Sister having problems in her marriage


My sister is having problems in her marriage. Some background info… They’ve been married for 3 years now, with no kids. She is Lutheran, he was brought up with no religion basically, but believes there is a God. He was baptized in the Lutheran church a year ago but he is in the Navy, and they have been stationed over in Italy and there are no Lutheran churches of their denomination over there, so they don’t go to church.

In mine and my parent’s opinion, they married rather quickly, and probably weren’t mature enough to make the decision to marry, but that is their decision and not much we can do about it. It’s also different because the rest of my family is Lutheran, I’m the only Catholic (converted 3 years ago)

So in any case, my sister tells me that they often have fights and both are rather unhappy. Her husband recently said “Well, maybe we should just get a divorce” See, in his mind, there’s nothing wrong with divorces, and in Lutheranism, divorces are rather common and not as looked down upon as in Catholicism.

I know from the way my sister has always been, she’s more of a pessimistic person and looking at the glass as half-empty. He’s more passive and I know does honestly try to please her. For instance, she will always tell him to take the dog out, she won’t do it. And it was just her birthday and so he was going to make her cheesecake, and she goes “I bet it won’t turn out…” But he also has issues. He watches porn and lies about it.

So I’m really looking for things I can suggest to her to help their marriage without being too Catholic or out of my place. I’ve seen people suggest watching the movie Fireproof for those in troubled marriages. Do you all think that would be something good that I could buy her and send to her? Or is that out of my place?

I struggle with wanting to help so bad because I don’t believe in divorce, but I don’t want to over-step my bounds… And I know there’s only so much I can do because it isn’t my relationship. But I know that if I just stood by and watched their marriage fall apart and didn’t say anything about it, I would be angry with myself.
So, any suggestions?



I’m not married nor are any of my siblings, but I also have a predominantly non-Catholic family, so I understand the fear of overstepping bounds and consequently pushing people away from yourself and the Church. I think that sending the movie with a nice note is a good idea. Give it to your sister with an explanation of what Fireproof is about, and let her know that you are praying for her marriage. She might be hesitant to watch it, but you can encourage her, and then it is her decision to do so. Maybe if she won’t watch it with her husband, at least encourage her to watch it herself first and then, if/shen she likes it, she can watch it with her husband.

I will say a prayer for you, your sister, and her family.

God Bless,


Couple things,

I don’t know which syndod your sister is, but I am Lutheran MS, and my pastor strongly discourages divorce. Several other Lutheran Churchs I have been to are the same way. It is only to be used as a last resort, and that in most cases it does more harm than good. Easy divorces are not a hallmark of the Lutheran Church.

One pastor actually gives out a book called “Divorce Busting” to all new couples. It sounds strange but it’s actually a great book. It talks about how divorce doesn’t really solve any problems, even if there are no kids involved it actually creates a host of new problems. It also talks about working on your marriage, getting help and counseling, and how most all problems in a marriage can be solved if people are willing to admit them and work on them. (Obviously the author does not advocate staying in dangerous or abusive relationships.) It also encourages what the book calls Solutiona Oriented Brief Therapy. Basically, you can’t just spend hours hashing out the problems, you have to develop solutions to the problems and implement them.

My husband thought it was strange when I brought it home from meeting with an old pastor of mine during a time we were struggling with our marriage (we weren’t near divorce, but we were dealing with a couple big issues), we read through a lot of the book and found it very helpful. We have also gone through some counseling as well. Sometimes getting a third neutral party to help translate the issues can be a huge help in developing solutions to those problems.

Don;t know if that helps, but just my 2 cents


Thanks for your responses. They are WELS, as are my parents. Pretty much the rest of my family are Missouri Synod. And of my relatives, I’d say that 75% of them have had a divorce and remarried, so not a very good statistic. Sadly it’s just been the norm in my family. And a couple of my aunts were Catholic but then didn’t want to go through the whole process of trying to get an annulment and left the church for Lutheranism since getting remarried tends to be easier.

See, the hardest thing is, is there are no WELS churches at all in Italy. They are not in the US and won’t be for another 2.5 years. Now, if they were Catholic, they’d have many options over there. But as it is, I think it’d be hard pressed to find any sort of Lutheran counseling or even be able to talk to a pastor. I know my sister said that there’s a WELS pastor living in Germany who does travel to different countries in the area, but seeing as he’s not local to them, it’d be hard for him to really counsel them.

And even if they didn’t get Christian counseling, I think it’d be hard to find English counseling over in Italy. They don’t live in Rome or a very large city. Where they’re stationed, practically no one speaks English.

And I also find it hard, because I do see the way my sister treats him, and fear saying something to her because then I know she’ll get mad at me. She puts him down, and doesn’t seem thankful for him when he does try to help. So sometimes when we talk on Skype, she’ll tell me what he’s done, or I’ll see how she treats him, and I just don’t know what to say. Do I point out her faults too?

I just really think getting a divorce wouldn’t help the issue at hand. Sure, she’d be done with him, but I think with the way she acts, it’d present itself again if she ever did re-marry. But I don’t know how to say that in a kind way…


No one else has any suggestions?

She is always watching movies since they don’t have English tv over there, so maybe I’ll just buy the Fireproof movie and throw it in with the rest I send her. Maybe then it won’t be so obvious? :shrug:

I just don’t want to over step my bounds… :frowning:


Retrouvaille []](]) is supposedly an excellent program for couples in troubled marriages. It teaches couples the tools they need to work out even serious problems and avoid divorce. I noticed that although they do not list any upcoming weekends in Italy, they do have a Retrouvaille community there, so it’s possible the website simply isn’t up to date. They also have Retrouvaille communities in other parts of Europe (Spain and Ireland) if Italy doesn’t work out.

From their website:

[quote=]**Do I have to be Catholic? **

Retrouvaille is Catholic in origin. Couples of all faiths and those with no faith tradition are welcome and encouraged to attend. Christian Multi-Denomination (CMD) weekends may also be available in some areas. On CMD weekends, a Christian minister and spouse take the place of the priest on the presenting team.

[quote=]**Will someone try to convert me? **

The program is not designed to promote a specific religion. Atheists, agnostics and those of various religions are respected for their beliefs and encouraged to attend for the benefit of their marriage.

No attempt is made to convert anyone to a religion. Saving a marriage is our focus. The ultimate goal of Retrouvaille is solely to help save marriages.

I hope this helps. I would also encourage you to pray for her marriage and to let her know that you’re praying. It sounds like she’s really struggling. God bless.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit