better when I was upset,” she said. Craig, 24, said dividing up household responsibilities was challenging at first, but “we’re getting better all the time.”
Overwhelmingly, however, Craig and Lauren said the transition from single life to being a married couple has been very natural. Craig said, “One of the greatest joys about marriage is getting to know your spouse better each and every day. You develop a profound relationship, especially when centered in Christ, with your spouse that no other relationship rivals. Lauren knows me better than any other person. I have learned how much I can lean on her during stressful times.”
Their biggest blessing in marriage, so far, has been the birth of their daughter, Emma Claire. Lauren said having children right away goes against society’s insistence that young couples delay having a family and take time for themselves, but they are glad they did not give into the pressure. They love being young parents. “(Emma) gives us lots of smiles and is super interested in the world around her; she is God’s greatest gift in our lives.”
As for the Bell family, working through all of the life changes turned out to be a bonding experience, and one that strengthened their faith immeasurably. Prayer became an essential part of trying not to become overwhelmed. Now that they’ve settled into married life and routines, prayer is something they are teaching their son. Jeremy, 26, and Jenna, 28, hope prayer will be a tool Jackson can use throughout his life to encounter anything that might come his way, just as they have.
Resources for newlyweds
• Just Married: The Catholic Guide To Surviving And Thriving In The First Five Years Of Marriage by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak
• United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website
• “Foundations” newsletter for newlywed couples
• First Years and Forever newsletter