Sunday, October 27, 2013

The SPICE of Life

Last weekend JJ and I gave a talk at our married peoples fellowship group (we so need a new name for this group,seriously). We talked about something I am familiar with as a CrMS user and practitioner, the element of SPICE and the index a practitioner gives you at follow ups. JJ and I didn't give this talk because we are experts in this subject we gave it because we have learned a lot about this through trial and error. It was the SPICE index and discussing this stuff in and out of our follow ups that helped us to see there were areas that needed to grow in our marriage. We always pursue growth and to strengthen our marriage but when we were faced with those 1st years of IF we needed this. So here is the talk that JJ and I compiled: 

What are ways to SPICE up your marriage? No this does not include 50 shades of grey or anything outlandish! 

What is the difference between gc and sc? There is a difference between genital contact and sexual contact. Sexual contact includes the entire person where genital contact is just physical. We need to be connected to our spouse in more than just the physical way. This includes SPICE! 

What is SPICE? SPICE stands for...

SPIRITUAL, ex: prayer both together and personal, rosary, Mass, spontaneous prayer, organized prayers, before bed prayer, etc.

PHYSICAL, ex: the obvious sex, holding hands, back rubs, hugs, cuddling, kissing, exercise together, etc.

INTELLECTUAL, ex: talking of current events, conversations about stuff that interests both of you, reading a book together, playing scrabble, watching jeopardy, etc. 

COMMUNICATIVE/CREATIVE, ex: talking about your day, talking about disagreements, listening and not judging the other, writing love notes or journal entries for each other, learning each other's communication style and temperament, etc. 

EMOTIONAL, ex: saying/texting "I love you", remembering why you chose to marry this person, showing mercy and compassion even when you don't feel like it, affirming each other with words and letting each other know you have each other's back, etc. 

The particular elements of SPICE are different for each couple because each couple connects with one another in a unique way. So there is no one SPICE model for everyone. Everyone connects with their spouse on the SPICE levels that are different from how they connect to others who are not their spouse, for ex. JJ and I love C.S Lewis and Tolkein so our Intellectual time might be taken up by reading or talking about their books so our intellectual bond as spouses is much stronger than if we were talking to other people about Lewis or Tolkein. 

Everyone can have SPICE it is not just set apart for those holy perfect marriages just like God is not set apart just for those perfect people. Every marriage is unique and different the only thing that is common across the board is that our spouses are our vocations in which we are sanctified and our pathways to heaven. We must not judge another's marriage based on what we see, because no one really knows the intimate details of someone else's marriage. The grass is NOT greener on the other side! 

Being connected to your spouse can sometimes feel like a lot of work and it is not always fun, it can be a cross, but it's our cross. SPICE IS ESSENTIAL TO YOUR MARRIAGE! We can not just put our marriage on the back burner or at the end of a to do list because that is when we end up waking up not knowing who we are married to. Whether or not you get to spend hours with one another a day or an hour at most or a few minutes you must still strive to be connected to your spouse. If you don't you will connect yourself to something/someone else like friends, the internet, smartphones, video games/apps or your children. These things which are not bad in themselves can be used by the enemy to pull us away from our spouse. Preferring spending time with your children and not your spouse is a dangerous line to putting them first before your marriage on a regular basis and one or both spouses can feel neglected. I am not saying to ignore your children but to constantly put them first and if they are not a newborn that needs constant attention then we must internally check ourselves to see if we are doing something wrong.

This will be a continual work in progress, you will never have it down perfect but you can get to a point where you and your spouse feel connected and quickly notice when you are not and which areas you need to work on. You may be strong in some areas and weak in others or you maybe coasting along in all areas. 

Starting to explore where your marriage is can be a scary and humiliating place but we must remember that God gave us the grace of the sacrament to see us through. Pride is a huge road block to developing SPICE in your marriage as well as complacency. Different hardships in life and in our marriages test us and the enemy tries to pull us apart because he hates us. Giving into tendencies of bitterness, complaining, nagging, yelling, cold shouldering/silence, criticizing  and other negative actions toward our spouse can keep us from seeing the good in them as well as wanting to be connected to them. Sometimes we must take an honest look at ourselves and get our behind to confession for sins we have committed against our spouse. We are not perfect and neither is our spouse so saying "I am sorry" and "I forgive you" are key to staying connected to our spouse. When we go to confession God wipes away our sins and we are in instant union with Him again, so it goes with reconciling with our spouse. 

A simple way to start adding SPICE elements to your marriage is to take 5-10min. a week and at first sit down with your spouse and each of you come up with 2 ways to enhance each SPICE category in your marriage. Then once a week take turns in picking which one you want or feel you need to work on and pick from the list your wrote together. It may not be easy and it may be awkward at first but it can help strengthen your marriage! 

We didnt want to give examples of specific things in our own marriage because JJ felt that it was important for each couple to explore this topic with each other and so that we didn't seem like we had it all figured out. Since this is my blog I will share how SPICE has helped me. When we first got married I had a difficult time understanding the different forms of physical communication between the spouses. In general I didn't understand the subtle differences between affirming and arousing touch but I didn't know what it was. So every time JJ would do certain things when we were in a time of abstaining I would be confused and I would push him away then we would end up in an argument. We tried to communicate but I wasn't quite sure what was bothering me. When we took the SPICE index about 2yrs or so after we were married, a light bulb went off and I finally understood my confusion. I needed it spelled out for me and now that area of our marriage is a little easier to navigate. 

Another way SPICE has helped my marriage is when we had the miscarriage. I was so broken and grieving I felt very alone. When we found out we were pregnant I felt a new and special bond w/ JJ because we were parents and we were gonna raise a child together. Then when we lost the baby I thought that this new bond was gone and I didn't feel very connected to JJ like I had before. I started to internalize more and share less with him which made me feel even more alone. It took a serious "conversation" (argument) and me pulling out a SPICE index from my file cabinet to get me to open up to my husband. Again, I am a person who sometimes needs it to be spelled out and reflect on things before I know what is going on. We started to work more on our different SPICE elements which helped me to feel more connected and bonded to JJ. Having SPICE In our marriage does bond us closer together which in turn makes me feel more secure in our marriage knowing that come what may, we will face it together. 

* A note to those who are single: I think SPICE can be implemented in the single life as well, although each element will be to different degrees. Working on being connected to others will only help you as you are in this time of waiting. Obviously the fulfillment of SPICE will happen in marriage but you can use this as a tool to see how connected you are to God as well. If you take the time to learn some of these things now, it will prepare you for your spouse if that is what God is calling you to. 


  1. Great post! This stuff is super helpful! When we gave marriage counseling we talked about these things. I know it refreshed our marriage as we were teaching.

  2. Oh, I SOOOOOO needed to read this! I've been the contentious, nagging wife for awhile now (it takes guts to admit that) and I truly needed a refresher in what SPICE stands for. I have been trying to emulate Mary throughout my daily life, but gosh, it is hard! Too often words slip past my lips.
    THANK YOU for this post!!!

    1. Yes, it does take guts to admit our faults! God has really been calling me to work on my marriage and be a better wife right now. Yes it is so hard to be like Mary but a book that really helped me is Reed of God by Caryll Houselander.