When Your Marriage Wants More {A Review of Beloved}

Over a year ago my husband and I did something that turned out to be a beautiful gift to our marriage.  We knew we needed something because to put it bluntly, we were struggling.

Now, I'm sure your marriage never has issues so maybe none of this will apply to you ;)

But we struggle.
Sometimes it's just in the the little day to day ways but we've had some giant battles as well.  And to be honest. we felt a little lost as to what to do about it.  I mean, there just isn't a whole lot of practical help available, it seems, for those of us who want to make this thing work, who feel like things are supposed to better but feel like we're just making it up as we go along.  Heck, even if we weren't struggling, it's still a good and beautiful thing to want to be better and better at this marriage thing and to take steps to make that happen.

We ended up planning with some friends once a month to intentionally make that something happen.  Over drinks and snacks we went through a book that my husband and I had both read years ago (and greatly benefited from) and the DVD group guide that went with it.  It was a tremendous gift to our marriage, a turning point almost.  The simple act of intentionally making the time to work on our marriage and to do it with other like-minded friends in a safe environment?  It was huge, I think, in a lot of growth and healing and heart work that happened during those months.  

The program itself was good and fostered deeper discussion than we otherwise would have had but there was a lot it left to be desired.  It was a little bit hokey and some of the examples they used were a bit eye roll inducing.  Plus, it barely mentioned that little part of marriage and family called children.  So while there was a whole lot that was great about it, it was clear that the Catholic idea of marriage is a whole lot deeper and richer than what that series explored.  We left it wanting more.

I was given the fabulous opportunity of reviewing this brand new Catholic marriage series released by Symbolon and being distributed by Lighthouse and Ignatius Press.  It's called Beloved.  I haven't seen any other program like this available.

Similar to the program we previously used, it is a DVD based series however, it doesn't work off of previous reading.  The DVDs are the primary part of the program and the study guides work off of that.  The part I am most impressed by is that it is extremely flexible and it is designed to be used in a variety of environments.
It is set up so that it can be used for marriage preparation OR enrichment and in a variety of settings -
•Pre-Cana retreats and seminars
•Self-led study by engaged or married couple
•Marriage enrichment retreats or within a parish 
•Faith sharing groups/ study groups
•Within marriage counseling 
•One-on-one with a leader and a couple
We've previewed all the DVDs and I am so very excited that we are going to be putting the full program into practice firsthand within a group.  What I hope to do is first share my overall impressions with you here and then maybe give a few updates as my husband and I go through the questions and discussion more.  I'll share our deepest and darkest revelations and discussion just a little bit of the takeaways and thoughts from going through it as designed.

So here are my first thoughts after just watching the DVDs and giving a quick perusal of the books:

•The production quality is stellar.  Top notch.  A few minutes after my husband and I turned on the first DVD to preview, we looked at each other with the same thought.  "This is actually good."  (I'll be honest, I have a tendency to cringe at the many well intentioned but poorly designed or produced Catholic media.)  In fact, I would even go so far as to say that what Bishop Barron's Catholicism did for evangelization as a whole, Beloved has the potential to do for marriage catechesis.

•It is beautiful.  The way they talk about marriage and the visual and even the materials themselves are all beautifully and professionally done.

•The people they have working on this and in it are well known and respected - Edward Sri, Jason Evert, Leah Darrow, Matt Fradd, Teresa Tomeo, Curtis Martin, and more. But while that was a lovely surprise, the parts we found most engaging were the parts of normal married couples sharing their experiences.  Both Brian and I wish they had done even more of that.

•  It is centered on Christ.  Completely.

•  It is respectful of the privacy of marriage but opens the door for discussion on pretty heavy topics.

•  I wish we had something like this when we were getting ready for marriage.  We did the weekend Engaged Encounter retreat and while it was good, it glossed over a whole lot of topics that should have been addressed.  This program would be a huge asset to parish marriage preparation.

•As I mentioned above there are two tracts - one for marriage preparation, one for marriage enrichment.  The DVDs are the same but there are different books depending.  The first six sessions are more the Theology of marriage and the second six are more on applying it to your life, however there is a lot of good overlap.

•I was surprised that we found the first six sessions more engaging than the last six.  It seemed to us that the last six needed a lot more meat and we were hoping it would dive deeper into some topics.  We're hoping that the discussion and book will make up for that.  A few sessions were a lot of one person's experience and I think those ones could have benefitted from more of the off-the-cuff sharing that was in the first six.

The Mystery & Meaning of Marriage
EP1 // Does Marriage Matter? (34:19) 
EP2 // Entering the Story of Marriage (33:28) 
EP3 // Love Revealed (36:38) 
EP4 // Total Gift of Self (48:40) 
EP5 // A Sacramental Bond (34:32)
EP6 // Real Challenges, Real Love (48:07)

Living Marriage
EP1 // Christ at the Center (18:26) 
EP2 // A Deeper Unity (18:00) 
EP3 // Conflict and Communication (19:05) 
EP4 // Building a Thriving Marriage (18:30) 
EP5 // Protecting the Bond (20:41) 
EP6 // Sexuality and Authentic Love (20:22)

Listen, I know some people are very wary of programs and I soooo get it.  I am, too.  At least insofar as they become a replacement for the Sacraments or a conversion of heart and an overall cultural shift.  I am that person that sees what's behind a problem and wants to fix the cause not just the symptoms.  A program is not going to be the magic cure-all that fixes family brokenness that plagues so many families and then trickles out into the world and into the marriages of future generations.  But while I can pinpoint overall cultural wounds and know (or theorize) what will help be the fix on a larger level, that's not going to help us where we are right now.   

We are a wounded generation, in so many ways the casualties of the breakdown of the family.
But we are trying the best we know how to live this marriage thing and we need help.   This series provides a bit of that help.  A whole lot of us didn't have the modeling.  We don't have the cultural support and we are faced with threats to marriage far and above what other generations have fought.  We don't have a whole lot of practical support from our communities and parishes.  And quite frankly, we like to get together and talk about the stuff that matters and this gives us the backdrop to do so.  It has the potential to build good and life-giving community and support.
And that is a much needed and very good thing.  

So we're setting out to do this marriage thing we've been called to better.  To take some time and put in some effort and be more of what we know the Lord asks us to be for each other and for the world.  I hope maybe you'll even consider doing the same for your own.  I think something like this would make a GREAT Christmas gift for your spouse, your married (or soon to be married) children, or your parish library.

You can see more information by clicking on any of the images above or right here.

Please know that I don't take dedicated reviews here on the blog lightly.  If I don't feel comfortable recommending a product I've been asked to review, I simply don't write it.  I want my word here to mean something so if I write on it, I mean it.  I'm always nervous recommending things but I do feel strongly that this program is a gift to the Church and could really be a huge help to a few of you out there.  I hope it is :)

(And if you do decide to try it out, please tell them I sent you!)


  1. So I just looked and this is not cheap. Worth it? Tell me and we shall do it (by ourselves, not with other couples and not through a parish...we just don't have the resources for that right now.

  2. This looks great, I'm totally interested, thanks for posting!

  3. This looks fantastic! I wonder if our parish will take this into a class for marriage enrichment! I totally agree with the "cringe-worthy" aspect of some of the books written on the topic. For me, a lot of it is so light and cheesy that I have a hard time respecting it enough to get through it. There's a lot left to be desired in most of the stuff that is already out there.

    I really appreciate your honesty about how tough marriage is sometimes.

  4. We have it too (through hubby's job) and it IS a great series!

  5. This looks excellent! Will be telling my priest about it.


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