Sometimes they will cope well enough. When their relationship is in real difficulty, however, couples should seek help.

In many parts of Australia, Church agencies such as Centacare, lay groups such as Retrouvaille, and parish priests and laity are there to provide support when marriages are under pressure. Sadly, couples often delay getting help until their relationship has all but disintegrated.

In some cases couples report falling ‘out of love.' They may remain amicable towards one another, they may love and care for their children, they may continue a more or less normal domestic life – but the connection with the other as the most important person in their life has significantly diminished.

There are no easy answers in such cases. Perhaps one or both of the spouses has changed so much that the whole pattern of their relationship must be rebuilt. Perhaps the apparent diminishment of love is the final manifestation of flaws in the relationship that existed from the beginning.

In discerning the way forward, couples should first strive to continue in their marriage. Professional help from priests, counsellors and others at an early stage may help a couple to restore their lines of communication and rekindle their love. A fervent effort should be made to develop the practice of daily prayer and of frequently seeking spiritual nourishment through the reception of the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

Above all, spouses should remember that 'Christ dwells with them and gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ' (Catechism 1642).

To reach old age in the company of one’s spouse, family and friends, is a unique joy that can only be known by those who have persevered through the difficult times. Such marriages clearly witness to the importance of an unbroken fidelity that has been purified and ennobled (Familiaris Consortio 77).

Persevering in marriage is above all a manifestation of the grace of the sacrament, of the 'mystery'whereby two become 'one body, just as Christ is one with his Church in an unbreakable bond of love and fidelity.