28 ways to be a better Valentine

| February 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. CNS

A groom and bride hold hands on their wedding day. CNS

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, The Catholic Spirit invited local marriage-focused organizations to share practical tips for Catholics seeking to build stronger marriages. The following 23 suggestions come from the Cana Family Institute, Marriage in Christ, Retrouvaille and Couples in Christ.

bigstock-Valentine-Hearts1. Include God in your marriage. Our mission as spouses is to help each other get to heaven. Without God, that is not possible. To help with our mission, ask God to help you become the lover he would be to your spouse. Then do what it takes to follow his advice.

2. Have a shared mission and write it down. We regularly make plans and goals for work, personal growth and financial security. Your marriage is the heart of all of these. What is the mission and purpose of your marriage? God has brought you together for a purpose; where is he taking you? What do you want to achieve as a couple? Spend time with your spouse charting your course.

3. Be there for your spouse. We have many responsibilities every day and we work with many others in service, in our work and with those who educate our children. You are your spouse’s most precious ally. Pray for your spouse in different moments of the day, asking for grace to be poured into his or her heart.

4. Know yourself. You are your spouse’s helpmate, a gift for the journey. Commit yourself to a program of daily prayer and reflection, focusing on a virtue and looking for ways to practice it each day and, if at all possible, work with a spiritual director to seek to know and follow God’s will to love and cherish your spouse each day. Pray to be given the grace to become the spouse you’re called to be. Keep a gratitude journal by writing a specific thing your spouse does each day you are thankful for. At some point, you could give it to your spouse as a sign of your gratitude.

5. Live as a team. Marriage heals through the sacramental grace you received on your wedding day. You and your spouse bring together the head and the heart of your family, a strength for providing the flourishing environment for bringing children into the world and forming them to know they are loved by our heavenly Father. Regularly talk about how you’re doing as a couple emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and in the intimacy you share with each other. Plan how you need to form your children in virtue and service to others. Read a good book together; it makes for great conversations. Going to Mass every Sunday as a family requires a team — mom and dad — to manage all of the preparation necessary to arrive on time.

6. Maintain respect and appreciation for each other. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way in response to daily household activities like cooking a meal, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn and plowing the driveway. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and valued by their spouse. Plus, “a thankful heart is a happy heart.” When you have a disagreement with your spouse, remember that you are here to help each other get to heaven. A little humility goes a long way in a marriage.

7. Learn together. Read good, solid Catholic books and attend talks and conferences on marriage, personality types, gender differences, etc. The more you know about human nature, the better you will understand and love yourself and your spouse. The time and effort to educate yourself will pay off.

8. When you hurt one another, don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Say, “Honey, I was wrong to do that. Please forgive me.”

9. Build friendship by asking each other to share memories. Ask each other, “What do you remember about our first date?”, “Do you remember our first kiss?”, “What do you remember about the first time you saw me?”

10. Do the things you used to do when you were courting. Wink at your spouse across the room. Leave little notes for your spouse to find. Tell your spouse that you are in love with him or her.

11. Be attentive. Decide not to text someone else while you are talking to your spouse. It’s rude.

12. Compliment your spouse in front of your children.

13. Communicate. Develop the ability to describe your feelings so your spouse hears and understands the true reasons of the feelings you are experiencing. Understand that there is a reason why they feel as they do. Often, anger is a secondary feeling to a deeper hurt.

14. Nurture your faith life. Seek a closer relationship with God, individually and as a couple, in order to receive and experience the graces he can give, including patience, wisdom, mercy and forgiveness, compassion, generosity and sacrificial love. Nurturing faith can happen through prayer, regular Mass attendance together, growth and development through reading Scripture or other spiritual readings, meditation and using the sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation.

15. Look in the mirror. Instead of looking at your spouse and pointing out everything they do that upsets you, stop and look at yourself and ask, “What am I doing to influence this situation and what can I do differently to get a different outcome?” It is difficult to truly look at ourselves and determine how our actions may influence our spouse’s behavior. Be flexible and open to change.

16. Curb outside influences. Don’t let your children’s activities become the center of your marriage relationship. Something similar can be said of your own self interests. Don’t let your marriage suffer from time commitments to individual activities. Find common interests with your spouse that you can share and spend time together.

17. Ask for help when needed. If you have ongoing struggles and problems communicating in your marriage, it is OK to seek help, whether that means counseling, speaking with your pastor or attending the Retrouvaille program. Many people wait too long before asking for help.

18. Love each other unconditionally. Marriage is a commitment to give 100 percent of yourself to the other person unconditionally, whether the spouse is able to give 100 percent or not. Love is choosing to love each other during times when your spouse falls short or when you are having a difficult time liking each other. Love that is not conditional, or dependent upon expectations, promotes healing and acceptance, and this type of love strengthens spouses to grow in love with each other even more.

19. Value each other and your marriage. Don’t forget to still be a couple once the children arrive. Take time for nurturing your marriage without the kids occasionally. It doesn’t need to be expensive or even involve money. But be sure to be husband and wife, not just mom and dad. Having the kids see how much their parents love each other and value their marriage is one of the very best gifts you can give your children. You are modeling marriage for them every day with your devotion.

20. Pray together. Even if it’s a regular meal grace that grandma taught you. Pray an Our Father before bed. Pray a rosary together. Pray with your own words your gratitude for your spouse or how you want God to bless and help him or her. Go to church together. Talk about your sacrament, how God is making you — in your marriage — to be a sign of his covenant love for a world that desperately needs to know true love.

21. Do the little things. The greatest thing that a husband can do for his children is to love their mother (and vice versa for wives). Do the little things for her because true love is visible, like opening a car door, giving flowers on special occasions and praising her in the presence of the children. The little things in marriage make a big difference.

22. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep outside pressures, such as work, out of the home so that it’s a peaceful place to be. We are all imperfect and have our faults and flaws. Don’t expect your spouse to be just like you. When we are courting, we seem to be oblivious to all the little annoying habits that later may start to bother us. Instead, understand that we are all different, and value the uniqueness of your spouse. Look at the positive attributes that attracted you to your spouse in the first place.

23. Create a support network of friends who also value traditional marriage. Having Catholic values in our society can be challenging; rely on your spouse, relationships with people at church and your relationships with other faithful Catholics to stand strong in your values. You could consider forming a group of married friends to support, study and share.

24. Reflect together. Look back on the week and share with your spouse a story of how you saw the Holy Spirit at work in your relationship.

25. Make the decision to love every day. Make a conscious decision to be respectful and loving toward your spouse daily. Love is not a feeling, it is a decision. Remember that we are all human. Be forgiving of your spouse when mistakes are made.

26. Make sex a priority. Keep the unitive and procreative aspects of love-making intact for the deepest experience of intimacy and communion with your spouse and God. Stay open to life and love.

27. Take quality time together. Give your spouse the gift of your time. Date each other. Sometimes it means spending quality time like communication with each other about each other, finances, children, sex, etc. Sometimes it means recreation, such as watching a movie or playing a game, or service, such as cleaning the house or cooking together.

28. Build in fun and laughter. One of the best ways to do this is to build it into your week. Even when you are crazy busy, be sure you build in time for fun together. Otherwise, it might not happen. You don’t have to have it all planned out, just make schedule and then you can be spontaneous. A sense of humor goes a long way, even when things are not going well. Don’t forget how to laugh.

Connect with our sources

Cana Family Institute is a Brooklyn Park-based apostolate that offers services and programs, including Familia, that support marriage and family.

Couples in Christ is the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake’s small-group ministry for married couples.

Marriage in Christ is an Eagan-based organization that offers a five-week seminar on fostering friendship with God and one’s spouse.

Twin Cities Retrouvaille is a program for couples wishing to rediscover a loving marriage relationship.

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