Are you looking for a more joyful, peace-filled marriage that is steeped in the beauty and mystery of Catholic faith? By making small changes in your habits, attitudes, and spirituality you can improve your relationships. Here are five simple ways for couples to grow closer to God and to each other:
1. Admit you were wrong.
Owning up to your own imperfection allows you to be human. Your spouse has an opportunity to forgive you, and to connect with you, as one frail, fragile, imperfect, blundering human being to another.
Remember Adam and Eve, apple, snake, that whole bit? Yea, they kind of blew it for the rest of us, but we forgive them, knowing we probably would have made the same mistake. Adam forgave Eve, too. He must have because they did still have children, after all. Their first sin of pride makes it difficult for us to fight our own pride. But if Adam can forgive Eve for making them get kicked out of the equivalent of San Diego, for say, Detroit, then we can humble ourselves and forgive each other for our small transgressions. The fate of the world, a.k.a., your marriage, may depend on it.
2. Be gracious when your spouse apologizes to you.
“Thank you for your apology. I really appreciate you saying that to me.” Doesn’t that come off even nicer than, “Apology accepted”? And especially more than “See, I told you I was right!” Get in the habit of accepting others’ defeat graciously, as well as your own!
3. Ask yourself how important the issue really is. What is the worst thing that can happen if your spouse wins this quarrel?
Winning is for losers. There’s a good chance you’ll really be the winner if you just let this one go. If your spouse’s ego is wounded, he or she may come up with ways to repair it that you won’t necessarily like. Beware of human nature. Play it safe. Be humble. Suck it up and let it go…for good.
4. Remind yourself that you are not required to believe what your spouse says.
You can improve your marriage even if your spouse doesn’t change a bit. A wise woman named Kimberly Hahn once pointed out that sometimes, especially in the heat of an argument, people say things they don’t really mean. Try not to take it personally when you know they’re not really being themselves. It’s like when you take a picture of someone just as they sneeze or yawn. The picture comes out terrible and you say, “It doesn’t do him justice.” Sometimes what he says doesn’t do him, or you, justice.
See yourself grateful that you stuck with your spouse. Researchers from the Institute for American Values followed couples in crisis who contemplated divorce. Five years later, most of those who stayed married were glad they did. Remind yourself of this the next time you think you can’t take any more. Take a deep breath, pull your shoulders back, and keep moving forward, doing what needs to be done to make things better.
If you are looking for practical, concrete ways to improve your marriage, be sure to check out, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other (Ave Maria Press), by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes.
Jennifer Roback Morse, a longtime marriage advocate, is founder of the Ruth Institute, a nonprofit, educational organization that promotes lifelong, married love to the young by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage. Betsy Kerekes is the director of online publications for the Ruth Institute.