- Recommit yourself to your marriage every single day.If you want to cultivate a strong and happy marriage, start each morning by making a renewed personal commitment to keeping your relationship healthy and rewarding. Start by remembering what you said you’d do in your wedding vows: Love your spouse. Honor her (or him!) Cherish her. Comfort her. Remain faithful to her. Do these things in good times and bad, in sickness and in health — every day of your marriage.
- Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner. It’s always best to look at how your own behavior could improve before you try to change your spouse’s.
- Evaluate where your self-worth comes from. I believe that the happiest couples draw a lot of their self-worth from their relationships with each other. Ask yourself whether or not you’re consistently relying on something other than your marriage, like your job, to make you feel good about yourself. Yes, it’s okay to proudly say, “I’m the manager of my division at work,” but you should also be able to say, “I am the world’s luckiest man to be married to my wife,” with the same sense of accomplishment.
- Consistently verbalize to your spouse the things you love and appreciate about him or her. Complimenting your partner will make her feel great in the moment, and doing so consistently is the single greatest long-term vitamin you can give your marriage. Start by reminding yourself of all of the reasons why you fell in love with him or her in the first place, and then list how much more wonderful your partner has gotten since then. Also, tell her (or him!) how much she means to you, how much you love her, and how beautiful she is ten times a day. We can’t count on hearing compliments from our kids, our coworkers, or even our friends, and we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else ever could be. Over time, this lack of positive reinforcement makes us feel small and unhappy. Make it your personal mission to ensure that your spouse feels as valued and appreciated as possible.
- Acknowledge the little things your spouse does and return the favor. In addition to complimenting your spouse, perform small but meaningful acts of kindness. For example, if your wife hates unloading the dishwasher, make a point to get into the kitchen and put away the dishes first. Acts like this don’t take much time or energy, but they show your spouse that you are paying attention and that you care — and that is truly priceless! And when you’re on the receiving end, be sure to say thank you. You’ll perpetuate a positive cycle of giving and getting in which neither party feels ignored or taken for granted.
- Learn — and then do — what makes your spouse feel most loved. While any expression of love is, of course, a good thing, we all feel loved in different ways. Even if you feel most valued when your husband gives you a hug, the same might not be true for him. It’s important to ask your spouse, “What have I done in the past that made you feel the most special?” Some people might want a date night. Others might need to be told verbally that they are the greatest. Whatever your spouse’s response is, be sure to include those actions or words into your regular repertoire.
- Don’t let resentment build. When you live in fairly close quarters with another human being, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you’re going to annoy and anger each other. While it’s not a good idea to nit-pick, don’t let negative feelings build up and fester. Even if you have to go for a walk to clear your head first, be sure to express your frustrations in a calm, constructive way — preferably before you go to bed angry. Also, remember that this is a two-way street. When your spouse is upset with you, make every effort not to fly off the handle and to fairly consider what you’re hearing. Marriage does involve compromising and modifying your behavior for another’s well-being — and believe me, your mutual happiness is worth it. If you and your spouse reach a point where you’re unable to address problems without raised voices and heated emotions, marriage counseling may be a good option because each person has the opportunity to voice dissatisfactions without being interrupted. Remember, seeking out help does not mean that you are weak or that you have failed — it means that you are acting wisely and responsibly for the good of your marriage and your future.
- Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner. It’s always best to look at how your own behavior could improve before you try to change your spouse’s. When you begin to take responsibility for areas in which you may have been dropping the ball, the dynamic of your marriage will change. Perhaps your spouse has been trapped in a cycle of negativity that has been fed by your own less-than-helpful attitude. Plus, when you begin to behave more positively, there’s a good chance your partner will begin to mirror your behavior. If, for example, you want your husband to send you love letters, start by sending love letters to him first. If you want your wife to say, “I love you” more often, start assuring her of the same thing more frequently.
- Figure out what your strengths are and play to them. You and your spouse should each play to your strengths within your marriage and back away from your weaknesses. If, for example, you’re great with words but don’t have much of a math brain, don’t take on the task of making sure the bills are paid and the accounts are balanced each month. Instead, take the lead in dealing with teachers, repairmen, etc. When you force yourself to do something for which you have little aptitude, you only frustrate yourself and, by extension, the people with whom you live.
- Date your spouse again. After a few years of marriage, many couples find that they’re going weeks at a time without having any serious conversations that don’t revolve around work, money, or kids. That’s why it’s imperative to set aside time to date your spouse and invest in the romantic part of your relationship. Without that so-called “spark,” the other parts of your life, like work and kids, will suffer too. Try to act like you did when you were both in the infatuation period of your relationship: Bring home flowers or other small gifts. Plan a special date night (maybe involving a babysitter this time around!). Get tickets to the reunion tour of a band you and your spouse loved when you first began dating. Basically, get back to the essence of how you fell in love in the first place!
- Put your Marriage in the hands of the Lord each week: Go to Mass every Sunday with your spouse/family, pay attention to everything that takes place as it occurs, and before you leave…ask yourself…. what is the one thing that stood out the most for me. Then go to breakfast, and talk about it with your spouse/family. Never underestimate the importance of celebrating, respecting, loving, and prioritizing your spouse each and every day.
This is a guest post from Tracy Earl Welliver, Director of Parish and Community Engagement with Liturgical Publications, Inc
In our parish communities, we ask people to give of themselves more and more. We use St. Paul’s image of the Body of Christ to illustrate how we all play a part in God’s Kingdom. We express that the need is great and that the only way for us to succeed is to pull together. Then, we express our frustrations behind the scenes because most people still don’t step forward. One reason why is that many seated in our pews do not have an answer to the question, “What do I have to give?”
How many people do you think feel that they have nothing to give in your parish?
With the average parish in the US only having about 7% engagement, let’s assume that number is pretty high. Let’s begin with the fact that most Catholics have a poor sense of stewardship when it comes to their finances. This is about more than what they put in the collection basket each Sunday. This is about how they view all of their financial resources. Anemic offertory totals are not the problem; it is a symptom of the problem.
Most people have no real sense of time.
Everyone seems to be equally busy, but that is impossible. In fact, most of us suffer from mismanagement of time and procrastination. Time is a precious gift, so stewardship of that time should be crucial for any mature disciple.
Too many people have no sense of their uniqueness and talents.
We are good at analyzing everyone else, but not ourselves. I have encountered too many people to count over the years who said they would give of themselves to a parish, a charity, or a civic organization, but they have nothing specific to give.
What is the answer?
Helping intentional disciples to lead a stewardship way of life. Stewardship is about more than a formal campaign and ministry fair. It is about daily living as generous beings answering the call of Jesus Christ no matter the cost.
It is a parish community’s responsibility to help people understand this life.
Parishes need to offer programs on financial planning and stewardship. All treasure is sacred, not just that ends up in the offertory. We need to teach about time management and the benefits of a prayer life. Walking with God more closely will not only refocus our time, but it will actually provide us with seemingly more time as we slow down and hand over our days to God.
Then, we need to offer programs on discernment of talents and charisms. The Called and Gifted program from the Siena Institute and Clifton StrengthsFinder© implementation and coaching from places like Catholic Life and Faith and LPI can help people see the unique beings they are and all the gifts God has given them to share. People can even find themselves liberated from a false vision of who they thought they should be, embracing the real person that God created and shaped in the Spirit.
If those in the pews can’t turn to the Church for assistance in living a stewardship way of life, where else will they go? Begin changing your parish one person at a time and soon your community will no longer see symptoms of a larger problem, but instead, fruits of stewardship community. It will become a community of disciples that answers the question, “What do I have to give?” with the answer, “Everything.”