Part One of a Six-Part Series on Strengths-Based Marriage
“We have made more progress in our marriage in the last two months
than we have in the last ten years.”
(Comment by a participant in my strengths-based marriage webinar series, February 2020)
That’s quite a statement, isn’t it?
If it peaks your interest, please read on. I’m going to share insights in this six-part series that have the potential to bless your Catholic marriage like nothing else I’ve seen in my 36-plus years of married life.*
I take this very, very seriously.
You see, I have known many good, self-sacrificing Catholic couples who were struggling in their life together, much like the webinar participant quoted above.
To their credit, in virtually every case, they were really trying to love each other and please God. (That’s what I meant by “good” couples.)
In fact, some of them were “doing everything right”: devoted sacramental life, prayer, virtue, openness to life, plus generous service to each other, their children, and their communities.
Yet, behind the patient smiles and stoic dedication, their marriages felt to them like painful and disappointing mistakes to be endured and “offered up.”
That is, until they started the gentle and affirming process of identifying and developing their own and each other’s natural strengths.
Now, I do not mean trying to “fix” each other, so bear with me.
Strengths-based work affirms what is natural and good in each of the spouses, not what is wrong with them. Yet, it doesn’t sweep sin under the rug or try to sugar coat anything, either. This work would be worthless without humility, sacramental life, and prayer.
I am going to repeat this, so you really receive how important this is:
This work is not about fixing each other.
It’s way more fun than that.
Which takes us right to the work I get to do with coaching and talent development, and I’d like to start immediately by clearing up a common misunderstanding.
The word “talent” may sound goofy and superficial—I feel a little goofy saying it, sometimes, because people automatically think of playing the violin or painting pictures. And as wonderful as those capabilities are, I am talking about something even richer and more nuanced, something that connects and greatly enhances our spiritual, personal, and professional growth.
In the 1960s, the work of Christian psychologist and researcher Dr. Don Clifton broke new ground in the field of positive psychology when he discovered that natural talents, when identified, cultivated, and used intentionally, developed at an exponential rate and helped people in all walks of life operate at a naturally high level of excellence in their personal and professional lives.
And it all came from asking one great question:Strengths awareness rapidly gave participants clarity about their callings, sometimes spontaneously cured their burnout, energized their daily lives, increased their motivation, and helped to heal their relationships.
Further, Clifton’s work emphasized that inside all of our talents were not only remarkable capabilities, but also natural weaknesses that ensured that every human being would need the support and cooperation of others–and their individual talents.
We can see how God’s design of our strengths and weaknesses draws us into communion with other souls, so we really can’t walk this road alone and walk it well.
In short, Clifton found that all human beings could be consistently excellent at some things, but they needed to call out the best in each other to fill in the gaps. And when they did, they quickly found success in the workplace, in families, and in marriages.
As one who lived for Christ and desired to help people know the best in themselves and in each other, Clifton took pains to emphasize that talents need to be humbly managed for the sake of others, not used in a self-aggrandizing or overbearing manner. It’s pretty counter-cultural, if you think about it.
Yet, his incredible, global legacy has been one of businesses–large and small–soaring in engagement and profitability; ministries and teams of all sizes thriving; and marriages blooming like never before.
You see, “talent” in this context has nothing at all to do with ego.
So, as we unpack a “strengths-based” approach to marriage over the next five weeks, you’ll see that our way of talking about “talent” will have everything to do with learning how to live our unique and unrepeatable lives (CCC 2275) in ways that glorify God and bring us—and our loved ones—joy.
In this series, you’ll be discovering new ways to access God’s design for your holiness and your happiness!
Why a six-part series ending on Valentine’s Day?
First, because I’m a romantic, and I hope you are, too.
Second, as a CliftonStrengths® coach trained and certified by Dr. Clifton’s Gallup corporation, I have over sixty years’ worth of globally-vetted research, statistics, and testimonies to draw from. Add to that the leveling-up of my own marriage, as well as the exciting growth of my clients’ marriages, and I believe the data will be compelling for you.
So, for the next five weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, I’ll be seeking to ignite your curiosity and motivate you to learn more about maximizing your marriage for God’s glory and your greater joy through an understanding of your talents.
I’ll be covering such juicy morsels as…
- How to spot clues that you are witnessing a talent in action–and what to do with such powerful information
- How to enter into each other’s mysterious and private world, to call out the best in each other and convincingly express your love
- How to put false conflicts to rest for good, and turn them into productive, affirming conversations
- How to affirm and leverage each other’s capabilities, for a stronger, happier marriage
- How to plan romantic dates that honor the uniqueness of your particular marriage, by keeping each other’s natural abilities and needs in mind
As you follow along with me, I highly recommend the work of Jimmy Evans and Alan Kelsey: Strengths-Based Marriage: Build a Stronger Relationship by Understanding Each Other’s Gifts.
NOTE: This is not an affiliate link. I get nothing for recommending this book, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.
You might want to read it together as a couple! But whether you get started on your own or share the journey, you’ll be glad you read this. It contains life-changing insights, powerful personal testimonies, chapter questions, and easy challenges to help you bless your marriage and your life.
MY PERSONAL OFFER to YOU: If you decide to take the CliftonStrengths® assessment, please let me know! I’ll share my professional discount with you and save you $10 at checkout. Email me for the code, at [email protected]
NOTE: Again, I get nothing for sharing my discount. It’s my gift to you.
You are all in my heartfelt prayers at masses and during rosaries!
See you next week!
*Important Note: By making the claim that this work, applied diligently, can dramatically improve Catholic marriages, I refer to those not hampered by the most serious complicating factors, such as abuse, mental illness, addiction, or infidelity.
If you are suffering with any of these issues, coaching will not be sufficient to make lasting change. Please seek the professional help you need and deserve from a qualified therapist. Once your therapist confirms you are ready, strengths-based coaching can help bring you to the next level.
TIP: When seeking therapeutic help, personal recommendations are often the best and quickest way to connect with a qualified therapist who shares your values. That said, I highly recommend www.CatholicTherapists.com for locating a qualified professional in your area. However, proceed with caution no matter who you talk with, and trust your gut if it’s not feeling quite right. Keep praying and seeking until you find the best help for your unique situation.
May God bless you, protect you, and make your way sweet.
- Episode 12: Pat Molyneaux, Founder of the Human Formation Coalition - July 18, 2022
- Episode 11: Fr. Boniface Hicks, Director of Spiritual Formation, Saint Vincent Seminary, Latrobe, PA - July 13, 2022
- Episode 10: Donna Ottaviano-Britt: Direc. of the Office of Discipleship & Leadership, Camden Diocese - July 4, 2022
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