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5 Lent challenges for couples: Could you give these up together?

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How to work toward a stronger, more joyful relationship come Easter.

With all the “giving up” that’s done for Lent, why not partner with your spouse this year and give up something together with the goal of helping your relationship? Every couple knows the “obvious” little things they need to work on. For instance, my husband and I really need to dispense with the constant tit-for-tat: “I took the kids to practice five times last week, now it’s your turn …” and “I’m not unloading the dishwasher again until someone else does their share …”

But Lent is a good time to look to the bigger things, too, the harder things. Lent should be a little difficult. It’s the hard stuff that really causes us to think and reflect about how we can change and sacrifice to serve others, perhaps most of all, our spouses.

Here are some other bigger areas of family life to explore “giving up” as a couple as you work toward a stronger, more joyful relationship come Easter:

1. Negativity

Remember when you were first dating? You probably never complained to your beau, always wanting to show your positive side because that’s what we find most attractive in other people. But as your relationship grew and you became closer and more comfortable with one another, your significant other became a dumping ground for every gripe, vent and complaint around the clock. Spouses should be there as sounding boards for each other, but you should never underestimate the power of words. Negativity has a way of becoming addicting and satisfying in an unhealthy way. Negative comments, talk, and gossip can eventually spiral and deprive you of the daily joys of marriage and life, according to CatholicMatch.com. And after a while, the words start to personify the speaker.

This season, vow to only communicate by casting a positive light on your day, people you know, things you see in the news. It won’t be easy! And of course there will be bad things and problems to point out and discuss, but try to talk about them in a proactive way, with empathy and understanding you might not have verbalized before. When you’re positive, you smile a lot more — and what’s more attractive than that?!

2. Consumerism

Like it or not, our wallets are closely connected to our relationships, especially among spouses. In many families, consumerism is out of control. Just take a look in your shower and ask yourself, do you really need those five bottles of shampoo? Was that workout T-shirt from the clearance rack at the big box store really necessary? Good financial habits not only save the family money but can help avoid little (and big) squabbles about credit card bills and clutter taking over the basement and closets — but it also shines a light on consumer ethics.

This Lent, adopt more of a minimalist attitude. Decide together what household purchases constitute a “need” and what doesn’t, and try to buy less. Which brings us to the next challenge on the list …

3. Clutter

No, cleaning and organizing the house together may not be the idea of a dream date, but your tidy house will lower your stress levels and make you both happier and calmer. If you really want to get ambitious, try to get rid of 40 different things, one for each of the 40 days of Lent.

4. Technology

Grab your smartphone and look at your text app, counting how many texts you sent to your husband yesterday — is texting your main form of communication with him every day? Is email? Modern couples don’t prioritize personal face time to reconnect often enough. Chances are your computer or phone is actually talking to him a lot more than you do.

This is one where you can give up in layers at a time based on your family situation — it’s impossible to totally give up texting while managing kids schedules and coordinating pickups and appointments. But you can decide not to send that funny YouTube video to your wife at lunch, and instead tell her about it instead over dinner. Then maybe you can at least watch it together after the dishes are done. And here’s an ultra radical idea: you can even try leaving a note once in a while in his bag or briefcase. Would you be able to recognize her handwriting?

5. Binge-watching

Everyone’s favorite wintertime activity! While some research has suggested that watching TV together has benefits for couples, this is still not a substitution for real, authentic connection.

This Lent, estimate how much time you spend each day in front of the TV screen, and agree to spend half (or three-quarters … or even all!) of that time playing cards, going for a walk, stretching on the floor, or even reading the Bible together. Yes, you may be giving up knowing what happens on your favorite crime-drama at the same time as everyone else, but getting something much more fulfilling and lasting in return.

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