1. We love each other
Duh, right? This is the #1 ingredient for making a good marriage.
My father-in-law told us about love when we were engaged, “Do a lot of nice little things for each other.” St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower,” became a saint by doing for others what my father-in-law suggested. Her “Little Way” teaches us to do the ordinary things in life with extraordinary love. Eric and I apply this to married life. As husband and wife, we not only practice our faith together, but we are also asked to bring each other closer to God. We can do this by expressing our love in small, selfless ways: getting the coffee & tea ready (when we’d rather sleep in), mixing a whiskey sour just right (when we’d like to dive into our own glass of Cabernet), changing the baby (when we could pretend to be asleep), driving the teenagers to school in our PJs (when we could be answering emails), giving a back rub (when we’d rather read our novel). The smallest action, done with love, is more important than great deeds done for personal glory or gratification. Such is the power and presence of grace, and this grace strengthens marriages.
2. We complement each other
Yes, we compliment each other, too: “Honey, you look hot in that dress!” or, “Wow, your muscles look bigger than yesterday!” and “You grilled that steak just right!” (Everyone likes to have his or her feathers ruffled.) But now on to complementing each other without getting into anatomy 101 too much…
It’s obvious that man and woman were made for each other. For instance, “… He created male and female in His image so that they might become one body and might be fertile and multiply…” (See Genesis chapters 1 and 2). This Biblical passage goes hand in hand with the Natural Law. It just makes sense that we complement each other because the marriage bond is procreative. Human sexuality is sacred. Within marriage, it fulfills its purpose as an expression of deep, faithful and exclusive love that is open to new life (ForYourMarriage.org). Family arises from marriage, which in turn, forms the “Domestic Church.” Marriage between one man and one woman is the building block of society.
With nine kids whom we are raising to be good, Catholic leaders, I feel like my husband and I are doing our share in creating a hopeful future, and so are a lot of our friends and family. Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, says, “The long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.” The findings of the social sciences confirm that the best environment for raising children is a stable home provided by the marriage of their parents. (Please read my blog Six reasons kids do best when raised by married parents)
3. We keep the romance alive
This is the fun part, but it ain’t easy. As you know, couples who are happily married work at it. And they work at it VERY HARD! My husband and I stay faithful to our vows. Eric travels a lot for work and when he is in difficult situations (like when someone he knows goes to a strip club) he leaves temptation behind. We have a friend who is a celebrity and has women who flirt with him. He told us, “I just flash my wedding band.” Exclusivity is paramount to a successful marriage.
To keep our hearts pitter-patting my husband and I make time for each other. Eric calls me a lot throughout his day. We travel. We run together. We pray together. We have mini dates in the pub area which we built in our basement–and we tell the children, “This is Mommy and Daddy time so…scram!” (They usually get a smile on their faces and then exit quickly–they’re glad their parents want to spend time together.)
Which brings me to…
4. We witness our vocation to others
Oftentimes when Eric and I are sipping on cheap wine down in this “pub” (It’s cheap because we have to pay for college and Catholic high schools–not necessarily because my husband is cheap), our kids’ friends come over for a visit. Many of these children come from single-parent homes. They appreciate seeing a married couple enjoying each other’s company, and we are more than happy to let them know about the many blessings of a faithful, loving marriage. Our kids tell us that their friends have commented on this subject and remind them about how lucky they are to be raised in a stable home. Our sons who have left the nest (and who now appreciate their parents), will actually say to us, “Thanks for giving us a ‘normal’ home, and for being good role models.”
And we often say to them (after we get over our shock), “Remember, it’s the little things that make marriage work.”