“Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others. For this reason, they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus instituted. Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy.”
St. Josemaría Escrivá
Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, which means that it is an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace to souls and lead them to greater holiness. Doesn’t that sound so romantic? Not only do I, as a married woman, get to spend my life with my super awesome husband, but I get graces to become more holy. What a sweet deal!
Except that life isn’t actually a fairytale where everything is sunshine and roses. Things happen, like weird pregnancy hormones, where the sound of your beloved chewing on the other side of the table drives you insane! Or the stress of fighting tooth and nail to make ends meet leaving you in a less-than-romantic state.
Marriage is under spiritual attack, as even the demons understand the power of a holy, God-fearing couple. But how do we balance the spiritual blessings of marriage with the physical challenges that we are likely to encounter?
I have compiled a short list of things that we do in our marriage to keep it headed toward our heavenly end goal.
1. Go to bed angry.
Yes, I said it, and yes, I started my list off with it! Here’s the deal with this one, if you find it helpful to waste precious sleep arguing and are able to come to a resolution, good for you! But personally, I value my sleep too much and have discovered that 99 out of 100 times I am just over-tired and over-reacting. However, we NEVER sleep apart, so how in the world can you stay mad at someone who is physically lying next to you all night long? The majority of the time we wake up with a fresh perspective and can quickly and easily resolve the issue. This also helps with my number 2 tip.
2. Keep your mouth shut.
I don’t believe in the silent treatment by any means, but I do believe in holding your tongue when you are angry. Refraining from speaking until you are in the right state of mind keeps you from playing dirty and bringing up past wounds or name-calling. Then when you feel level-headed enough to discuss whatever is troubling you, you are able to address the issue at hand instead of apologizing for hurting the other person in the process by saying rash things. Hence, I recommend going to bed angry and quiet instead of sleep-deprived and with a hoarse voice from yelling. (We were married at 19 and 20, so we were perhaps a bit immature and literally had yelling matches. Thank God those days are WAY in the past!)
3. Love Letters or Confusion Crushers
This one may be the writer in me, but love letters are a must! But I find confusion crushers, as I call them, to be crucial for me to communicate when I am feeling frustrated or unable to be heard because I can’t quite portray the issue at hand using verbal communication. I find that sitting down to write a letter is a very gentle way to discuss hard topics that I wouldn’t have the courage to verbally discuss.
4. Always assume the best in the other.
In my younger days, I was a very jealous and suspicious person. I just assumed that he left the toilet seat up just to make me mad. Or that he worked long hours on the farm just to avoid spending time with me. Guess what? The world doesn’t revolve around me. Bummer. But in realizing this, I was able to assume the best, and most of the time I am correct! The toilet seat is a pretty honest mistake, and his working late in those early years was a sign of his love for me and our young family. He felt the need to prove himself and provide for those hungry little mouths.
5. Complain to your Mother-in-Law only.
I can’t remember where I heard this one, but it has always stuck with me. Your Mother-in-Law is the only other person in this world who will love your husband unconditionally. Complaining about him to a friend can and will lead to disaster as the friend won’t be as easy to forgive as you are and will start to resent your husband. So, if you absolutely feel the need to say something negative about him, I suppose your MIL can handle it.
6. Pay attention to your busy times.
During the school year, we have a pretty predictable schedule. I front-load school on Monday, so am usually pretty exhausted by the time my husband comes home. And almost every night by bedtime I’m also fairly well checked out, so Adam does an incredible job of helping get the kids’ teeth brushed and tucked into bed. I know that there is a certain week of the month when he has a lot of pressing deadlines, so I try to respect them by anticipating him working later, or leaving earlier in the morning and not scheduling anything during that time that would affect him. Because it’s predictable, no resentment builds.
7. Go to bed at the same time.
If you and your spouse can swing this, it is so crucial! Some of our most important conversations happen before we fall asleep.
8. Monthly Date Night
Enough said. Just do it! Prioritize each other and never be too “comfortable” with each other that you quit getting dolled up to go out.
We went through a phase where we were hard-core budgeting and trying to get our finances in order, so we quit buying each other gifts. Don’t. You DO NOT have to spend money on a gift, fresh chocolate chip cookies, cooking a favorite meal, or a hand-written card is more than enough. But if you don't acknowledge birthdays, Christmas or even Valentine's, it can feel like you are taken for granted, even if you both agreed to not make a big deal out of them. I’ve gotten diamond earrings for Valentine’s Day, but I think the hand-written letter with the 4-pack of glass root beer bottles brings a bigger smile to my face when reminiscing.
Obviously, I saved the best for last. Pray individually for each other, but also pray together, and if you have kids, with the kids as well. I’m not an expert in the school of prayer, but here is an example of what I mean. When I pray my morning prayers, I always mention my husband and might ask specific intentions for him. Then we pray a rosary as a family after supper. And before we go to bed, Adam and I always pray together. We each take a turn offering up our prayers of thanksgiving as well as petition.
We usually pray for the other… and Adam is WAY better at this than I am! It is such a beautiful time as he might pray thanking God for the successful doctor appointment I had that day, and that the baby in my belly is healthy. Then he might pray asking for the pain in my leg to subside, or that I have patience the next day with whatever kid may have given me a hard time that day. But it is such an intimate experience as we speak to God together about each other.
That concludes my list of tips, but I pulled a few beloved books off the shelf to share with you that I have read and highly recommend!
Marriage Insurance by Fr. Rocky Hoffmann
The Temperment God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Chosen and Cherished by Kimberly Hahn
Discernment of Spirits in Marriage by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV
Good News about Sex and Marriage by Christopher West
Please feel free to share any advice you may have, as well as book recommendations!
I will be praying for all of your marriages, and I hope that you will pray for mine as well.
Until next time, your sister in Christ,