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navigating married life during a pandemic

By Carlos Briceño, editor

Navigating Married Life During a Pandemic

For 30 years, Dr. Jim Healy was director of the diocesan Office of Family Ministry. He retired from that position in 2019 but continues to speak, write, and consult on marriage and family topics. He and his wife, Madonna, are members of the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus in Joliet. They have four adult children. Carlos Briceño recently interviewed Dr. Healy about the short YouTube videos he’s been making about marriage.

What compelled you to make these short videos?

Couples are under a lot of pressure these days. The people they love are either too far away or too close. In prayer, I decided “less is more.” We get bombarded with so much information these day that I thought these little videos might sneak through all the noise.

These are difficult and crazy days, with even more stresses than usual. How do you hope these videos will help couples/families deal?

We’re called to be kind and honest with our spouses. The only problem is, we have to do both at the same time. That’s an art which takes a lifetime to learn. I’m hoping people can learn from my mistakes. I’ve got lots of material!

This is an odd thing to say, but I think it’s true: Happiness in marriage begins with courtesy. St. Francis called courtesy the sister of charity. Sometimes, we treat strangers better than the people we live with. I’ve ignored my wife or children at times in a way I would never ignore a stranger in a room. I would at least talk with them, ask them about the weather or about their family.

On the flip side, if a stranger crowded me or made me feel uncomfortable, I hope I would politely ask them to back off. In close quarters, it’s not an insult to say to your spouse, “I love you, but I think I need some time to myself,” or “I can’t talk about that right now, but I promise after dinner we’ll chat.” Basically, courtesy means establishing the right social distance with intimates as well as strangers.  

What is the number one advice you would give to couples who are dating right now who want to get married to each other?

The best marriages are a combination of passion, friendship, and commitment. If you can get that, you’ve caught lightning in a bottle. For dating couples, this might be the time to concentrate more on the friendship side of the triangle. Try to deepen friendships through that gradual process of getting to know somebody, getting to trust them, and getting to rely on them. That sometimes lags behind the passion anyway, so let the friendship catch up, or even get ahead.

What is the number one advice you would give to married couples with children these days?

Back when our children were younger — four within a span of seven years — I found myself often praying, “Lord, you fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes. I’ve got my own multitude to care for, and I know I’m not enough. Please bless me, break me open, and make me enough to feed the people I love.” And when I would pray that prayer, the anxiety would go down, and I would find that I was usually enough, sometimes just barely, sometimes with a little left over. I don’t have to be enough, because God is. Of course, we’ve got to do our part. If you stop paddling, God can’t steer the boat.

Having said that, when you mess up with the kids, apologize to them. As a young parent, I used to think I would lose respect if I apologized, but I found it was just the opposite. Children ache to love their parents, and an apology, when an apology is warranted, warms the heart, even of adolescents. 

What quote could you share that can help couples in their marriages?

Don’t try to do it on your own. For many years, I thought asking for help made me weak, but in my more “mature” years, I realized that asking for help made me strong; I had a whole army of family, friends, and professionals of various sorts backing me up. So, whether you think asking for help makes you weak, or makes you strong, you’re right! But if asking for help makes you feel strong, your life will be happier.

Dr. Healy’s short videos to support couples, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, can be found at his YouTube channel, Jim Healy at Rooted in Love.

The link is

Those who subscribe (everything is free) will get each little video as it comes out. Jim and Madonna’s website is