14 Little Lessons for Marriage

Coming up on our fourteenth wedding anniversary, I started thinking about some things I’ve learned during those years. Thank you, honey, for being my teacher as well as my fellow student.

1. When about to respond in an angry or sarcastic manner, think, “Do I really want to fight right now? Is that comment/question worth destroying the evening/afternoon/morning/week?”

2. If you’re still angry and feel like you’re right, ask forgiveness. As soon as you do you’ll realize you mean it. Try to be the person who says, “I’m sorry, forgive me,” first.

3. Cultivate a spirit of doing. You’re in the kitchen first so make the coffee (even if you don’t drink it yourself). You noticed that the garbage hasn’t gone out and pick-up is tomorrow. Do it yourself instead of contacting the normal taker-outer. Pick up the socks and put them in the hamper. The catch is, do not then go announce that you’ve done it so as to receive thanks or praise. If you do, then you’ll be dependent on gratitude to nudge you into doing these things when the more appropriate motivator should be love.

4. Never demean your spouse in front of others. That includes funny stories that put them in a bad light.

5. Take frequent opportunities to hug, hold hands, etc. Do not hesitate to do this in front of your children. Don’t you want to be an example of a healthy marriage? Ignore older children who complain about “mushy”. Even as they complain, they derive comfort from the knowledge that their family is rooted in love.

6. If you’re upset about something, don’t deflect your feelings into something else. Simply state that you are upset about whatever you are upset about. Putting an almost empty milk carton back in the refrigerator is not a reason to storm out of the room in tears. On the other hand, it is reasonable to be upset that your spouse spent a good deal of money without consulting you. Discuss the money. Not the milk.

7. Try to do things just as a couple. This can vary from running to the store together to a weekend in Hawaii. If you’re in that camp of people with many small children and no nearby family or babysitters, have dates at home. Snack while the kids eat dinner and have a nice dinner after they’re in bed. Watch a movie on the laptop. Enjoy it and don’t compare yourself to others.

8. Thank your spouse frequently. Thank them for getting up at night with a sick child. Thank them for rescuing the potatoes while you fielded a phone call. Thank them for taking out the garbage – even if it’s “their job”. Thank them for being appreciative. You will never run out of things.

9. Say “I love you.” Sure, this is obvious, but so many people don’t do it. What are you saving them all up for?

10. Present a united front to the children (and to parents and other family). “A house divided cannot stand.” If necessary, leave the room and go into closed caucus to discuss the matter first. Be in agreement on ground rules. If one parent has said “no”, the answer is “no”. If you disagree, work it out between yourselves, not over the children’s heads.

11. Seek help if you need it. Go to your spiritual father and/or parish priest. If necessary, get more professional help.

12. If you’ve argued, mention that in confession. Every time if necessary. Don’t think, “oh, everyone argues – it’s not sinful – it’s human nature.” Human nature is fallen.

13. A marriage is like salvation. There is no point at which you can rest on your laurels and say, “Ok! It’s just right and can go on autopilot now.” It is a constant work. This is not a bad thing.

14. Marriage is like martyrdom. Die to your own, single, selfish will, and give yourself to your spouse and through your spouse, to Christ. This is not a one-sided serfdom, but a mutual means of salvation.

(We’re the ones holding the crowns, not the ones getting married.)

8 thoughts on “14 Little Lessons for Marriage

  1. Thanks so much for posting this list. I have sent it to some young couples that I think could use it to start some discussions about their marriages. Good stuff!

    Eu não sabia que você era fluente em Português. No próximo ano, você terá que ler o Evangelho nas Vésperas!

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  2. I wish people would take #4 to heart! It's so miserable to hear people who should be loving and supporting each other, demean the spouse to others. Even worse when the children can hear it.

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  3. Many years!!! We just recently celebrated 15 years, and I still can't believe the time has passed so quickly. I love this list! I was asked recently to give advice to a couple about to get married, and since I didn't really have time to think about it I just said, “Laugh together often.” 🙂 There are so many things in life that are less stressful if you have a sense of humor. 🙂

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  4. Haha, somehow I missed that people were wishing us happy anniversary! This post was a tad early because we'll celebrate 14 years on August 2nd. Hard to believe it's been that long, but also hard to believe it's *only* been that long.

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