Do YOU Have What It Takes? 4 Promises That Lead to a Happier Marriage



Celebrate National Marriage Week with FaithontheCouch as we explore what it takes to live a more loving, joyful, grace-filled marriage!

Do You Have What it Takes to Get to “Happily Ever After?”

Almost every newly married couple has two things in common.  First, they are deeply in love with each other and rightly excited about the lives they are building together.  They are passionate about each other, and hopeful about a bright future filled with blessings.  But second, underneath that mutual love, joy, and hope, almost every newly-married couple is also a little terrified.  They wonder if they have what it takes to make it “until death do they part.”  Almost every couple we talk to in our years of marriage ministry ask us one basic question; “How can we know if we have what it takes to make it to ‘Happily Ever After?'”

I can give you the answer to that question right now.  Do you have what it takes? YES!  Absolutely, you have what it takes to have a great Catholic marriage.  Contrary to what you might have heard elsewhere, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what your background is, or what your family of origin did or did not give you.  We know from years of marriage research that what separates so-called “marriage masters” from “marriage disasters” is not magic or history, it’s a set of teachable skills that happy couples have either picked up along the way or are willing to learn.

4 Promises…

While there are many good habits you can cultivate to lay the foundation for a great, Catholic marriage, ultimately, it is your willingness to make four promises that will help you and your spouse become “marriage masters.”

1.  A promise to commit to personal and couple prayer.

2.  A promise to nurture your love.

3.  A promise to commit to your vows even more than each other.

4.  A promise to learn new skills when new challenges come instead of  blaming your marriage or spouse for being “broken.”

Each of these is rooted in solid research that examines what separates marriage success stories from marriage nightmares and each of these is borne out in our experience–which we will share a bit of with you in this chapter.  Let’s look at each of these four commitments.

1. A promise to commit to personal and couple prayer   

Making and keeping marriage great over the course of a lifetime requires us to be willing to sit at the feet of the Author of Love himself and ask him to teach us how to love.  We need to do this every day both individually and together.  There is a reason that research consistently  shows that couples who pray together are up to 30% happier across every dimension of married life than couples who don’t.   When a couple prays both individually and together they are admitting they have a lot to learn about love and they open their hearts to be taught by the best teacher in the universe.

2.  A promise to nurture your love.

Love is like a fire. You can keep it burning forever, but you have to tend it consciously and constantly.  Leave it alone for too long and it simple burns out.  There is no great mystery to it.  Fires without fuel, die.  Smart couples understand that to keep the fires of their love burning strong, they need to tend the flame by doing those little, extraordinary things for each other.  Every. Single. Day.  Little surprises like love notes in a lunch bag, calls to say, “I was thinking of you,” bringing home your spouse’s favorite ice cream instead of yours, doing that chore your spouse hates so that you can say, “I want to make your life easier and more pleasant”, wearing that new lingerie on a night when you might rather just pass out because you want to say, “I still want you”,  and many other little, thoughtful gestures go a long way to stirring the coals and keeping the embers of your love burning hot.  Want your love to last a lifetime?  Tend the fire every day.

3.  A promise to commit to your vows even more than each other

In the early years of marriage, especially if you’ve been arguing more than you expected–and many couples do–it can be very tempting to begin wondering if you didn’t make a mistake.

The key to making it through these days–both now and throughout the rest of your married life–is making a commitment, not just to each other, but also to the marriage itself.  This means making a commitment to your vows.   Research by the Relationship Institute at UCLA shows that while almost every couple is committed to each other, those couples who make an additional commitment to the relationship itself–vowing to work on the marriage even when it isn’t fun and they don’t feel that great about their spouse–have much greater chances to have marriages that are happy and last a lifetime (Wolpert, 2012).

Making a commitment to your vows means that even on the days where your spouse is driving you crazy and you don’t really feel like being a loving person, you are committed to  fighting through all of that to find your best selves again.  Not because you necessarily feel like it.  Not because your spouse necessarily deserves it. But because your commitment to your marriage demands it.  If you make a commitment to sticking it out and working it out, you will find your way back to the joy, love and passion you seek.

4.  A promise to learn new skills when new challenges come instead of blaming your marriage or spouse for being “broken.”

No newly-married couple knows what they are doing when it comes to marriage.   No one.  Not even the people who came from the best families-of-origin on the planet.  When you hit hard times and begin feeling the urge to turn against each other you must remember that it is not because your marriage is flawed.  It is simply because you don’t know what you are doing and you need new skills. We want you to remember four little words that will help you get through these times.  Ready?


Write it down.  Memorize it.  Say it until you can dance to it.  Marriages do not have lives of their own.  A marriage only has the life a husband and wife give it. If your marriage is struggling, it is simply that you don’t currently  have the skills to nurture it under the pressures you are currently facing.   Get those skills.  Read good self-help books; go on a marriage retreat; join a support group; get therapy. The good news is that research consistently shows that couples who have the “don’t blame the marriage” attitude and, instead, commit to acquiring skills when they hit hard times, have much higher levels of marital satisfaction and longevity.  No marriage ever failed because a couple lacked skills.  Rather, marriages fail because couples are too prideful to admit that they need to acquire new skills.    As it says in Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, disgrace follows.  But with humility comes wisdom.”

You CAN do it!

If you and your beloved can make these four commitments, you will discover everything you need to make your marriage everything God wants it to be–a great love story that will both satisfy the deepest longings of your heart and be a witness to the world of what God can do when two, imperfect people are willing to learn the steps that lead them to a more perfect love.

Dr. Greg Popcak is the author of many books including Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage from which this article is adapted.  Learn more about Dr. Popcak’s books, radio program, and tele-counseling practice at


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