Working on your marriage isn’t some selfish enterprise that just benefits you and your spouse. In his Theology of the Body, Pope St. John Paul the Great reminds us that marriage plays a critical role in God’s plan for saving the world and that creating a beautiful marriage is the primary way that married people can bring people to Christ! By putting energy into making our marriages strong, loving, understanding, and holy, we not only satisfy the deepest longings of our heart to feel truly loved and connected to another person, we also bear witness to the free, total, faithful, and fruitful love God wants to share with every one of his children. As a married person, working to make your marriage great–or working to make it great again– is the most important thing you can do to serve the Kingdom of God. Here are 3 simple tips from For Better…FOREVER! A Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage (2nd ed. Rev & Expanded) to help you create the marriage God wants you to have!
1. Have a Marriage Mindset–Throughout the day, even when you apart get in the habit of asking the question, “Is what I’m doing now–and the way I’m doing it–good for my marriage?”
If the answer is “yes”, then good on you. Keep doing that! Alternatively, if the answer is “no,” ask what you would have to change to behave in a more marriage-friendly way and start working toward that.
Asking this question reminds couples that every choice you make as a married person either says, “I do” or “I don’t” to your spouse. Happy couples don’t just say “I do” on their wedding day. They say, “I do” a million times a day, every day of the rest of their lives by making choices with the marriage in the forefront of their minds. What are all the ways YOU can say “I do” to YOUR beloved TODAY?
2. Prioritize Your Connection–Everyday, the happiest couples make at least a few minutes to connect across the four domains of work, play, talk, and prayer. For instance, each day, a couple might take two minutes each morning to pray together about the day ahead. Additionally, they might clean up the kitchen together after dinner, take a short walk, play a hand of cards, or read to each other for a few minutes, and make a point of checking in about what they could do to feel closer or more supported by each other. All of this might take a total of 15-20 minutes, cumulative, but it makes a world of difference in marital quality.
Prioritizing and protecting these simple, daily rituals of connection helps a couple make sure they are doing everything they can to at least maintain the skeleton of their relationship. Using these times of simple connection, happy couples will then take plan out other, longer ways of connecting across these four domains of work, play, talk, and prayer throughout the week.
Where other couples HOPE they might get time together like this, happy couples make a point of making this time happen every single day and planning around this time to avoid conflict.
3. Take Care–Caretaking is the single most important quality for a happy marriage–research by the Gottman Relationship Institute reveals it to be even more important than good communication.
Happy couple make a point of looking for little ways to make each other’s days a little easier, more pleasant, or more loving. They text loving thoughts throughout the day. They keep each other in prayer. They look for little jobs they can do to lighten each other’s burdens. They remember to follow through on promises and they ask what more they can do to take even better care of each other.
The more you take care of each other, the more deposits you make in your emotional bank account with means you have capital to spend on discussing improvements to the marriage and a more than adequate cushion to land on in tough times. Ask what you can do to take better care of your spouse today!
You Can Do It
Imagine what a difference these simple ideas could make in YOUR relationship if you could do them consistently. Start today and you’ll be able to both find the love your heart has been looking for AND find more effective ways to bring Christ’s love to the world.
Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak are the hosts of More2Life Radio and directors of the Pastoral Solutions Institute. To get more tips for having a more graceful marriage, check out For Better…FOREVER! and learn more about the Pastoral Solutions Institute’s Catholic Tele-Counseling Practice.