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Ask an Apostle: Does my fiancé spend too much time away?

Teresa Coda answers your questions this month.
Catholic Voices

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Q: How are married Catholics called to use their time—jointly or separately? I’m a newly engaged (26 F to 27 M) Catholic woman, engaged to a devout Catholic man. We’ve had a lot of tensions over how to use our time. He is very committed to leading a men’s group in the church, Catechesis on Sundays, wants to volunteer weekly, and invest in his friendships with new men who move to our town.

Since he has so many goals of his own, it leaves very little time for us, even though we’ll carve out two date nights. I’m concerned if we’re married, it would still feel like two separate lives with different goals. Theologically, is there a framework for whether we’re supposed to join our time more or is it OK for each person to have their own goals and investments with other people? I’m very torn because the things he spends time doing are so good but it makes me question whether there’s enough room for our joint goals. Any advice?

—Better together?

A: Familial time management: I join you in the challenge! Although I recall my Pre-Cana leader telling my cohort of couples that the biggest areas of conflict in marriage have to do with money and sex, the conversation that my spouse and I have had to wade through over and over again—from when we were dating in college, to engaged in graduate school, to newlyweds early in our professional careers, to young parents—is how we are choosing to spend our individual and collective time.

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To answer your question, the Catholic Church doesn’t offer a clear prescription for how married couples should spend their time, jointly or separately. But the church does offer a breadth and wealth of wisdom—from pastoral letters, to scripture, to bishops’ statements, to encyclicals—that can be applied to this question. I would recommend that you and your fiancé choose a few church documents related to the sacrament of marriage (the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops provides a great starting place, with this page compiling links to various documents), reading them together, and then having an intentional conversation in which you apply what you have read to the question that the two of you are sorting through together.

While I don’t think that there is a clear “right answer” to your question, and I suspect that your familial time management will change from season to season, I would venture to say that how you go about making this sort of decision could have lasting impact on the strength of your union. With your thoughtful consideration of this issue and your desire to integrate your faith into the eventual conclusion, you’re already taking steps in the right direction.


About the author

Teresa Coda

Teresa Coda works in parish faith formation. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

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