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Accept each other’s differences

Over time, the peculiarities of each spouse, which at first were attractive, can become the source of conflict. While it isn’t always easy to accept differences, doing so can make the relationship much more enriching and durable. When we recognize what makes our spouse unique we can love them most truly, for who they really are. This is what experts call “mature love.” Spouses who share this kind of love make room for each other’s different needs and interests.

Have projects and dreams

In order to progress and grow in life, the spouses need to look to the future and make plans and projects. When the desires of both spouses are joined in a common vision, the future becomes exciting and stimulating. Of course, a couple’s primary project is the marriage itself: having the deep desire and commitment to help and support each other is the foundation on which all other projects rest.

Find common values

While it may be true that “opposites attract,” the ideal is that spouses find their shared middle ground of essential values. If two people’s values are radically opposed, it will be extremely difficult for them to last as a couple, because those values permeate the relationship of the spouses as well as their interactions with the rest of the world. This issue arises especially when their first child is born and they need to agree on the methods and principles of their child’s education. For this reason, it’s important before getting married to take the time to really get to know each other, to share your deepest priorities, hopes, and dreams, and to talk through it all.

Cultivate the art of conversation

Talk to each other, listen to each other, tell each other what's going on in your life, share your desires and tastes … This is the secret of a lasting love affair. Yet, because we're caught up in everyday life, experiencing stress and lack of time, truly communicating with each other is often easier said than done. Making the time to talk to each other can take a lot of creativity and discipline. Each couple needs to come up with their own formula, their own routine that allows them to really communicate, to cultivate the art of conversation, so they can talk about their evolving desires, tastes, interests, etc. It’s also the occasion for them to discuss their shared plans and projects.

Practice gratitude

The happiest couples are those who are thankful, who recognize and acknowledge the good in each other, according to a study conducted with 468 married individuals, published in 2015 in the English academic journal Personal Relationships. Those who make a habit of cultivating gratitude experience deep joy in thanking, giving, and sharing. Gratitude takes the focus off ourselves and directs it towards others. It helps us to be happy with our life by inviting us to appreciate what we have, rather than lament what we lack.

Cultivate physical expressions of affection, a key ingredient of conjugal love

The physical side of the relationship is a source of fulfillment and a reflection of love. “Tenderness, hugs, and sex are all reflections of love that must not be forgotten,” says Benedict de Dinechin, a marriage counselor. “We’re called to build lasting happiness with our spouse, and cuddles, kisses, and hugs contribute to it.” Each couple should come up with their own definition of satisfying sensual interactions, learning to discover what works for them both. Tenderness has to be central to their physical and emotional relationship.

Less texting, more face-to-face interaction!

Pick up your smartphone and see how many messages you’ve sent each other in one day. Has this form of communication taken over your life, to the detriment of actually talking to each other? We need to be sure to keep virtual communication in its place. Of course, it’s not a question of abandoning it completely; these new forms of communication offer us countless practical advantages and functionalities. But, is it necessary for us to send each other funny videos and memes through a messaging app, when we are often close enough to each other to walk over, sit down next to each other, and look at it together? Or, instead of sharing links when we're at work, how about we wait to see each other in person and explain or discuss the topic of the article or video in person? Maybe sometimes we should even fall back from time to time on the irreplaceable intimacy of a written note, although perhaps we wouldn’t even recognize each other’s handwriting anymore …

Don’t let Netflix replace your marriage

When it comes to choosing between watching content on a streaming platform and spending meaningful time with our spouse, many couples have a hard time making the right decision. Sometimes we put our relationship on “pause” so we can press “play” on the TV. Granted, watching series and movies is one of our favorite pastimes, and sometimes, watching an episode of a favorite show while cuddling on the couch can be a ritual of peace and relaxation that brings us closer together. However, there’s a real danger that watching other people’s imaginary lives on the screen can substitute for us sharing our real lives with each other. It might be a good idea to cut down on passive entertainment (maybe even reduce it by half) and spend more time doing things like playing cards with each other, taking a walk together, or even reading the Bible to each other. These are activities where we can be entertained while actively relating to each other.

Bless your spouse before falling asleep

The liturgy of the sacrament of marriage reflects the fact that spouses are a gift for each other. This gift, received from the hands of God, is renewed each day of our marriage. It can help our marriage be stronger and longer lasting if we make that fact explicit each night, praying together and renewing our mutual self-giving before falling asleep. It can be as simple as praying, “Thank you, Lord, for my wife/husband, whom I love.”

Seek the support of couples who share the same values

“Birds of a feather flock together,” the saying goes … When couples spend time with other couples who believe in the same values, it can strengthen them all, creating relationships that will provide support in good and joyful times as well as in moments of difficulty. When people with the same values and spiritual sensitivity get together, they are energized and reinforced.

Work together as a team

In every couple, the spouses have different roles: one will almost inevitably earn more than the other, one may spend more time on domestic duties, etc. We need to appreciate the unique contributions of each spouse and work out the balance of responsibilities, so that both spouses can do their part in sustaining the household and the relationship as a team, according to their particular situation, skills, opportunities, and likes. They shouldn't criticize each other for not having identical criteria or abilities.

Cultivate your friendship

Your spouse should be your best friend. Trust, tenderness, and confidence are essential to building a marriage bond that will thrive over time. Friendship is in no way contrary to the romantic and passionate aspects of marriage; rather, a deep friendship should be the foundation of the relationship. Happy couples know each other intimately. They know exactly what the other person likes and dislikes, what their hopes and dreams are. This requires paying constant attention to the other. Some people mistakenly seek their primary friendships outside of their marriage, seeing their married life as a place more for sexual fulfillment, but this can lead to conflict. Spouses should be the best of friends.
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