Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
1. Make time for each other. Busy family life and work schedules will never leave wide open spaces in which to connect with your husband or wife. You need to make spending time together a priority and then MAKE the time for it. Your married “dates” don’t all have to be fancy dinners out with paid babysitters, though. You can schedule time for coffee together in the morning, open a bottle of wine after the kids have gone to bed, or watch a movie on a lazy weekend afternoon. Just spend that time together.
2. Say “I love you.” I’ve heard some wives complain that saying “I love you” all the time when leaving each other or ending a phone call can become routine and therefore (they think) meaningless, but I think “I love you” should be routine. It can be said in more meaningful moments, too, of course, but committed love is supposed to be a routine, “given” part of your married relationship. Make it a habit! Say it often!
3. Show “I love you.” The real problem with verbal “I love you’s” comes when they aren’t backed up by loving actions. In married life, small things can go a long way toward making your spouse feel cherished. Noticing his or her preferences and needs and making small efforts toward making those things happen will make your spouse’s heart soar. What will it be? A surprise clean kitchen sink? An organized tie rack? A favorite drink or snack? Make it happen.
4. Do things together. Nothing builds a marriage like shared goals. Hopefully you and your spouse already share long-term goals like getting to heaven and the health and well-being of your children, but shorter-term goals are equally important parts of building a healthy marriage. Plan a household project together, cook a meal together, or set fitness goals you can share. Bonding is made of small stuff like this!
5. Apologize. “I’m sorry” are some of the most healing words you can ever speak in your marriage. It’s easy for couples who live together in a committed relationship to take one another for granted and hurt each other’s feelings with thoughtless words and actions. If you’ve been fighting, even if your spouse shares some of the blame, never hesitate to say “I’m sorry” and work toward reconciliation. The sooner, the better.
6. Listen. Women have a (mostly well-earned) reputation for being the “communicators” in our relationships. Men can support their wives by practicing the fine art of just listening when their wives want to vent about negative feelings, anxieties, or personal challenges. Don’t “fix” us, please. Just listen and support. A wife can support her less chatty husband by respecting a man’s quieter approach to problems and not attempting to force him to talk them through. His silence says, “I need some time to work through this right now and am not ready to talk yet.” Listen to that. Respect that.
7. Pray. Pray for your marriage alone and pray with your spouse (if he or she is willing). Ask God to shower your relationship with the graces you gained in the sacrament of matrimony. Pray to your spouse’s guardian angel, asking for protection and the grace to draw closer to Christ. Offer small sacrifices for your spouse’s intentions, especially during challenging times.
(Well look at that, it’s Friday and I made a list of seven things. Let’s go ahead and call this a 7 Quick Takes post ... See them all and post your own at ConversionDiary.com.)