Are you struggling to connect with your spouse? Does it feel like you’ve been missing that spark in your relationship? Science and faith reveal a few simple ways to cultivate a more joyful marriage.
Theology of The Body tells us that mutual self-donation–that is, generously and even heroically taking care of each other–is the key to both a happy marriage and a happy life. Turns out, research supports this idea. An article at the Marriage Research blog, The Science of Relationships, recently highlighted several studies exploring the benefits of sacrificing for your spouse. It turns out loving your spouse more than your comfort zone doesn’t just make your mate happier, it’s good for you too! According to the authors, “The act of making a sacrifice for a partner allows people to think of themselves as good and responsive relationship partners. Givers also benefit from seeing that their partners are grateful to them after they make a sacrifice. This gratitude in turn is related to stronger, more satisfying relationships. Indeed, on days when people report making small sacrifices for their romantic partner, they tend to report higher relationship quality. So next time you’re watching your partner try on clothes at the mall, cat-sitting for your in-laws, or taking out the trash for the third week in a row, just think of the silver lining: you’re not just taking care of your marriage, you’re taking care of yourself”
Do you want to strengthen your marriage?
Here are three ways that you can cultivate a more joyful marriage:
Surprise!—Want a more joyful marriage? Find ways to surprise your spouse. I mean, don’t jump out of the closet in a monster mask and yell BOO!, but DO leave little “I love you” notes, send a text that says, “I miss you!”, bring home a card, or some flowers, or some other token of affection just because. God wants your marriage to be a physical reminder of how passionately HE loves you, and God’s love is always fresh, surprising and wonderful. No matter how long you’ve been married, find little ways to surprise your spouse and let them know what a gift they are to you.
Keep Dreaming—A big part of what makes the early days of dating and marriage so much fun is all the time couples spend talking about their future together. The longer couples are married, the more they tend to fall into assuming that the future will be just like today, and the day before, and the day before that. But you’re never too old to keep dreaming together! Make some time to imagine different versions of your future. You don’t even have to be serious! Imagine what you’d do if you won the lottery, or actually moved to your favorite vacation spot. Or share what your ideal life would look like! You might ask, “What’s the point of imagining a future that might never be?” Well, three things! First, being silly together is its own reward and laughter truly is the best medicine for marriage. Second, you might just find some ways to make at least parts of those fantasies a reality. And finally, you might even realize how grateful you are for the life you’ve created together already. So keep dreaming together. You’ll be surprised at the joy you find.
Have Faith in Your Marriage—Of course the most important way to have a more joyful relationship is to find more ways to share your faith. Go to Mass together, pray together every day, find ways to serve your parish or community together, encourage each other to the be the people God is calling each of you to be. Research consistently shows that couples who share a meaningful faith and vision of life are significantly happier than couples who don’t. So let the grace flow in your home, and live God’s plan for a more joy-filled marriage.
For more support in cultivating a more joyful marriage, visit us online at CatholicCounselors.com!