Marriage & Family Life: There is a Third Option for couples wanting to improve their marriages

by Diocese of Des Moines | April 16, 2019

Maria Campbell

When I was just 15 years old, I met the love of my life, my best friend, and the man who would later become my husband. 

Mark and I got married when we were 21 and 22 years old. 

We were madly in love and naïvely thought that love would easily carry us through anything that could possibly come our way.  Within the first 10 years of our marriage, we were given many chances to test that theory. 

Unmet expectations turned into downright disagreements on money, living arrangements, faith, future plans, you name it. 

Pile on top of those issues; several years of infertility, alcohol addiction, broken trust, financial debt, and we had a recipe for disaster. 

We had plenty of reasons to justify a divorce.  When that ‘D’ word was put on the table, we were both shocked that things had spiraled out of control so much. 

While we both loved the idea of being married, we really had no idea how to actually do it, not well at least. 

By the grace of God, I am here today to tell you that we learned, we grew, and overcame those rocky years. 

Unfortunately, we had to learn the hard way. 

We began picking up the pieces and re-honoring our commitment to God and each other.  It was a grueling battle as we invited our heavenly Father to become a welcome part of our life, individually and as a couple.  Somehow, we found the strength and solid foundation that we needed to build on and to go forward together. 

We often think that we only have two options: Stay and be miserable, or get out.  His way, or her way. 

There is a Third Option.

There is a lifeline for couples who could use a little help like we needed. The Third Option is a ministry that my husband and I, along with several other couples, and Adam Storey from the Marriage & Family Office of the Des Moines diocese, are offering as a free service to any married couple in the diocese.

Our group meets twice every month, on the first and third Mondays, from 7-9 p.m. at Mercy College in downtown Des Moines.  It is a confidential, non-threatening approach to growing as individuals, learning practical communications skills and improving marriages. 

The Third Option tackles 14 topics throughout the year like respect, listening, conflict resolution, forgiveness, trust and more.  We discuss ways that these issues affect our relationships and we teach practical ways to improve ourselves in each area which will in turn improve our marriages.  

This is not group therapy, it is not counseling, it is a beautiful opportunity for us to learn from each other how to find and maintain peace in our marriage vocation. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1641) refers to Christ as the source of grace in the sacrament of matrimony.  Christ dwells with spouses, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him.

This year Mark and I will celebrate 22 years of marriage.  The last 12 years have found us taking up crosses and overcoming more even challenges; having a stillborn baby, closing the family business, deacon formation and Mark’s ordination, changing parishes, new job, new business, new responsibilities, new ministries, homeschooling, caring for aging parents, and more. 

But in the past several years of our marriage, we have also found joy, peace, mutual respect and a renewed sense of commitment in knowing that not only will our marriage survive until death parts us, it will thrive, because we continue to be intentional and give it the attention it needs and deserves. 

The Third Option is not just for couples who are having problems.  It is for any couple that is willing to learn and grow together. 

For more information on The Third Option, contact Campbell at 515-419-1697 or email 

Diocese of Des Moines

The Diocese of Des Moines, created in 1911, serves people over a 12,446 square mile area in the southwestern quadrant of Iowa, including 23 counties.