5 Signs You May Not Be Loving Your Spouse As Well As You Could Be

Some reminders I know that need from time to time:

1.    You’re focused on his/her faults more than your own.
If you’re wrapped up in all the things your spouse is or isn’t doing for you that you wish he or she would do for you, then it’s time for a shift in focus. Rather than nitpicking your spouse’s faults, ask yourself, “What am I doing or not doing right now that I could be doing to love him/her better?” This approach is guaranteed to make both of you more content.

2.    You’re not praying daily for your spouse.

Praying for your spouse is one of the greatest gifts you can offer in your marriage. Strangely enough, many of us are sometimes better at praying with our spouse than we are at praying for him or her. Make sure you offer at least one heartfelt prayer to God for your spouse each day. Something as simple as, “Lord, I ask that you bless my spouse and help him/her to know your love more deeply today” is an important yet easy offering of love you can give your spouse every day.

3.    You haven’t done an unrequested act of service for him/her in recent history.

Maybe you’re pretty good at completing tasks or favors requested of you by your spouse, but it has been a while since you’ve spontaneously done something generous and unexpected for them. Think of something you can do to make your spouse’s life easier, and then do it—and, better yet, do it with joy.

4.    You aren’t paying him/her compliments regularly.
Mark Twain said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” Sometimes the simplest compliment or encouraging word from you can make your spouse’s day a thousand times better. But, as we know too well, life happens, and it can be too easy to forget to say intentionally kind things to our spouse every day. So here’s a reminder to affirm your spouse more, starting now.

5.    You’re not good at giving your spouse the “benefit of the doubt.”

Conflict in marriage often comes when we assume the worst about our spouse and his/her intentions in a given situation. To love your spouse better, make an intentional decision to give him/her the benefit of the doubt the next time an uncomfortable situation arises, assuming the best about them or what they have said or done. After all, when you married your spouse you were likely great at doing this; dial back to that sort of positivity you have about him or her.

*Know a friend who could benefit from this reminder, too? Please share!*

Lessons for Living from the Holy Family

As Christians, we are very familiar with Advent as a season of waiting, but really, our whole life is, essentially, a long season of waiting. Particularly, we wait for the last Advent—the last coming of Christ at the end of time. Every Advent gives us the opportunity to pause, and very intentionally focus on what we should be doing every day of our lives—preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ. How are we spending our time in waiting? 

Let’s talk about the characters of the nativity, since there is really a lifetime’s worth of study and beauty that we can glean from diving deeper into the mystery of the great Christmas narrative through the experiences of the dynamic characters in play – Joseph and Mary, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the magi, and, as a whole, the Holy Family. The characters of the nativity can each teach us lessons for living our own lives in preparation for Christ’s coming this December, as well as for our own death and Christ’s coming at the end of time.

In this last article of the series featured in the IntegratedCatholicLife.org, I will explore some of the lessons for living from the Holy Family.

The Holy Family: Salvation and Love
Finally, we turn to the Holy Family, the central “character” in this great feast and story of the Nativity, the character whom we, as members of families, can probably most closely relate to.

Pope Saint John Paul II famously wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (FC 75). For most of us, family life is the ordinary means of our sanctification—the way we live our everyday lives at home with our spouses, children, brothers, sisters, and grandchildren make up the stepping-stones toward heaven.

So, in other words, the first lesson for living from the Holy Family is: salvation.

As Dr. Scott Hahn puts it, “Salvation arrives by way of the family—the Holy Family.” Each of us can look to the Holy Family as an example for faithful living within the context of family life. How we respond to our call to live out the Gospel in our own homes, to grow in holiness in some small way as an individual, as a couple, and as a family every day, emulating the Holy Family, impacts the joy and meaning with which we paint our days. This spiritual leadership of our families—becoming the spiritual heads and hearts God made us to be, modeled after the great examples we have in Joseph and Mary—is what we were created for.

Bishop James Conley wrote in the foreword to my book, Head & Heart, “We are created for family life. To be created in God’s image is to be made for family life—the sharing of fruitful love.”

Another lesson for living the Holy Family teaches us is: love.

The most important characteristic that we as leaders of our families can exhibit is a desire to fulfill our vocation to love. St. Joseph, and in particular, Our Blessed Mother and Jesus, were expert lovers. Our vocation as men and women, as husbands and wives, as fathers and mothers, and as spiritual leaders of our families is to love—to love God with one’s whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love one’s family with intention and purpose, seeing in each of them a reflection of God. This is what strong spiritual leaders do. They love.

The Holy Family demonstrates this model for love and spiritual leadership in a uniquely beautiful way. This Advent, we should all be encouraged to take these lessons for living from the characters of the nativity, and other characteristics of strong spiritual leadership, and practically—step by step—make our homes places where holiness can flourish, not only this Advent and Christmas season, but all year round.

To read the rest of the articles in this series, visit the IntegratedCatholicLife.org.

The Engaged and Newlywed Book List

Getting married or have you recently tied the knot? Do you have a friend or family member who just got engaged? This book list is your ultimate shopping and reading guide.

My husband and I are both avid readers, and engagement gave us a chance to try out a new literary genre: marriage preparation and enrichment. We found a few of many gems during our scouring of literature meant to help us start off our lifelong commitment strong, and now I want to share that with you. These books make great engagement, shower, Christmas, birthday, and anytime gifts for you and those you love.

Specifically Catholic Books

Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, Katie Warner

Yep, I wrote a book specifically for engaged and married couples (of all phases in marital life, but especially helpful to newlyweds), because my husband and I wanted a resource to guide us in our effort to become strong spiritual leaders for each other and for our growing family. I included it in this list because it has had a big impact on my own marriage, and on the marriages of many others who’ve shared their experiences with me after reading the book.

Three to Get Married, Fulton Sheen

Anything that the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen writes drips with beauty and clarity, and this book is no different. It is a top-notch theological reflection on what God intends marriage to be. Read it. Give it.

The Exceptional Seven Percent: Nine Secrets to the World’s Happiest Couples, Gregory Popcak

My hubby and I became big fans of Dr. Gregory Popcak just a few pages into this book. It’s practical, implementable, straightforward, and spot-on in its marital wisdom. Our marriage reaped the benefits almost immediately, and we will be rereading this one for years.

Holy Sex, Gregory Popcak      

Trust me on this one. It is a surprisingly comfortable, refreshing, and honest read. Personally, I was so grateful that a book like this existed to help me prepare for this aspect of marital life…and that it is 100% Catholic!

Just Married: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Five Years of Marriage, Gregory and Lisa Popcak, *just released*

The subtitle indicated another Popcak hit. It arrived in the mail a few days ago, and it took me no time to finish it. It’s filled with relevant topics for thriving in your first years, and it keeps discussion on those topics succinct and relatable. I simply loved the prayer plan it lays out for married couples.

 Life-Giving Love, Scott and Kimberly Hahn

Dr. Scott and Kimberly Hahn have inspired an untold number of Catholics and Christians over their many years of ministry, but also through their beautiful witness to married love, which they have communicated eloquently in this must-have item on your bookshelf.

The Good News about Sex and Marriage, Christopher West

If you too deeply respect the advice of Archbishop Charles Chaput, who writes the foreword to the new edition of this book, than I’ll let you take his word over mine: “Do the Church—and yourself—a favor: Read and reread this book. Encourage everyone you know to do the same.”

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love, Edward Sri

I was blessed enough to study under Dr. Sri during graduate school and to attend multiple of his Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love talks—including his mini-series on the subject filmed at EWTN studios. The powerful information he presents in this book never gets old.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards, Ray Guarendi

Dr. Ray, known for his wit and practical guidance, gives a Catholic therapist’s take on how to make your marriage more rewarding through small, useful steps.

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse, Art and Laraine Bennett

The Bennett’s have written an entire series on the temperaments, and this book is a critical one in the pack. My husband and I have found that understanding one another’s temperament is crucial in learning how to better communicate with and love each other.

Non-Catholic Christian Books

The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman

I remember my husband and I having long discussions about these languages from early on in our relationship. We learned that just because he loved little gifts didn’t mean that they were what would make me feel most loved. Understanding each other’s love language has changed our relationship for the better—every day.

His Needs, Her Needs, Willard Harley

Sometimes communicating your needs is hard—really hard. What if you aren’t really sure what your needs even are, or what if it is hard to express them? This book helps you describe (and rank!) your most important needs so that your spouse can respond to them. We simply loved it.

Love Busters, Willard Harley

It didn’t take us long to figure out not only what increases our marital love, but also what decreases it. This book made us conscious of the things we do that hurt our love and how to avoid them.

For Men Only & For Women Only (two separate books), Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

These little (in size and length) books were light, yet informative reads. I’ve handed these out to a number of couple friends already.

For the Women

Graced and Gifted, Kimberly Hahn

Get this, ladies! It truly helped me see how to live out my call to be a homemaker with grace and thanksgiving. When you are already sick of vacuuming and dishes after only a few months, the wisdom in this books sweeps in (pun intended) to lift your spirits.

From the Church

Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla

Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, John Paul II

Familiaris Consortio, On the Family, John Paul II

Casti Connubii, On Christian Marriage, Pius XI

Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan, USCCB

Finally, why not read about marriage together from the best sources the Church can offer? Don’t leave these encyclicals and other writings out of your marriage library.