For less than the cost of a cup of coffee, these tools will help keep your relationship moving in the right direction.
We just passed the five year mark in our marriage, and organized the most low-key anniversary celebration to date. My husband handled bedtime with our two little boys, while I grabbed some funky-smelling cheese and crackers and poured a couple of glasses of wine. I swept stuff off the table to make room and searched around for some kind of candle to lend a little ambiance. We sat down, and I gently breathed a prayer, “Jesus, please help those boys stay asleep for a few minutes so we can talk.” And it just so happened that everyone slept, and we enjoyed our little charcuterie board and even had time to play a favorite board game.
This little impromptu date was so much better than every other anniversary when we’ve tried to do something fancy or extra special. Instead of painting grandiose expectations of having a wonderful heart-to-heart with delicious food, we just embraced the moment we had that week, and lived it fully.
What’s the moral of the story? Well honestly, I don’t have any great wisdom about marriage except this: the more we work on our relationship, the better it gets. When we don’t work on it, we slowly slide backwards.
So, here are five tools that cost less than your morning coffee drink, and have helped me tremendously in my own marriage…
Restore the Glory Podcast (free)
Two Catholic psychologists and therapists talk about human brokenness and how modern psychology and Jesus relate. They have recently done two series on marriage that explore how to build your marriage and how to solve common problems. Their advice is practical, and their wide range of experience in counseling along with their own marriages makes the episodes compelling and helpful.
30 Minutes for Marriage Booklet ($1.99)
This little blue marriage book gives you an outline of topics to discuss regularly in your relationship, and helps bring to light issues and successes that you hadn’t even realized. Try going through the questions every few weeks to start, and see how it helps your communication.
Two Small Journals and Pens ($3 at your local dollar store)
One exercise we have tried doing every night is writing down the graces we have seen throughout the day, including any moments we are particularly grateful for. We write them down individually in our own little notebooks acquired specially for the task, and then we share aloud some of our highlights. It has helped us both to dwell on the positives from the day, and to appreciate the goodness the other person has noticed.
The Beloved Video Series on Formed (free)
This is a series of videos that explores many aspects of marriage in an engaging and very thoughtful way, with interviews of couples sharing stories from their own lives. There is a PDF study guide alongside the videos with discussion questions for each session that make the material hit home. Grab another couple or two, and go over the questions together so that you can learn from each other’s answers. Check out the trailer here.
Examining where you are failing to love your spouse is the most helpful way to change the trajectory of a marriage for the better. If you can own your selfishness and brokenness, and spend your time working to fix it, your relationship will start to improve seemingly on its own. This examen asks us to consider our responsibilities towards God, our spouse, our children, and society. The questions to ponder regarding your spouse are always convicting and eye-opening for me. Take it to Confession with you next time you go, but I find I need to look at it more often.