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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Art of Being a Good Wife
An interview with Karen Sester, Familia USA National Director

"When couples open their hearts to God and his purpose for marriage and family, he floods them with the grace of the sacrament of marriage."

January 26, 2011. In the era of multitasking, how can women “do it all” without losing focus?  How can women and their husbands communicate more effectively?  What about living with a non-practicing husband?  What helps nearly broken marriages become whole again? And finally, what books can help women learn to grow into their role as Catholic spouses?

In the interview below, Karen Sester, Familia USA National Director, offers some spiritual and practical advice on the art of being a good wife.

Proverbs 31 talks about the ideal wife as a supreme multitasker who not only cares for her husband and children, but also engages in business and charitable activity. What advice would you give to women who are trying to achieve that balance?

As Christians, we have two beautiful role models: Christ and Mary, along with many saints, to look to for guidance. I see Christ and Mary first spending time with God, seeking his will. Only after prayer do they act.  The hardest thing sometimes is to let go of our expectations for what our life will look like, what my family will look like, and look to God for what he wants for us. 

Also, Christ did not heal every person in town. It was God’s will to focus on some.  Likewise, God does not ask us to be superwoman and do everything.  What he does ask us is that everything we do is with great love.  Perfect work isn’t doing everything perfectly, but doing it for God.

As women we have been given certain gifts, John Paul II calls it the “feminine genius”: the ability to make others feel loved, an openness to others, a certain spiritual sensitivity, desire for union with God, a deep ability to hear and appreciate truth. And so God entrusts women with divine truths, along with moral and spiritual strength and faith to overcome their fear, even in intense emotional and physical times.  When we use all of these gifts, we focus more on the person and the soul than the task, and that is where we find peace.  My success is not in the done laundry or the organized kitchen, but in the love with which I do the work and the love that others experience from me.  This love can only be given if we are connected to the vine, to Our Lord in daily prayer and the sacraments.

On a practical level, I find it most helpful to make a plan each week with God for how I will spend my time, first list my time with God, then my husband, then my children, then the other responsibilities.  If something doesn’t fit, either God doesn’t need me to do it, or he will make time for it.  Having the plan gives me peace and comfort as I see it is God’s plan for me. It also helps me be prepared when I have a few unexpected minutes so I can make good use of them. 

Another word of advice: make sure to talk to your husband before making decisions.

What is the most common communications difficulty between women and their husbands?  What can wives to do to improve their communication?

The most common communications difficulty is understanding each other.  Men and women are different; they think, act, and communicate differently.  Don’t expect him to guess your thoughts and don’t think you can guess what he is thinking.  You need to listen to each other. It is when we rashly react out of defensiveness that we make the greatest mistakes.  Many times our spouse was not criticizing, but simply expressing a need.  We need to be able to talk about our needs, wants, fears and desires with each other openly and without defensiveness.  Greatly desire to continue to get to know your spouse. Try to understand him in every aspect of his life: physically, spiritually, intellectually.  It is quite an exciting challenge!

What would you recommend for Catholic women who are married to non-practicing husbands and who are unable to share their faith with them as they would like?

This is probably the most frequent question we receive from Familia women.  As wives and mothers, we deeply desire spiritual intimacy and unity with our husband.  For whatever reason, this is oftentimes not the case.  One reason is because that women are naturally more spiritually sensitive. We think deeply and ponder spiritual truths.  It is natural for us to seek God.  Men are more outward, focused on doing, going, building. Sometimes it can be more difficult for them to embrace the spiritual life. 

It is helpful to remember that God loves your husband more than you do. Be patient, never condescending about his so-called lack of faith.  Honor him in his strengths.  Be ready to hear his questions and concerns about the faith rather than being annoyed by them.  Your openness and non-judgment of him is what will draw him the nearest to you.  

Also, pray and sacrifice.  Offer those nasty duties that you dislike with love and joy for him.  You will find you will grow in holiness through these things, and that is the intention of marriage, right?  To get our spouse to heaven?  So if you do these things, you will also make your husband successful in his mission.

Have you ever witnessed “miracles” of restored marriages?  What was the key? 

We witness miracles of restored marriages all the time in Familia.  When couples open their hearts to God and his purpose for marriage and family, he floods them with the grace of the sacrament of marriage.  This grace is always there, but we must keep our hearts able to receive it by being in the state of grace.

We witnessed this in a couple that was very close to us.  The husband knocked at our door at 10:30 on the night of our wedding anniversary over 10 years ago.  He said he needed help, that he would do anything to keep his marriage.  Todd and I welcomed him into our home and spent our anniversary night with him.  It was a great grace for all of us.  We did not even know they were having trouble in their marriage.  We suggested he go on a retreat and begin the Familia program.  He followed our advice and his wife also began taking Familia with a group of other women. 

Through the program they encountered God in the Gospel reflections and Catholic doctrine in the Catechism. They discovered how to live in the beauty of these teachings by discussing the Church documents and making concrete weekly resolutions. They returned to regular confession and attended daily Mass as they could.  They soon desired to reverse an operation so their marriage would once again be open to life.  It’s not that everything was automatically fixed— years of unhealthy habits take time to change— but they conceived another child and are still married over 10 years later.  Thanks be to God!  We need to continue to pray for marriages everywhere as these marriage-thriving concepts are so foreign to many. 

Can you recommend 4 or 5 good books or resources for women who would like to delve deeper into this topic of improving their marriage?

The year 2011 marks the 30th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio.  This is a document that the Familia program called “God’s Plan for Marriage and Family” is based on.  Familia has made it now available for men, women, or couples teams.  I would highly recommend gathering a group of other women or couples and delve into it. Over 12,000 couples have taken this program since we became national directors in 2002, and this is why we have witnessed thousands of restored marriages.

Other good resources are: Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Fr. Jacques Philippe.  It is not a marriage book, but the first step to improving our marriage is improving ourselves, and this is a powerful little book that will help you.  Three more resources are His Needs/Her Needs by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla, and The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett. They all help to deeply understand ourselves and our spouse.


For more information about how Familia can help you strengthen your marriage and family, visit the web site at



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