Reducing Seasonal Marital Stress San Antonio Marriage Initiative Equips Leaders


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The founder of San Antonio Marriage Initiative, (SAMI) Carl Caton, isn’t a marriage therapist, nor does he run a counseling center; however, his ministry is quietly changing hearts across San Antonio – aiming to transform the community by supporting marriage. 

“Marriage is contagious,” Caton said. “When the norm is ‘the grass is greener if you water it,’ it changes the culture of the city. We want to bring a sense of hope. The divorce rate in San Antonio has dropped 23 percent in the past nine years.” And lest the decline be attributed to fewer people marrying, he added that the marriage rate in San Antonio is increasing – with 2017 an all-time high for marriages. 

“I am passionate about marriage,” said Caton, who has been married to his high school sweetheart for 35 years. “We’ve met so many couples who have seen incredible breakthroughs in their marriage,” their experiences led Caton to form SAMI and gives him words of wisdom when stresses of the holiday season stretch some marriages to the breaking point. 

The day kids return to school in January is the number one day people make that first call to pursue divorce. 

“It really breaks my heart,” Caton said. Couples on the edge see the holidays as a make or break it point. Unmet expectations and challenges of the season magnify underlying struggles. Many hold out until after Christmas, and they – often the woman – have just had it. Divorce filings begin filing in January, and the divorce rate peaks in March every year. 

“What’s good for marriage is ultimately good for our community. It’s not important that you think alike as much as you think together.” Carl Caton, founder - SAMI

Caton noted several areas of tension and provided ideas to counter the pressure. Overspending can lead to arguments, debt and buyer’s remorse, with finances becoming a big issue come January. Caton recommended talking through expectations of gift giving in advance. Others struggle with family conflict. Communication and agreeing on healthy boundaries help, he said, and mentioned Henry Cloud’s Boundaries book as a resource. 

“It’s not important that you think alike as much as you think together,” he said. “Everyone has different ideas about Christmas traditions.”

Making time for physical and emotional intimacy between spouses can go a long way toward staying connected during the holidays. 

“Let’s be intentional this holiday season to look at our calendar and make some extra room for our marriage so we are not so stressed,” he said. “Let’s change some habits so we are not glued to our phones and devices. We can resolve to rely less on social media and watch a few fewer sports games. Then put things on the calendar that are enriching to the relationship, so you can enjoy your marriage during the holiday season. 

“Kelli and I have a tradition of going down to the River Walk and watching the lights. Invest in time reconnecting as a couple rather than letting the busyness and expectations wipe out your relationship.”

Another tip - celebrate your marriage in the company of others – tell the kids, friends - what makes your spouse special to you. And lastly, make a January resolution to draw closer as a family and as a couple. Brush up on conflict resolution skills and good, clear communication – two areas in which SAMI offers plenty of assistance. 

The Christian, volunteer, community-based organization serves as a resource, training leaders on the front lines of preserving marriages, whether it be couples who walk alongside others, pastors, counselors, lawyers who want to help clients keep marriages rather than dissolve them, and particularly church marriage ministries. All find trusted wisdom and support through SAMI, which offers emails, videos, graphics, communication tools, events, date-nights away, and conferences to help foster marriage. 

And what’s good for marriage is ultimately good for our community. 

“The greatest way to prevent many social problems is to strengthen marriages,” Caton said. “Most donors give to the downstream effects of the breakdown of the family, but the most effective and least expensive way to get the best results is to keep the marriage intact.”

“Children from fatherless homes are 4.6 times more likely to commit suicide, 24.3 times more likely to run away, 10.8 times more likely to commit rape, 6.6 times more likely to become teen-aged mothers, and 15.3 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager,” he quoted. 

“Ten years ago we began to meet with leaders around the community. In the first three years I spoke with 270 people from 75 churches in San Antonio to ask what they were doing to strengthen marriages. I brought them together to share best practices. Since then we’ve met with more than 1000 people in our community who are passionate about helping marriages,” Caton said. 

“We like to put the emphasis on the real champions – the people who are in the trenches. Raul and Karen Benitez are an ordinary couple with a heart for serving military marriages in Military City USA. They organize events like date nights, pre-marital training, small groups. They’ve taken the challenges in their own marriage and used them to serve. A lot of couples find their greatest area of pain can turn into their greater joy when God begins to use them to help others.” 

On the horizon, in January 2019, Wayside Chapel will host a conference featuring best-selling author of The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman. Visit samarriage.org for more information. 

Let’s commit ourselves to love this holiday season. Let’s receive patience (a gift of the Spirit) and apply it to our marriage. Let’s stay together and fight for our families. May this Thanksgiving and Christmas be a time of great joy for you and your spouse.

San Antonio Marriage Initiative
www.samarriage.org  210.651.5050
23995 Bat Cave Rd., Suite 150,  SAT 78266


Be a Light.

Visit the ministry website. Get ideas and help to keep your marriage in tip top shape. Sign up for the SAMI newsletter. Attend. Register to attend one of the many events the Marriage Initiative hosts throughout the year. Volunteer. Ask how you can become an advocate for marriages in your church. Pray. Pray for the ministry to continue to thrive and reduce the divorce rate in our community. Give. The Marriage Initiative invites you to partner with them financially so even more marriages can be impacted in our community. 

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05 Nov 2018


By Amy Morgan