New and Confused, Marriage Changing

Hi all,

This is not my first post on a message board but my first one here. I belong to a local Catholic moms board but they can’t know this is going on.

My husband and I married in the Church 13 years ago. We have four great kids. Things were fine for about 9 years, then our fourth was born and my husband started to complain that I wasn’t the same, that our marriage was a problem. I felt fine in our marriage - YES, I was tired, busy. We didn’t go out as often and the intimacy was infrequent. I still made time for it at least a couple of times a month, though.

I did put on ten pounds that has taken me a long time to get rid of. The house wasn’t quite as tidy. At the time I had a newborn, a 2-year-old, a 5 year-old and a 7 year-old. Things were a bit chaotic! I was dealing with school age kids and all that that comes with, plus a toddler and a newborn. I admit I might have been a little depressed and just didn’t take as good of care of myself and my house as I should have. I did cut my hair to a bob, knowing “Andrew” liked it long but I just couldn’t handle it!

So now our newborn is almost 4. Things are still really busy in my house! I still have four kids, piano lessons, dance lessons, soccer, PTA, and just all the stuff that comes with raising a family. I am a stay home mom which is great but it’s not like I lay around all day baking and preparing for my husband to come home. I try not to let more than two weeks go by without intimacy and I have lost the extra weight.

There’s a lot more but I won’t bore you. My husband is an “internet searching” type and he was searching for ways to improve our marriage and last year got very involved with Taken in Hand. Apparently it is a Christian ministry that is supposed to fix your marriage and put your relationship “right” - with the wife subordinate to the husband.

I am not cool with that, because I do not think wives should be subordinate. My husband thinks that I have let my priorities out of control and he needs to take back the reigns in our marriage, and I say that is NOT what I signed up for. He says things have to change.

Do you know if Taken In Hand is okay with Catholic teaching? He says that basically I will need to submit to whatever he demands, but he promises not to demand things that aren’t good for me.

When we got married were were equal adults. This seems really nuts and I am not sure if I should take my kids to leave. Any perspective is good thank you!

You are thinking of taking the kids and leaving because your husband wants to improve the marriage? I don’t get it.


Please note, these things do not “come with” raising a family. These are choices you are making, either individually or as a couple or family. Piano lessons, soccer, dance, PTA and the other “things” need to go if your nuclear family life is suffering.

If you don’t have time to clean your house, eat as a family, spend time together, and be a family, then all that other stuff needs to go.

Get off the ride. Don’t buy in to the idea that your kids will be scarred for life if they aren’t in every activity and sport known to man.

Even your screen name says a lot-- you chose to identify yourself in relation to your kids rather than your spouse. That happens to a lot of moms. But you have to reprioritize.

Honestly, everything your husband is telling you is the exact same things husbands told Dr. Laura for YEARS and inspired her to write The Proper Care and Feeding Of Husbands. Read this book TODAY and make changes in your marriage for your sake, your husband’s sake, and your children’s sake.

If you are too busy to do the basics when your 4 kids are now all in school, then yes something is out of whack. Sounds like you are over scheduled. You need to reprioritize.

That is what your husband is telling you.

I think your reaction is misdirected. Your husband is asking for time and respect. You seem to not want to give that. It seems, based on what you’ve written (which is only a glimpse) that he gets left over time and left over attention.

He’s making his needs known and you seem to be dismissing them and are “not cool with” him wanting to take back his family.

I would say that I agree with him.

I don’t see anything incompatible with Church teaching on first glance.

Wow. That really says a lot. You would consider divorce b/c your husband is making it known that things have to change and that the household priorities are out of whack?

Divorce is not the remedy for your marriage. Talking to your husband is. Perhaps you two need a weekend away to talk about how it all got so crazy and how to fix it.

My husband and I are both in AGREEMENT that each child needs to pursue one art and one athletic endeavor. We aren’t going to have them be little toads who aren’t active and involved. It is good for kids, helps them have good self esteem, teaches them to work hard, to win and lose, and will look good on college aps. I don’t think we need to cut back. They are each only doing two things.

I focus plenty on my husband but frankly he wants me to be 25 again and I’m not. I have four kids, I’m older. We aren’t newly married. He is not on the back burner, but I have a lot more burners going than I did when I had no children, a tiny apartment, etc.

From what I have read about Taken in Hand it is about a male-dominated home where the husband has the authority to punish his wife including spanking. I am not okay with that. This is from their website

Where ‘discipline’ or ‘punishment’ is a feature of a particular Taken In Hand relationship, it adds to the relationship as opposed to being the focus of the relationship. It is just one way some husbands keep their wife in hand.

I would not leave my husband for wanting to improve the relationship OR for wanting more time with me, I am considering leaving because he has become into a lifestyle which I find sickening and scary.

I see radical overreaction… on both parts. 1ke is absolutely right that you both need to take a breath and take time for one another to discuss this like adults. As partners. As loving partners at that.

There’s a lot of red flags coming from a lot of directions here. Excessive emphasis on activities. Yes, it’s good for college applications. But so what? I mean that with all sincerity. So… what. Is a good college application more important than your marriage? More important than your family? No. And on his end he’s all “things have to change and this is what we’re doing.” That’s not leading. That’s dictating.

And in the end you might not have to cut back on what you’re doing. But you can’t just say “well I’ll talk to him, but it has to be my way, with my priorities.” That’s just as crazy, in my opinion, as thinking it’s cool to spank your wife. You’re talking past one another and veering into dangerous territory.

Read this again:

I focus plenty on my husband but frankly he wants me to be 25 again and I’m not. I have four kids, I’m older. We aren’t newly married. He is not on the back burner, but I have a lot more burners going than I did when I had no children, a tiny apartment, etc.

And then think about how you would feel if your husband said that about you in relation to say, work and/or community commitments. Probably not so great.

Again, you’re talking past each other. He wants respect and attention and love so he’s making a radical leap with this Taken in Hand business. And you’re making a radical leap by talking divorce and leaving because… what? Because he searched the Internet and found what he thinks is a solution to what he sees as a problem?

Why not just call up a babysitter or family member and go out for a night and, you know, talk. Let him get it all off his chest and then try to be reasonable people that love each other!

These are choices you make. They are each only doing 2 things, well that adds up to 8 things. You don’t even hear yourself-- you are talking about things looking good on college applications. You have a 4 year old whose college application will suffer if he doesn’t play soccer? Really?

Maybe you are in agreement, maybe not. Maybe it’s time to cut it all back.

I’m suggesting you turn off the other burners. If you choose not to, ok, but don’t expect things to change. It doesn’t sound to me like he wants you to be 25 again, at least not from what you’ve written. Perhaps an example would help understand that.

Well I spent about 2 minutes on the site and didn’t see anything like that, but 2 minutes isn’t much time.

Perhaps he is just grasping at ways to try to get your attention since you don’t seem to want to hear what he is saying.

He is saying that he is not a priority to you, based on obersvable actions and choices you are making. Only you can change that.

Thanks for the reply and clarifying. I think 1ke is correct in that your husband really wants your time and respect. He may not be going about seeking these things the right way, though. I don’t know anything about this marriage program, nor do I particularly want to know.

If your husband has bought into a program that considers physical violence acceptable, then I could definitely see where you would be concerned. Is he ‘all in’ with his understanding of this program? Are you afraid that he will turn violent if you do not comply with his demands?

As long as you feel safe, maybe you could just ignore the particulars of this fad program and give him more of what he really needs - time and respect. If you do that, this fascination of his with this marriage program may disappear.

Not only that, the oldest is, if I can remember how to do simple math… 11. You’re worried about an 11-year-olds college application? That’s… um… well… ridiculous.

If you were worried about a freshman or sophomore in high school’s college application, well OK. And two activities for a child that age is totally reasonable. But imagine where you are going to be then if you’re already going like this with the oldest just getting to middle school.


We didn’t go out as often and the intimacy was infrequent. I still made time for it at least a couple of times a month, though.

I try not to let more than two weeks go by without intimacy

Look we all know about the struggles with NFP and whatnot… but that is not exactly awesome. I don’t mean to be overly presumptuous, but given your husband’s attitude about things needing to change, I’m guessing that you’re turning your husband down a lot. That takes a very serious emotional toll. Sex is described as “making love” for a reason. If I’m guessing wrong here, I’m sorry. But if he’s getting shut down a lot, chances are he’s seeing it as “I don’t really love you that much anymore.”

You’re telling him with your actions “You are not important anymore. The kids and all this other stuff come first.” And that’s exactly backwards. He has to come first. Period. And you have to come first for him. It can’t be any other way. Putting “the kids first” is a surefire way to really disrupt your family. Kids can’t be happy if mom and dad don’t put the marriage first.

I don’t know.

In a marriage, as the kids come along and the mother and the kids bond and go about their lives, husbands sometimes feel left out. It’s really hard to share the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with with a bunch of other people. Yes, it’s part of the package, but sometimes it’s hard to take.

The “taking control” is in some ways a childish, “Pay Attention to ME!”. I think someone who can not love his wife the way Christ loves the Church should not attempt to “take control”. He should pray to learn his place.

Retrouvaille is a Catholic program that is designed to help marriages in trouble. You and your husband might benefit from going to such a program.

I think the key thing here is how much you actually have going on. 8 things is not necessarily just 8 things. It depends on how active the kids are in things. For example, we played soccer when I was a kid. This meant that each of us had 1 practice and 1 game per week, with the occasional Saturday game. Tournament took place on 1 Saturday in June. That was it. Hockey, by comparison, typically requires a lot more. “An art” can mean 1 class per week, or in the case of a serious musician, it could mean multiple private lessons, master classes, rehearsals with duet partners, chamber groups, larger ensembles, etc.

Maybe it IS too much going on right now. Children do not need to participate in a structured sports program for them to be physically active. Having participated in a sports program does not necessarily indicate that they will be better poised to get into college. An “art” does not necessarily have to mean them passing a million exams or being a part of every ensemble. You make choices about what’s really important to you. A nuclear family life should NEVER be sacrificed. Let’s be honest: if your children have to go to a junior college, they will be OKAY. There’s evidence that Ivy League schools don’t offer a better education than a smaller, less prestigious school. But if you and your husband split up, that will have a knock-on effect for your children for the rest of their LIVES. By living as a family, and demonstrating respect for each other, you are modelling appropriate adult behaviour. You’re showing them how to behave in their relationships to other people. You’re showing them what’s really important to you.

There’s a story about a teacher who brought some items to his class. He put some big rocks into a jar, until he couldn’t fit any more in. He asked the students if it was full. They agreed it was. He poured some gravel into the jar until he couldn’t fit any more. He asked the students if it was full. They said it was. He poured some sand into the jar, until he couldn’t fit any more. He asked the students if the jar was full. They said it was. Then he poured in some water until the jar was totally full and he could not fit any other substance into it. Finally, he said to the students, “Imagine that this jar is your life. What’s the point here?” One student said, “You should try to cram as much stuff into your life as possible so it will be totally full.” The teacher said, “No. The big rocks represent the things that are really important to you, such as your family. The gravel, sand, and water represent all of the other stuff, the small stuff, that we put in our lives. If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you won’t be able to get them in after you put all of the other stuff in.” When you are a married couple, your marriage IS and MUST BE one of the big rocks. It’s ESSENTIAL that you take time out to work on your marriage. Get a sitter for the kids. See if you can carpool to get somebody else to drive them. Take a weekend and leave the kids at Grandma’s so you can have some time just for the two of you. Otherwise, you’ll come to the end of your childrearing years and find that you’re two people who don’t know each other anymore. You’ll also be teaching your children that the relationship between spouses is not an important relationship.

Like any marriage, there shouldn’t be “sides.” You’re in it together. Therefore, I am neither on your husband’s side, nor yours.

There is a simple observation to make here, on your part, and it is this: your husband, by getting involved in this “Taken in Hand” group, is reacting to some problem he sees with your marriage. I’m not going to try to speculate what that is, because couples can be busy and be fine at the same time. So, just because you’re busy, or overweight, or have a haircut, that’s all really just speculation as to what he’s reacting to. All he said, that you’ve shared with us, is that he thinks you’ve changed, but we have no indication of what exactly he means by that.

A second observation to make is that you’re here, looking for advice as well. That means you’re also reacting to a problem that you’re seeing. Of course, you’re explaining what the problem is for you, so we have a better idea of what that is, but obviously not a full picture.

If you’re looking for approval to leave him, you won’t find that here.

The best advice you’ve been given is to sit down and talk to him. Let him unload, and also unload on him. You’ve both obviously got problems with how the other is behaving, so talk about it. You’re husband and wife, if you can’t talk to each other, who can you talk to?

You both seem interested in outside advice, so my suggestion to you would be to look into a Catholic marriage program, like Retrouvaille. That would be a far more effective and efficacious program than either of the solutions you two have been looking at so far.

@OP: You may not realize it, OP, but you have gotten responses from two of the absolute all-stars here at CAF in 1ke and theBucket, as far as getting practical, orthodox, and commonsense advice, IMHO (not that my opinion necessarily counts for much).

Coming at it from a different perspective, if he is all Ephesians 5 on you, perhaps you should read it with him, especially the part about husbands loving their wives as Christ loves the Church, i.e., verse 25, and see if that leads to any fruitful discussion.

No advice here, but I am thankful for your thread and I am going to pray for your marriage. I know nothing about the internet group he found but I assure you Catholic teaching does not have the wife being submissive to her husband.


REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Let’s not act like the Church rips out part of the Epistles that make some people uncomfortable. Wives are absolutely called to be submissive to their husbands as the Church is submissive to Christ. Husbands, on the other hand, are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. You know, the love that ended up with Him on a Cross.

Women actually get off a bit easier here! Men are the ones nailed to the crosses and ordered to die to themselves for their wives.

I’m going to have to think about this one, but at the moment, I’m leaning towards supporting the OP rather than her husband.

I would say that you need to tell your husband that Taken in Hand is NOT and never will be an option in your family. There are plenty of other models for a good marriage–tell your husband to do some more research and find something that does not allow “spanking” of the weaker sex by the stronger sex.

I agree with others on this thread who are saying that you and your husband need to do some serious talking and STRATEGIZING. Here’s what I suggest, and keep in mind that I’m a 56-year old woman (almost 57!) happily married to my husband for 35 years this summer, and we have raised two lovely daughters. I suggest that you seek out an older couple who has raised their children successfully and who had the same kind of “busy” lifestyle that you now have, and ask this couple if they are willing to mentor you and your husband and help you to create a strong marriage and family.

This “modeling” method is a Biblical method–see Titus 2.

OP, when our daughters were small (and we only had 2), we lived the life that you and your husband are living right now, and it was glorious! Our daughters were figure skaters, which meant getting up at 4 in the morning to be at the rink by 5:30 to skate for 2 hours, and then after school (they attended a private secular prep school that was highly-competitive, and did 8 or 9 classes a semester–really tough)–they did ballet, music lessons (younger daughter did piano and violin), theater, volleyball, etc. Much of this happened when they were a little older–5th grade, but the figure skating started when they were 3 and 5 and got even busier when they were older.

So I sympathize with you and your husband, and as long as you are both in agreement about the activities, I see much good in keeping kids busy. This isn’t the same time period when kids played in the backyard with all their friends.

BTW, both of my daughters are still very much involved with figure skating, both coaching and skating themselves. And now my husband is more involved, too (now that the girls are grown and we have the money to spend on him instead of them)!

If my husband and I were that “mentor” couple trying to help you and your husband, here’s the first question both of us would ask: Do BOTH of you work together to get the children to and from their activities? Do you both do the driving duty, or sit at the field and watch, or sit around the piano stud o and wait, etc.?

If not, well, that’s a problem, and if it were fixed, the marriage would feel a lot more spacious.

When children are busy, it’s important that the two of you work as a team. Often one parent will drive the children TO the activity, while the other picks them up. Or one parent stays home and cooks a meal, while the other attends the “parent meetings” and all that other stuff you have to do when your kids are involved in extra-curricular activities.

Does that happen in your family?

I will try to get back to this thread when I have time! Still livin’ busy!

To be honest, I think the OP is being judged a bit harshly. If she is running the household and raising the children the way that she and her husband agreed upon, and now he is suddenly unhappy because he feels his needs aren’t being met, that isn’t entirely on her. Maybe her husband needs to just grow up a little bit. Maybe the two of them need to sit down and set a new plan together.

As for activities, I know a couple with seven kids, who all have one activity each, and they make it work. I don’t think that’s the issue here. The issues are in the marriage, not the family life. I have heard of Taken in Hand before this posting, and it is a creepy, domestic discipline type of community.

My advice: you two should go talk in the presence of an impartial third party, like a counselor. Or do you have a close friend who is married as well, that you can talk to about this? This is not a situation that anyone can really give advice about over the internet, because we only see your husband from your point of view. It sounds like you have a lot worth fighting for in this marriage and home you two have created. I don’t see a basis for separation, but there is definitely cause for counseling.

Firstly, don’t take anyone’s advice online - including mine. You’ll only find what you want to find.

Secondly, have you considered meeting with a priest or seeking marriage counseling from one? It might be helpful to have him explain how a sacramental marriage is intended to function, and to explain what is required of both husband and wife in Ephesians 5.

You and your husband are in my prayers.

Hi SoccerMom2four,
Thank you for opening up on here. I know that takes some courage.

Every marriage has its season and it sounds like yours is in one with some more headwinds than you’re accustomed to. Your husband has come up with a solution that you’re not sure you like (and from what you noted, plus that my internet filter considers “Taken in Hand” to be pornography, I think I’d have objections too). I think that’s sufficient reason to have a good sit-down discussion about what he expects, and what you expect. It’s fair for him to use the program guidelines in forming what he would like, but I think it unfair (from the perspective of one spouse in a two-spouse marriage) to insist that you follow the guidelines as well.

Take heart that he does want to improve the marriage; that leaves room for compromise (“I’ll make more of an effort for this chore if you take the kids to soccer”). It also (hopefully) means he’s willing to negotiate on points of the program. In his eyes, “improving” the marriage might just mean more intimacy - it is honestly how many husbands feel loved, think of it almost as a form of communication. It should not include spanking or discipline or one-sided “I’m right because I’m the man”. Improving marriages doesn’t begin with punishing your wife for focusing on matters of the household.

Stepping back for a moment, I think that each spouse should subordinate in some sense. My wife defers to me in investment decisions, I defer to her in what the kids do during the day. She handles plans with her family, I arrange plans with mine. Whoever cooks dinner decides what’s being made (though I’m happy to make what she’d like, as a gesture of love). The difference is that all of these arise naturally and they’re a result of problem-solving. Chores frustrate me but I’m happy to do them if they help her, ie let her go out with her friends for the night and relax, or let her go to bed early because she just needs it. Subordination should never mean domination, but rather deference, and deference is given by the one deferring rather than imposed by the one who wants to be dominant.

Take comfort that most couples go through what you two are going through multiple times throughout their lives. Newlyweds go through it when they figure out how to be roommates as well as spouses. Married couples go through it when the kids come along. Parents go through it when their kids get older and more independent, or when mom or dad goes back to work after staying at home. Couples go through it with changes in jobs, illness, family issues, relocations, retirement, etc. I think your dispute isn’t with the relationship but rather your husband’s approach to what he’d like to see in your marriage.

]Where ‘discipline’ or ‘punishment’ is a feature of a particular Taken In Hand relationship, it adds to the relationship as opposed to being the focus of the relationship. It is just one way some husbands keep their wife in hand.

Some of the posters seem to miss the point that your husband’s control also will including spanking.
That you are threatened by his authority is wrong and unchristian.
You are not over reacting if you have cause to fear spanking and physical punishment.
That is physical abuse and is against human rights and the law.
You have a right to report that to the police if he physically ‘punishes’ you.
Your husband does not have the right to abuse you.

Many wives of three young children can let some things slip.
That doesn’t make all men controlling.
If your husband is controlling and gets too much control that is very unhealthy. And you shouldn’t have to live in fear of him.
He should search Catholic ways of blessing and helping your marriage.

Of course you are confused and upset.
I can only pray for you, but keep in touch by Private Message if you wish.


As a wife and a woman, I cannot imagine only being intimate a couple times per month (unless there were extenuating circumstances such as family crisis or serious health problems). I also cannot imagine putting so much of myself into meeting the needs of my children without meeting my needs and those of my husband with nightly cuddling and talking. That would quickly drive me into depression. I suspect, based on your husband’s radical efforts to fix things, that he desperately misses you and he feels you are not really hearing him.

My advice is to drop everything not absolutely necessary. This is a serious marriage problem, and it needs your full attention. Your children might initially be disappointed about no activities, but they will be distraught if their parents split up. Then again, they might enjoy the break from the burden of being overscheduled themselves.

In my marriage, I get to spend at least an hour every night before lights out with my husband, and we get up together to exercise early in the morning before he has to get ready for work. We guard our couple time very carefully. Of course, we make allowances for each other to go out with friends occasionally, too, because friendships are important. But our marriage comes before every other earthly relationship, including our children. We also have a weekly date night at home, where all the children go to bed early (they are permitted to stay up and read or play quietly as long as they stay in bed), and we watch a movie or play a game. We treasure these times.
Could you find ways of creating these opportunities on a regular (nightly, if possible) basis to feed your marriage and provide more opportunities for marital relations?

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