These tips have been written for use in parish bulletins, so that couples will find little nuggets that will help them as they grow in love and relationship in their marriages. The hope is that those reading the tips will find inspiration to enrich their marriages in a manageable way, but in a way that will positively influence the love they share with their spouse.
Tip #1 – There are three essential components of successful marriages: the ability to communicate effectively; a commitment to longevity, depth and growth; and an ability to resolve conflict. Each of these components require skills which, when learnt, become the keys to a lasting marriage. Taking the time to improve your skills in these areas will result in a continual renewal of your relationship and the ability to persevere through times of stress.
Tip #2 – In every couple relationship there are two rhythms, one belonging to each spouse. Some people are slow-walkers who like to stroll through life, others are quick-steppers who like to keep up a fast pace. When two spouses have different rhythms, big strains in the relationship can occur, especially if one spouse expects the other to match their own style. We should learn to love and celebrate both our own rhythm, and that of our loved one, but we must also learn to accept that our spouse may not want to walk at the same pace we enjoy. So, use compromise and learn to understand, not fight, the rhythms of those you love.
Tip #3 – As Catholics we are called to an understanding of marriage that goes beyond the secular definition and is understood as Sacrament. Therefore, married couples are called to be a sign of God’s unconditional love for each of us, by the way they embody unconditional love for each other. Even when stress and conflict make their way into our lives, we are called to make sacred the ordinary. Stop and ask if your words and actions are reflecting Christ. If the answer is no, then change your response until you can honestly answer “yes”!
Tip #4 – It is easy to let all the responsibilities of marriage and family overtake our time and energy as a couple. To be sure to give time to your couple relationship, schedule at least one hour a week to do something fun with your spouse. Sharing fun activities together each week can be enough to get you through the more stressful times that will inevitably come along.
Tip #5 – Compliment and criticism: two words, each with a lot of power. The first word is positive, the second one destructive. Keep track for a couple of days of the number of times you do both. If the balance is in favour of compliments, good; if not, you may need to change your communication style. Research has shown that chronic criticism in a relationship is the number one reason for break-ups. Try going on a no-criticism diet for a day and see how much calmer and happier your relationship can be.
Tip #6 – As a couple journeys through life together, there will be inevitable changes that occur. These changes may be physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, mental, or perhaps, a combination of one or more of these. In order for these changes to be a positive component of a relationship, couples need to stay open to change in their partner, discuss these changes and embrace them with an attitude of acceptance.
Tip #7 – Mother Teresa wrote, ‘Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within the reach of everyone.’ Marriage allows each person in a couple relationship to experience the sweet fruit of love and caring each day they share with their spouse. Do you nourish the seeds of love in your relationship? Can you reach out to each other as a couple and find the nourishment you need? Love is precious, be sure you take care of it and you will reap a beautiful harvest.
Tip #8 – Sometimes we can get so caught up in the ‘stuff’ of life that we forget to take the time to continue to discover the person we love. Remember the first days of love and the hours you spent talking and getting to know each other? No matter how long you have been together, it is important to continue the discovery. Take some time and ask each other these questions: What makes you happiest in our relationship? What is one thing you would like to change in our relationship? Listen with an open mind and you may discover something new about your spouse.
Tip #9 – Christmas is fast approaching and the decision about what gift to buy for a spouse can cause some stress. Take the stress out of gift giving, and perhaps your marriage, by giving a gift that will keep on giving. Plan twelve dates, one for each month in the next year. Think about a dinner out, a walk in the woods, a movie, a shared coffee at a special restaurant, an evening at an upcoming play at a local theatre, or other simple moments that might bring you both some pleasure. Write them out on your own ‘gift certificate’ and spend the next twelve months enjoying the gift of each others company. It might just be the best gift you’ve ever given or received!
Tip #10 – When we value something we take extra care to ensure it will last. When it comes to our cars and houses we do regular maintenance on both, not only because they are important to us, but because we want them to work as efficiently as possible. Marriage is your most valuable asset and it deserves some maintenance too! Read a book on relationships together; seek counselling if there are major issues between you; learn how to communicate positively so your marriage continues to grow; consider attending a marriage enrichment evening sometime this year. A good start might be attending the upcoming Marriage Encounter Weekend to be held April 21/22, 2007. Our marriages deserve some maintenance too, how will you care for yours?
Tip #11 – Communication requires a willingness to listen to each other and the ability to resolve conflicts by being open to compromise. Sometimes, even the best relationships can fall into the 'need to be right' trap. This need to be right can build up walls between a couple, as the person needing to be right can no longer see the other’s point of view or needs. This is a marriage stressor, so ask yourself, "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be loved and loving?"
Tip #12 – Much of our lives involve tasks that will ensure those things of value to us are well looked after. How many of us take REAL time to 'pay attention to' or 'give time to' focus just on our marriage? Your marriage can be whatever you want it to be, if you are willing to ensure it receives regular check ups and maintenance!
Tip #13 – Faith and marriage are connected and we have the research to prove it! Couples who share a faith and who practice their faith together report much more satisfying relationships and have a greater chance of staying together then those who do not. Be sure you use this information to help your marriage thrive: pray together at meals and before you go to sleep; attend mass together; attend a faith based workshop together; share and discuss a daily reflection. With God as a central part of your marriage you will find great support and protection.
Tip #14 – Dr. Willard Harley, a noted psychologist and author, when looking for the key to love in marriage, found that it is all about deposits in our love bank. When we associate good feelings with a person, we deposit ‘love notes’, but when we associate bad feelings with that person, we withdraw love notes. In the early stages of a relationship, both people make lots of deposits and as a result fall in love. All too often, after a few years or more of marriage we begin to make too many withdrawals: we stop complimenting each other; we criticize each other in public; we spend less time together as a couple as children arrive. Romantic love changes because we forget to make love deposits. The largest deposits in our love banks occur when we have our emotional needs met. Try making some deposits into your spouses love bank and you will reap some great rewards!
Tip #15 – We all want marriages that are strong, fulfilling and happy. One way to help this happen is to celebrate your marriage. Take some time to remember what is good and to bring it to the forefront of your thinking. Here are a few ideas: tell your spouse you love them every day; give a 'just-because' gift; toast each other with a glass of wine or champagne; get your picture taken, just the two of you; walk holding hands; meet someplace dressed up. Little things can go a long way in reminding ourselves that love is right before our eyes!
Tip #16 – Everyday we make choices about how we will respond in the world in which we live. We are careful to keep control and act in a certain manner when we are at work and out in public. Today make the decision to act lovingly toward your spouse, the person with whom you are sharing your life. Decide to say something nice; overlook an annoying habit; make a point of complimenting them on something nice they do for you; recognize their love for you; share a smile or a touch; offer to take a moment to hear about their day.
Tip #17 – Love is a choice and we are called to live our choice in a positive manner and as a verb! To do this it is important to remember, especially at difficult moments, that when we married we each said, “I do” and committed ourselves to one another. So “do”: think before you speak, compliment often and say “I love you” daily; it will be good for both of you!
Tip #18 – The greatest gift we can give our spouse is the gift of true love: total commitment, trust, caring, compassion, understanding, joy and support. At Christmas time, give the gift of love to your spouse in a way that will last all year. Plan a special monthly date, commit to writing a card or note to your loved one several times throughout the year, promise to tell your spouse one good thing they have done for you each and every day, commit to doing one small thing daily to make your spouse smile, attend mass together weekly, pray together at least once a day. These are all small gifts with great power: the power to rekindle and maintain love.
Tip #19 – As the New Year begins we often make resolutions for making our lives better. This year why not resolve to view your actions in a manner that will help put your spouse’s needs at the forefront of your relationship. Ask what you can give to your relationship, instead of what your relationship can give to you. Everyone will be happier!
Tip #20 – Marriage Teaches Love: Our relationship is teaching our children the most important lessons of their lives - how to love, how to disagree, how to forgive, how to grow together, how to live. God gives us the grace to be the best teachers we can be. Our children are watching; what do they see?
Tip #21 – Marriage in the Catholic Church is a sacrament: our love for each other is to mirror the love of God for each person. It is good now and then to reflect on our marriages and discern whether they truly reflect the total love and giving of God’s love. It is not easy, but love is a choice and the decision to love can and should influence how we treat our spouse.
Tip #22 – Children are a beautiful extension of our marriages. They are certainly a blessing, but meeting their needs naturally changes our couple relationship. During these important years never forget to take time for each other. One of the best gifts we can give our children is a strong, loving marriage.
Tip #23 – In spring we move outdoors to revitalize our lawns and gardens. Take the time to nurture and revitalize your relationship as well by asking, “What did we do for each other today?” Turning to one another and asking the question helps us to grow as a couple.
Tip #24 – Leaving a Legacy: Marriages that have lasted over the long haul allow generations to look back and grow forward. They are living examples of what it means to have lasting love; they give hope. Marriage is at the heart of family, so celebrate your marriage milestones!
Tip #25 – Communication - the key is to make it an on-going part of your relationship. Sharing news, complimenting each other and discussing issues as they arise keeps us connected and prevents difficulties from piling up and becoming more difficult to resolve. Regular communication is a great maintenance plan for your marriage!
Tip #26 – Conflict resolution is a necessary part of every relationship. It can be positive instead of negative when we forgive our spouses easily and when we readily admit that we have made a mistake. The goal should always be to resolve the issue between us and get back to being happy!
Tip #27 – Love can be shown in many ways. Take a few moments to write down a few traits that you appreciate about your spouse and then take the time to share them. Your spouse will feel your love through your words and so will you!
Tip #28 – The first language we learn is a language without words, an important part of how we communicate emotions throughout our lives – it is the language of touch. Evidence suggests it can lead to an immediate change in how people think and behave. Touch conveys love, caring and a message of closeness. So, touch your spouse’s hand, give a little shoulder rub, embrace with a little hug and see how it can fill your hearts.
Tip #29 – The month of November is a month of remembrance and gives us the opportunity to remember those who have gone before us. This is a perfect time to focus on the reality that our time together is precious. Be with each other and rejoice in moments shared!
Tip #30 – Give your spouse the best gift of all this Christmas …Life-long loving requires that we say to our spouse “Show me how to love you better.”
Tip #31 – As the New Year begins, many people decide on resolutions to improve their lives. This year, why not focus on how to be a great spouse? Consider how you speak to and about each other. Work toward being positive partners. You’ll enjoy spending time with each other when you are building each other up!
Tip #32 – February is known as the month of love. The word is so easy to say, but its real meaning is held in the actions we connect to it: how committed we are to each other, the things we do for each other and how often we think of the needs of our spouse first. How did you say “I love you” today?
Tip #33 – When God is a part of your marriage your marriage is stronger. Lent is a perfect time to connect intimately with both God and your spouse. Take the time to reflect, as a couple, on a short bible passage (either daily or weekly). Simply select a passage to read and then share with your spouse your reaction and thoughts around the words you have read. It can become an expression of love to both God and your spouse!
Tip #34 – Spring cleaning is about revitalizing our hibernating homes. It’s also a great time to refresh our marriages. Make the decision as a couple to spend some time together on a mini-date taking a walk or sharing a coffee; give your spouse some “guilt-free” time off from household duties; learn something new about your spouse (no matter how long you’ve been married!); tell your spouse why they are still special to you. Remember what it was like to be newly in love? This spring, feel that way all over again.
Tip #35 – In Fall we assess our homes in preparation for the winter ahead. Why not take some time to prepare your relationship for those inevitable stormy moments which every relationship encounters? Spend some time together sharing future goals, go on a date and spend time together, or better still, consider signing up for a Marriage Encounter/Enrichment weekend (offered November 12/13) and reconnect in a way that will weather any storm. Spending time on your relationship is sure to boast a bountiful harvest.
Tip #36 – In the fall we de-clutter – we look through our material goods, let go of things that are not useful and keep those we need and love. Sometimes relationships need to be de-cluttered too! Look closely at how you interact with your spouse: keep what is working, what connects you and what you love about your relationship and let go of the non-useful “stuff.” Are you in the habit of complaining, using sarcasm, acting moody, or spending too much time away from each other? Love is a choice; choose to de-clutter harmful actions and spend more time on those things that connect you and deepen your love
Family Tip for December 2011 – According to some customs, Advent is a time to reflect on the upcoming celebration of Christmas by lighting the candles of the Advent wreath and to focus each week on a different aspect of the season: hope, peace, joy and love. As a family, take some time after the events of Christmas (Mass, gift-giving, extended family gatherings and a big meal) to quietly reflect on these precious concepts in your own lives. Talk about the hope that our faith provides us in the everyday trials of life; discuss what it means to have true inner peace and our call as Catholics to reconcile our differences with those closest to us; express your joy in being part of your immediate family and tell each person what they mean to you, then remind each other of the joy that comes from being part of God’s family; speak to each other of God’s deep love for us, exemplified by sending his Son to die for our sins and to unite us with him in eternity, then express how you show love each day to those in your family. Christmas is a time to create moments that draw us together as family; conversations deep in meaning will certainly do just that!
Tip #38 – In the New Year we often take the time to set goals or resolutions for ourselves, ones that will improve us as a person. This is a great time to set some goals for who you will be in your married relationship. Make a resolution to determine little ways that you might be a better spouse: compliment; say I love you; help with a task you wouldn’t normally do; plan a special date. Life is about choices and we can choose to be a better spouse for our loved one!
Tip #39 – It is impossible to live life without experiencing personal crosses. Marriages are not immune to this reality, but we are not alone in bearing our crosses. The Grace provided in the sacraments helps to sustain us and Jesus came to show us how to navigate life, including times of difficulty. Lent is a time to reflect, as a couple, on the life of Jesus Christ, his sacrifice on the cross and his death and resurrection. The cross gives us hope for the future - as we face our own personal crosses, it gives us strength and hope to work through difficulties in our lives.
Tip #40 – Although at times we may wish we could change our spouse, the truth is we can only really change ourselves. The good news is research proves that when one person makes the conscience decision to improve what they bring to their relationship, their partner cannot help but be changed as well. Is there an area of your marriage where you could be a better spouse? Working on that component can bring positive change to both of you.
Tip #41 – The warmer days of spring prompt us to get outdoors to work and play at things we have not participated in during the colder days of winter. This is a great period to take the time to renew your commitment to work and play together as spouses. In the rush of everyday life, we can forget to take time to nurture, spend time with and connect more fully with the person we have committed to for life. Spring clean your relationship – you won’t regret it!
Tip #42 – Our faith tells us that God created us to be relational, but living in relationship can sometimes be a challenge. Research proves that true happiness comes from good relationships, both with God and others in our lives. The good news is we have control over what we bring to our couple bond; we control what we say and do. When we practise patience, constantly treat our spouse with respect and engage with each other using kindness as an unceasing tool, happiness will surround our couple relationship.
Tip #43 – Summer often brings a little reprieve from the bustle of our busy lives. It’s a great period to spend some extra time with your spouse reconnecting as a couple. Share a coffee in the early morning, read the same book and talk about its content, take daily walks together, spend some relaxed time preparing meals. Tranquil moments together reduce our stress and remind us that being together is both enjoyable and loving.
Tip #44 – Angry words, spoken in the heat of the moment, can be emotionally scarring. When anger surfaces, the old adage “count to ten before you speak” is a good one to remember - it provides a buffer to calm the emotions. Anger is a normal emotion, but how and when it is expressed can result in a positive or negative relationship moment. Take a few seconds and ask yourself how you might best express your anger without leaving lasting marks on your love relationship.
Tip #45 –Time together is the greatest protector for loving relationships, but often hard to realize because of busy lives. Experts believe that couples need to spend at least 15 hours per week together to truly realize the bonding and support intended by God from their marriages. When you said, “I do,” it included wanting to spend time with the one you love. Time together can be varied: exercise, take up a hobby, cook, attend Mass as a couple. Plan time together - you will feel happier, more relaxed and more in love!
Tip #46 – Christmas can be a stressful time for couples trying to meet the demands of the season. Take a quiet moment, just the two of you, to ask each other what the most important part of the Christmas season is for each of you. When this is determined, you can easily negotiate how to change, cancel, or negotiate other obligations that are causing stress, so that you are in control. It will mean a more joyful season, with love filling the air, not words spoken in anger due to stress.
Tip #47 - When arguments get out of control, the words spoken can be very damaging. They are words of anger and not words from the heart, so they leave a negative and lasting effect. In times of tension use these tips: learn to use a quiet voice; speak as though you are at work; take a break from the discussion and agree to talk about it later; learn to put “we” above “me” by speaking from the heart
instead of the anger. Take some time to learn good communication skills so you can avoid resorting to words of anger. You will never regret speaking the truth in love.
Tip #48 - Called to Forgive
The Easter season is a perfect time to remember that our faith calls us to forgiveness. Jesus’ rising from the dead provides us with an understanding that even in the darkest moments there is hope. Stepping beyond our hurt to calmly explain how we are feeling and offer forgiveness brings healing and peace to both our hearts and relationship. Holding on to anger and hurt damages our bond of love
and deprives us of joy as a couple. Forgiveness – you will never regret giving or receiving it!
Tip #49 – Experts tell us that we need to spend quality time with our spouse to gain the true connection that we seek with one we love. Taking a walking, reading a book together, eating a dinner together after the kids are in bed, asking what you did good today as a couple
and what you could have done better at the end to the day – these are all ways to strengthen the love you share and uncover the feelings of dating that you once shared!
Tip #50 – Love is a commitment, one that has bright days, gray days and everything in-between days. When we persevere and work through our struggles in positive ways, our relationship grows stronger and more resilient. When we understand that God is with us in our marriage, it reminds us that we are never alone. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (4:13) When we turn to God together in daily prayer, our love grows and deepens and is capable of handling any day that comes our way.
Tip #51 – When we first fall in love it is difficult for anyone to point out the flaws in our “perfect” mate. Over time though, we become well aware of those less than perfect qualities! When we continue to see the good qualities that attracted us to each other, we can tolerate the imperfections, but if we focus on the negative we can become critical and dissatisfied. Take the time to focus on the good characteristics of the one you love – and tell them why you love that part of them. You will see a more positive person come forward.
Tip #52 – Don’t miss out on words of encouragement, compliments and/or gratitude that your spouse speaks to you by putting up blocks to accepting these moments of emotional connection. Let down your shield and receive the caring words as they are intended and watch the closeness between the two of you grow.
Tip #53 – The Three Dog Nights singing group had a hit that contained the following: “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know. Two can be as bad as one it’s the loneliest number since the number one.” When it comes to marriage, coming together as two is not meant to be lonely, it is meant to be life-giving, joyful and a shared partnership. Talk as a couple and find out if loneliness is being experienced by one or both of you – don’t ignore the feelings. Plan to share on a more intimate level the “stuff” of life; spend time together engaging in activity; be specific about what you need so you will not feel lonely in your marriage – combatting loneliness is vital if you want to recapture the joy and meaning of your married relationship.
Tip #54 – As Christmas approaches and the New Year draws close, it is a perfect time to think of the gift of love given to each other on the day you married. Is the gift still shiny and a joy to experience, or is it a bit dull, thought about only after so many other things are dealt with? This Christmas, give renewed love as a gift to your spouse - rekindled, joyful and desired. Take time to discern what you need to make that “newly married love” as much a gift today as it was the day you married.
Tip #55 – Men and women are sometimes said to be as different as night and day and yet, those two times of the day are united, blending into each other, each providing something to the world. As husbands and wives we bring unique qualities to our relationships, blending together to make our own special union of love. Seeking to understand, accepting and embracing our differences and rejoicing in moments of similarity serve to create a relationship that is both confident and loving.
Tip #56 – Marriage isn’t about the word I - it is about the words we and us. Most married couples understand this, but living it is not so simple. Love is an active word, requiring both partners to see themselves as one unit. It means constantly seeking what will be best for each person in your love union. With the help of God, celebrating your covenant daily is made possible. Love is about what you do for each other and how you step beyond yourself to live fully those most important words: we and us.
Tip #58 – Our marriages are supposed to reflect, through our love for each other, how much God loves each person. Showing this Godly love can sometimes be a challenge, especially when our human selves are less than perfect! When we set our minds to consciously changing how we act, we can do better. Pope Francis encourages us to, “Set your stakes on great ideals, the ideals that enlarge the heart, the ideals of service that makes your talents fruitful…do not be afraid to dream great things!” Dream great things for your marriage and your love will flourish as God intended!
Tip #59 – Leftovers can be good, but most of us would not want to eat them every day! This is true when it comes to our married relationship as well. Occasional busy days or weeks may mean our spouse gets our leftover time, but when we make this the norm, our connection to each other starts to unravel. Time management ensures we accomplish what is necessary and important – make sure time with your spouse is a true priority.
Tip #60 – Marriage means making daily decisions about who we will be in our relationship. We choose how to act and those choices have a profound impact on our loved one. We can choose to focus on traits in our partner that bother us, or we can choose to focus on those good, loving and particular qualities that drew us to our spouse. We can choose not to verbalize our expectations, or we can articulate our needs and openly discuss how as a couple we can strive to meet each other’s needs. We can choose to stay silent until we are calm and then discuss difficulties, or we can choose to act in anger and say things unintended. Love is a choice – good choices make for happier, healthier marriages. Choose well!
Tip #61 – Time for ourselves as a couple can seem like a precious commodity, especially when we have young children. Time together though, engaging with each other, having fun, sharing moments for the two of us, strengthens the bonds a couple share and deepens our love. Not having enough time to spend together, just the two of you, is not an option – book yourselves some couple time and watch your love grow stronger and your attraction for each other deepen.
Tip #62 – At the Synod in Rome, which wrapped up its deliberations on October 19, 2014, Pope Francis and more than 200 delegates discussed in detail the challenges faced by families in the world today. In their discussions they reminded us that we are not alone, that God is with us as we journey. Taking that message seriously can have a positive impact on your married relationship – attending Mass as a couple, praying together and even joining in parish events have proven benefits in producing happier marriages. God is with us – invite him in and see how his presence will have a constructive impact on your married life!
Tip #63 – Christmas is a time of joy in families, but also a time of stress as we do too much, eat too much and spend too much! This year make Christmas truly special by slowing things down just a little. Spend some time together, just the two of you; tell your spouse why you see them as a gift all year long. Express your love to your spouse – knowing how you feel about them and why you feel that way may be the greatest gift they will receive.
Tip #64 – In marriage we can sometimes focus on the habits of our spouse that annoy us, rather than looking inward at ourselves and asking how we might be a better partner to the one we love. Ask yourself what one thing you can do today to be a better spouse and then do it; choose a new item to focus on each week. As we change how we connect with our spouse, their response to us will also change and suddenly, life is better. Adopt a new way of acting toward your spouse and watch your marriage thrive!
Tip #65 – If someone asked you what qualities a person needs to be a good spouse, there is no doubt that you would be able to name several. So ask yourself, “Do I engage these same qualities in my own marriage?” Marriage is the foundation of a family and as a couple it is up to each spouse to make the foundation strong. Do you expect as much from yourself as you do from your spouse? Have you asked your spouse what you can do better? Have we practised love in action?
Tips #66 – As spring arrives most people move outdoors and observe their living quarters from a different vantage point. They discard any garbage that has accumulated over the winter, pull weeds, turn the soil over, spread fertilizer and plant flowers, all so they can enjoy their gardens as the summer months unfold. It is good now and then to do the same kind of maintenance on your marriage. Take the time to sit down and have a discussion about what bad habits, poor communication, or other actions have accumulated in your marriage that are acting as excess garbage. Discuss ways of discarding the old habits and discern ways to move forward so that together you can plant new methods of being, speaking and loving each other. Big or small changes can result in healthier connections, allowing you to truly enjoy the summer and autumn of your relationship!
Tips #67 – Life is not perfect and neither are we, which means that in every relationship there will be moments when things go wrong. When these times occur we can discuss what is wrong and find a solution to the situation, or we can tap into the “blame game” by attributing the problem to our spouse’s behaviour, a character weakness within them, or one of their so called “flaws.” This type of behaviour never resolves problems or issues, but leads to defensiveness and anger in both spouses. When you make solving the issue or problem your common goal, you will look together at what needs to be done to make the situation better. When that happens you can unite in a solution, instead of isolating yourselves from the one you love.
Tips #68 – Life sometimes throws so much “stuff” at us that we feel we are running on a treadmill that just won’t stop. Down time seems non-existent, and experts tell us that most adults are not at their best because they are constantly sleep deprived. If you see yourself in that statement, then it is time to stop for a moment and ask how this busy life is impacting your married relationship. Do you make your spouse a priority, or do they get the leftovers, of which there are often none? Do you find yourself impatient with the one you love because you are stressed and tired? Marriage is a commitment to the other made in love – are you putting your spouse first, or last? It is an important question to resolve if you want a connected, loving, joyful marriage.
Tips #69 – No marriage or relationship remains stagnant – life changes and experiences that occur on a day to day basis mold and shape us and therefore, our relationships. Now and then it is good to stop and check the new you and see how you have changed: how have these changes impacted your relationship with those you love, especially your spouse? Are you communicating well with your spouse, continuing to be open and honest about your needs and wants and to finding out what theirs might be? Marriage is a work in progress which thrives when we remember to do a checkup now and then!
Tip #70 – In this Year of Mercy, the Pope calls each of us to engage in works of mercy. In marriages we can do this by striving to have a conciliatory spirit. This can be done by comforting our spouse when they are having difficult days, forgiving our spouse when they offend us in word or deed and by patiently bearing wrongs, while expressing what we need instead. Marriage is a place of intimacy and love - both are strengthened when we purposely practice a conciliatory spirit.
Tip #71 – Before a couple begins to parent, they first have a relationship with each other. We know that the best gift parents can give their children is a strong and healthy relationship. Time together as a couple is an excellent way to strengthen your bond – it ensures that love continues to flourish, that you don’t lose your connection to each other as husband and wife and shows your children that you love spending time together. Make spending time as a couple a priority and you will soon see the value it has in your lives.
Tip #72 – New love spurs us on to spend as much time as possible with each other. Once we marry we can get so caught up in the demands of work, home and family that we can lose the sense of connection that pulled us toward each other at the start. Preparing and eating dinner together, sharing a walk, enjoying a good movie, attending Mass, or reading a book together are all great examples of ways to create a stronger couple connection. Building this connection is an important way to form a strong and lasting relationship. Spend time together and see where it takes you!
Tip #73 – As a member of a couple it is important to decide which is more important to you: being right or being connected. When it comes to conflict, which exists in every relationship, it is important to see the other’s view, decide where compromises are possible and together come up with a solution that works for both of you. With a “we” attitude in all you do, including conflict resolution, you can feel more deeply connected and content.
Tip #74 - Pope Francis, in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), challenges married couples to understand that their love is a call to sacrificial love. He invites each spouse to see their married love as love that must be first and fore-most self-giving. When a person in relationship understands this, it helps them to reach beyond themselves and indeed grow. When we take the time to discern our vision of married life and then reach into ourselves to make it happen, both spouses benefit. The Pope is reminding us that love may not be perfect, but it is love and when we nurture it from within, we strengthen and build a deep bond between us.
Tip #75 - The gift of self promised during our wedding vows is essential to put into action during moments of struggle. When a spouse’s actions cause anger, sadness or disappointment, we must try to look past the action or words and see the person you love. Instead of responding negatively in the moment, try to understand what has caused this situation and propose a resolution that will work for both of you and for your relationship. In our most vulnerable moments we have a chance to show our greatest love by responding as we should, as opposed to how we feel.
Tip #76 - Observing Lent as a couple is an excellent way to deepen both your spiritual and marital bond. Talk about each of your Lenten resolutions and then assist each other to achieve it. Challenge each other to keep to your resolve, pray for each other on your 40 day journey, and take up activities as a couple that will deepen your faith. Take the three Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving into your relationship and journey the path together. Consider 40 acts of kindness toward each other for the 40 days of Lent. When you focus on achieving goals together, it strengthens your relationship bond as a couple and with God – a win-win Lenten season.
Tip #77 - Two powerful indicators of the health of any relationship are how those involved communicate and settle conflict. Communication works best when people use positive methods: state clearly what you want or need, don’t have serious discussions when one or both people are angry, express your love by telling your husband/wife what you love about them, show gratitude on a daily basis and believe you are on the same team, so a resolution must work for both. When we look at conflict as a way to reach out to our spouse and explore our differences, emotions and feelings, we begin to pull something positive out of what may seem at first to be a negative. Words can harm or heal, use yours carefully and properly and your relationship will flourish.
Tip #78 - We live in a time of digital distractions: have you set boundaries around how you will prevent smartphones, tablets and other devices from impacting your life? Their interference has become so prevalent that researchers now have a term to describe it, “technoference,” and it is real. How can you take control and decrease the negative impact: limit the amount of time you spend on and checking devices; make rules about digital use during time together; agree on when devices will be prohibited (at meals, on a date, in bed) and stick to it. Disconnect from your devices, not your relationship, and you’ll both be happier!
Tip #79 - As a couple it is important to spend time with each other. Take the time to plan something for the two of you to do together at least once a week. Try something new, it will add variety and spice to your life. Have each spouse take a turn planning the activity, but keep it simple. A walk on a new trail, hot chocolate instead of coffee, a new recipe that you will cook together – these will bring moments of joy, not stress. Both quantity and quality of time together matter in a marriage, so try something new and watch for a positive impact!
Tip #80 - Marriages that are cared for reap rewards as the years pass: both people feel connected and in love; children feel secure in the love of their parents; they share times of joy and an ability to pull together when trials present themselves. Couple care includes spending time together, using good communication skills, and asking each other, “What are we doing well, what could we be doing better.” The rewards for continuous care of your marriage are endless!
Tip #81 - Rita McNeil’s Christmas song titled, With My Family, has the following line: “All I want under my tree is peace and love and harmony.” It is what we all want in our relationships, but it is important to ask ourselves what we are willing to do to get it. Will we take a peaceful approach to conflict, will we love the good pieces and the struggling pieces of our spouses and will we act in ways that bring us together in our decisions. The line ends with, “Wrap it with a ribbon please, I’ll share it with my family.” What a great Christmas gift to your spouse – a promise to work on peace and love and harmony!
Tip #82 - Love flourishes when we understand the three critical components of every relationship: firm commitment, excellent communication skills and disciplined conflict resolution styles. Love demands that we model these three skills for our spouse and includes a healthy dose of forgiveness when either one of us doesn’t manage a situation quite right. When we work on building these skills together, our love can’t help but grow strong.
Tip #83 - In February we celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, but love is an action word, needed every day of every month. This year try something different for Valentine’s Day – make a commitment to tell each other on the 14th of every month what it is you love about each other. An attitude of gratitude, recognizing the good in the other and making a point of telling each other why you are in love is a great way to put love into action and it helps you to never take your love for granted.
Tip #84 - The fall harvest is a result of work undertaken throughout the spring and summer. Watering, nourishing, protecting from insects and the weather all contribute to a healthy yield. Why then do we sometimes forget that relationships too need to be cared for? Do we nourish, protect and nurture our spouses? Care for them gently and speak softly? As St. Francis de Sales said, “The worst way of speaking is to speak too much. Therefore speak little and well, speak little and gently, speak little and charitably, speak little and amiably.” A harvest of love can fill every relationship, but it takes commitment and purposeful work to keep our love strong.
The tips have been put together by the Family Ministry Office; contact us at 905-528-7988.