Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Maura says: It seems as if a dark cloud hovers over our heads. It has only been three years since we were married, but we feel as though we have experienced a lifetime of troubles during that brief time. While on our honeymoon, I picked up an infection on an island which required much medical follow up.

Within our first year, we found out our apartment was changing ownership and the new rent would be beyond our ability to pay. Moving to a smaller, less convenient apartment proved to be a challenge and disappointment to us.

Just two months ago, Justin lost his job. The stress we have experienced is causing quite a strain on our marriage. In addition, we were hoping to become pregnant but have not had success. Prior to our marriage, we had been just occasional, social drinkers. Now, Justin has begun drinking two or three beers every night “to cope and relax,” he says. I am concerned that Justin’s drinking will become another problem in addition to all the other stresses in our life.

He says:

Justin says: I admit that with the pressures we have been experiencing, I have been drinking a little bit more than I did previously, but it relaxes me and I have it under control. In addition, I am beginning to feel like a failure, having lost my job. I have been applying for jobs, but I know the employment marketplace is not good at this time and I fear it may be a while before I secure a position. I just seem to feel targeted by all the problems that have come our way since Maura and I married.

I love Maura very much, and I strongly remember my fear of losing her when she had the serious illness following our wonderful honeymoon. I do not want to lose Maura over our situation; I just want to get beyond feeling depressed and targeted for “bad things” to happen to us. I want to make things better and I am not too keen on having children until our economic and housing situation improves.

What do they do?

Both Justin and Maura have faced difficult challenges so early in their marriage.  Their core problem is financial: Justin needs to find a job that provides for their family necessities and enables them to secure a suitable space in which to live. In the short term, Justin may need to take a part-time job to bide them over during his search for the full-time position that will provide for their wants. Maura also may be able to assist by picking up some part-time work to help out.

Maura and Justin may need to be patient with starting their family until their situation improves. Contacting their local natural family planning organization will assist them in delaying their pregnancy in a morally justifiable manner and helping them to conceive when they overcome their financial difficulties. Couples who have practiced NFP very often learn how to pull together, strengthening their union.

It is also important for Maura and Justin to share their feelings and fears concerning their current circumstances. Shared prayer by a couple is a powerful tool for bolstering their relationship.

Justin felt the threat of losing Maura when she was ill. Maura fears Justin’s taking a few beers will lead to alcohol abuse and a change in the man she loves. Both need to talk about this and future children.

In the meantime, perhaps, it would be helpful for both to be checked out by their doctor to ascertain if there are any physical reasons for conception not occurring.   Maura and Justin appear to have a strong foundation of love and desire to override the “dark cloud” that has been hanging over them.

Not many couples are exposed to the extent of these difficulties early on in marriage. But their success in dealing with the problems, tackling them together, while keeping their sense of humor and continuing to love each other will cement their relationship and give them the ability to deal with problems and honor their covenant of life and love.