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From the Editors

 Lent has begun and it’s the perfect time to establish healthy new habits that will support our marriage and deepen our spiritual life. Here are three quick ways to live lent well with a marriage focus:

  1. Prayer – Pray every day for your spouse, for your marriage and be a better spouse. Here’s a simple prayer you can use.
    Lord, I thank you for the gift of my spouse and the blessings I have known through him/her.
    Forgive me for the times that I have failed to love my spouse as I should,
    and give me the grace to love more generously. Amen.
  2. Fasting – Fast from criticism for the whole of Lent. And no days off on Sunday for this one! Really, it’s so liberating! When we surrender the right (some people think it’s an obligation) to criticise, we stop looking for someone to blame. When things go wrong we’re more likely to approach it calmly and less likely to get uptight about who’s at fault. We relax and enjoy life more …and so does our spouse!
  3. Almsgiving – Our wedding vows call us to approach our marriage in the spirit of self-giving service. In the same way that we don’t expect a kick back when we give financially to a charity, once a week give something to your spouse without expectation of pay back. Do something nice for him or her according to what you know they would really appreciate – a back rub, some free time to read a book, a night off cooking, a car wash etc.

And by the way, don’t let the non-participation of your spouse be an excuse – these Lenten tasks can be done by any husband or wife on their own initiative.

 Wishing you a life giving and love growing Lent!

In Faith and Love,

Francine & Byron Pirola
Directors | Marriage Resource Centre



Join us for our SmartLoving Marriage residential weekend in the peaceful Carmelite Retreat Centre.

Following Sunday:


Do you know someone who’s stuck and can’t seem to break the cycle in their marriage? When everything seems too complicated, a little help goes a long way. The BreakThrough Workshop on March 23, is a private 3 hour event which offers practical tips and tools for a way forward. For more information, click here

Feature Article: Marrying Young

By Francine & Byron Pirola


Almost everyone has an opinion about the optimum age to marry but what does the data tell us?

We had an interesting call recently from a priest who had just interviewed an engaged couple. He was looking for some marriage preparation as the couple were ‘very young’. As he went on, it became apparent that this couple had some good things going for them – they didn’t want to live together and they were growing in their faith (he was rediscovering his through her). None-the-less, his family were negative about them marrying so young.

Eventually we asked what their ages were: 23 and 25. Oh. My. Goodness! We didn’t fess up that we were 27 and 21 on our wedding date, though we too were warned that we were too young to marry.

While it’s well known that the age at first marriage has been climbing (it now sits at around 28 and 30 for women and men respectively), it begs the question: what does the statistical evidence tell us about the optimum age for marriage?

Well, it does show that teenage marriage (ie less than 20) is associated with a higher incidence of divorce. Surprisingly, it also shows that after the mid-twenties there is no advantage to delaying marriage in terms of divorce prevention. In fact, some studies suggest that marrying after age 30 increases the risk of divorce.

Why would this be? Surely, if maturity helps couples make wiser choices about their marriage partner and establish better foundations for their relationship, more maturity should give us more wisdom and therefore more marriage stability.

In practice, what happens is the longer couples are in a relationship before marriage, the more likely it is that those relationships will be cohabitation ones or at least sexually active*. Cohabitation is a well-known risk factor for later divorce because couples tend to ‘slide’ into marriage through a phenomenon called ‘commitment creep’; as their lives become more entangled with shared resources and social networks, it becomes harder to break up. Long-time cohabitating couples often end up marrying because breaking up is too complex or painful.

Similarly, premarital sexual experience also undermines marriage stability with one study showing that each additional sexual partner increased the divorce incidence of a future marriage.^

Of course, there are likely other factors that play into this as well, such as the more entrenched one becomes in singledom, the more difficult it is to adjust to coupledom; many mature-age, first-time brides and grooms find surrendering their independence challenging.

So controlling for all the other factors, is our ‘young’ engaged couple ‘too’ young to marry? Turns out, the early twenties is the optimum time to tie the knot. That doesn’t mean that their marriage will be fail proof; there can be other factors or destructive behaviours that may undo them later on. What it does mean is that their celebrant and family can be reassured that their age is not a reason for concern.

*For more information: See Maybe I do, Chapter 8, Kevin Andrews: here
^For a listing of studies: See Focus on the Family: here
Further Reading: See the SmartLoving Series: Knot Yet: here

Australian Catholic Marriage & Family Council

Celebrating Grandparents

“Grandparents are of unique importance in family life generally and particularly in the transmission of faith through the generations. They provide children with a stability and sense of identity and continuity.” – Bishop Michael Kennedy

Download your free grandparents kit: here

Weekly Podcast by Francine & Byron Pirola

Tune in to Wollongong’s weekly Catholic radio show, The Journey on Pulse 94.1FM every Sunday from 11am, to hear a variety of Catholic speakers including Fran & Byron Pirola.

Or, listen to their individual 2 minute podcasts for their bite sized pieces of weekly wisdom.

 From the blog

 Couple Projects | Couple Projects might seem indulgent and merely cute but perhaps they serve a deeper purpose for the marriage.

Movie Marriages | Is it really possible that the simple act of watching a movie together is as effective in reducing the marriage breakdown rate as participating in a structured skill-based program?!

Why you don’t know he’s bad for you | 4 important reasons why you may not realise the guy you’re dating is good for you, by guest Author, Agi Reefman.

Video: Movies & Manhood | Colin Stokes breaks down the messaging in movies and calls for more movies that send positive messages to boys: that cooperation is heroic, and respecting women is as manly as defeating the villain. (TEDx Talk)

Pope Francis: Three Magic words for Couples | At a gathering with more than 10,000 engaged couples on St Valentine’s Day, Pope Francis suggested that there are three essential words to the art and style of married life.

Video: The Economics of Sex | A study conducted by Austin Institute for the Study of Family & Culture has found some groundbreaking research affecting the dating and marriage industry. It all boils down to supply and demand. You don’t want to miss this one!

Video: What is Sex? | A simple short video explaining the difference between culture’s definition of sex and God’s definition.

To get all the SmartLoving Blog posts, follow us below, or sign up for the Free eBook to join our mailing list: here

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Thinking of a gift for your friends or family?

Whether they’re celebrating an anniversary or getting engaged, our gift vouchers are a perfect experience they’re sure to love!

Take advantage of this years sale price of the Marriage Seminar at only $125 for a weekend event (includes meals). Purchase : here

The SmartLoving Engaged course is valued at $275. It’s the perfect engagement or wedding gift that will be used for the rest of their married lives. Purchase : here

SmartLoving @ Home

A series of DIY sessions you can use at home or in a small group. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, you can download the file at the time of purchase and use the material on your computer, mobile device or make a print copy.

SL@Home Grateful

Grateful | When gratitude is present in a marriage, the couple’s good humour and welcoming generosity make their homes places of hospitality and warmth for all their visitors.

Responsible Honesty | It’s more than not telling lies; in marriage it requires an willingness to share deeply and vulnerably.

Sexuality as Gift | Learning to appreciate our sexuality and build the sexual atmosphere between us.

The Ambitious Couple | What is the role of ambition in marriage?

Hear Me Know Me | It is often said that we cannot love what we do not know.

SL Marriage Seminar



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