Another practical way of sustaining a healthy and intimate relationship in marriage is by sharing your thoughts and feelings with your spouse on a regular basis. In Marriage Encounter, we suggest that couples devote 20 minutes a day to this. For 10 minutes they write to each other, a loving letter in which they affirm each other and describe what is the predominant feeling they have. This is an invitation to enter your world and share whom you are today. You describe your feeling in such a way that your spouse can taste you and accompany you at this moment. When the couple come together and read each other's letter twice (once with the head and the second time with the heart) they try to be one by listening and sharing. This 10 +10 minutes a day has brought many couples close together. Try it for yourself and see the difference.
Many of us are so busy, earning a living and keeping house, that at the end of the day, we are exhausted. We repress our feelings but they do not disappear. If we could share them with a loving, understanding spouse, we would be better able to face life's challenges. We also need to share our dreams and to be available to listen with our heart, to comfort, console and strengthen each other. Is not that the reason why you got married? Feelings are neither right nor wrong in themselves. They indicate to us what is happening in us. When we share ourselves with an intimate, we are no longer alone. Repressed feelings are today often the cause of so many psychosomatic illnesses and escapes into alcohol, drugs or depression. All of us can program the time if we want to make the time for each other. Jesus made the time to listen and reach out to many people in trouble and was able to heal them and bring them to the Father. Today, ours are his ears to listen, his lips to speak and his arms to comfort those in trouble.
A husband and wife may have many ideas on several topics that concern their relationship and their home. It is good to share them and to be enriched by each other's insights and experiences. A male or female perspective may differ. Be humble enough to learn from each other.
No matter how busy you are, make time for each other. Go for a small walk together at the end of the day or in the early morning. Hold hands and be attentive to each other. Give each other small signs of affection as you did in your courtship days.
Remember it is more important to be lovers after marriage than before. I remember a couple with 10 children who could not afford to dine out. But they would sometimes go to a small café and have a cup of coffee and a small snack together. They would dance to radio music in their own home. They would delegate the older children to do household chores sometimes, while they spent some quality time with each other.
Never get used to each other or take each other for granted. A small love note, a tiny gift, a gesture of affection, a compliment, a kind word and a loving glance or hug can work wonders to keep romance alive in your relationship. Pray together, listen to God's word together and attend Mass together. Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament chapel as a couple, even for 5 minutes. Let the Lord bless you and be part of your day. Maybe your love is losing its strength and needs to be changed from water into wine again.
I remember a couple with 7 children who went to mass every evening. He would return from work and she would rush out to join him. If the evening meal was not ready, she would leave it to the older children to finish. They would sometimes bring home a person from Church who appeared lonely or sad. The kids enjoyed guessing who would be coming to dinner to share their family love. Sharing their love with those in need strengthened that family.
Respect each other, even when you feel irritated and impatient. Always be courteous and show each other respect in the way you speak and treat each other. Politeness because you respect others is a true sign of Jesus' followers. Be polite because you want to show respect and kindness. It brings out the best in others whose self image is poor and who need to be affirmed Kindness can create an atmosphere of warmth and caring. We live in a world where so many are unnoticed or ignored. Jesus wants us to make others feel special in our domestic Church.
Do you accept your Spouse and children as God made them or do you want to change them? A lot of times, there is little or no communication of ideas and feelings or a show of respect and kindness, because we do not accept one another in our differences. We think we can do a better job than God. I am not saying that all of us do not have irritating habits or behaviour that can make us hard to live with. But I can only change myself with God's grace, because I want to love my family.
During courtship, many couples turn a blind eye to what they do not like in their partner. Perhaps each one secretly thinks that after marriage, the partner will change undesirable behaviour. We cannot remake our spouse or children in our own image.
Why are you angry and frustrated with behaviour in your spouse or child that you do not like? Is the source of your anger and frustration, your own demands or the other's behaviour?
The child who exhibits behaviour patterns that you do not like or approve of in your spouse will especially irritate you. Very often the other knows what irritates you but continues because he or she does not want to be controlled or forced to change. There is an in built resistance to your demands. Give up your demands. Accept the other unconditionally as God does. Pray and ask God to change you to be a loving, forgiving and accepting spouse and parent. God can and does work wonders where there is unconditional love. For where there is love, there is God.
By all means share your ideas and feelings but with a view to being transparent and not with a view to changing the other. Otherwise, your sharing becomes manipulative. Be respectful, kind and polite because you want to love and respect the other and not because you want to shame the other or show that you are morally superior or a martyr. The home is a school of discipleship. Jesus was very patient with his disciples and respected their slow rate of growth and understanding. He did not give up on them. Ask him to help you also to be patient with yourself and each other. Remember He has not finished with you as yet!! Love one another as he loves you.