Top Ten List for a Happy Marriage
Happy Anniversary to us!
July 28th is our wedding anniversary. It is such a special day. It holds so much joy and promise and it’s a day that we celebrate to the fullest!
Yesterday was July 28th and we celebrated our 19th anniversary by going to a private Mass that was offered for us, then off to the Niagara region to enjoy wine tastings and a charcuterie picnic, followed by a stroll in Niagara-on-the-Lake and capped off with an amazing dinner and ice cream. We were full! And we were so happy.
Over the years, we have done so many different things to celebrate our marriage including trips to Quebec City and Prince Edward Island, overnight stays in Toronto and Langdon Hall, and fun nights at concerts and local day trips with our kids. The point is that we CELEBRATE our marriage! It is worth celebrating!
MARRIAGE IS GOOD AND HOLY AND WORTH CELEBRATING! Was that loud enough?
Over dinner last night, I asked Michael “so, after 19 years, what would you say are your top 10 tips for a happy marriage?” and together, we made a list that we hope to share with our children one day. I am sure the list will evolve as we do, but for what it’s worth, here is our list:
MICHAEL AND ANITA’S LIST OF TOP TEN THINGS TO DO TO HAVE A HAPPY MARRIAGE (in no particular order 😊)
GO ON ADVENTURES TOGETHER.
Be spontaneous! Share new experiences, try new things. Don’t overthink things, just go and do something fun together! Sometimes you will hit the jackpot and have a blast and sometimes you will be disappointed and the whole thing is a flop but there will always be a good story to tell in the end! Trying new things together keeps your relationship young and fresh and always evolving.
GO ON FREQUENT/REGULAR DATE NIGHTS.
Now, before you try to tell me you’re too busy, please remember how many kids we had in the span of 15 years (the answer is 7). We are busy too. We get it. BUT YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH IT!!
Don’t have money? No problem, pack a picnic and sit in the park, bring a frisbee or some cards and play! Don’t have a babysitter? No problem, put the kids to bed and set up some candles on the patio outside, open up a lovely bottle of something delicious, and put on some soft music…and enjoy each other’s company.
We committed to weekly at home dates and monthly out of the house dates depending on the stage we were in at the time. The point is that we were intentional about making it happen (plan ahead, book a sitter, make reservations, carve out the time) and we were creative BECAUSE WE WANTED TO SPEND TIME ALONE TOGETHER.
GO FOR WALKS TOGETHER, DAILY IF POSSIBLE.
Walking outside together offers many benefits: fresh air, exercise, holding hands and the ability to talk about hard things without the “can we sit down and have a serious conversation about something hard sometime soon” with the other one thinking ‘what the heck have I done this time?’ or ‘what’s this about?’
A nice stroll together after dinner has a very natural way of stirring up conversation, even ones that aren’t difficult but need to be had. It is always nice to have an opportunity to catch up on the day or strategize about upcoming issues/events in the family and to do it in a relaxed, healthy way.
Daily walks help to keep us connected and ‘on the same page’. When you feel like you’re ‘out of step’ in your marriage/lives, it is time to reconnect. Emotional intimacy is just as important as physical intimacy in marriage, and this is how you foster it- regular, daily conversation. We love our walks and are kinda secretly grateful for COVID which allowed for this to become a habit for us.
PLAN A YEARLY GETAWAY.
Yup, you heard me. Go away from your house, together, for at least one night (more if possible). WHAT?! (see Tip #1)
You can’t leave your kids? Yes you can. They will be perfectly fine and they will see that their parents love spending time together and that you think your marriage is important enough to do it.
You don’t have enough money? Well, how much Starbucks or Tim’s do you both consume in a month? How much wine/alcohol do you buy? How much are you willing to spend at Homesense or Best Buy? We all have to make choices. PRIORITIZE YOUR MARRIAGE. Trust me on this one.
If you still can’t save enough to get away, maybe you know someone who can lend you their cottage for a night or two? Or at the very least, can you send the kids away for the weekend?! This would be the last resort because we all know how hard it is to relax when the laundry and toys are staring at you. BUT IT ISN’T IMPOSSIBLE!
Being away and alone together gives you an opportunity to reconnect without the constant interruptions and demands of family life. It gives you time to really delve into your relationship and to remember why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place! Have fun together and enjoy each other’s company! (did I mention ‘see Tip #1’?)
Be creative! Use your imagination! I will just leave that one right there.
ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE ON THE SAME TEAM!
That’s right. It is not “me against you”. If you are constantly seeing yourselves at odds with each other, it’s time to set that straight.
You are life partners. You chose the other as your companion. You complement each other. You fill in each other’s gaps. You complete each other. Maybe you feel your spouse has more gaps that need filling than you do- then fill away!!
It’s not a competition of who is doing or giving what. It is about each person pouring themselves completely into the other without counting the cost or keeping score.
Imagine yourselves as soldiers, back to back, with swords drawn, taking on the battles of this world together. You are in this life together and your love for one another will bring you both to heaven one day.
Finally, always, and I mean, ALWAYS assume the best of the other. Always. Trust that, first and foremost, they love you deeply. Any brokenness that gets in the way is just that, brokenness. Trust that the other loves you and only wants the best for you, even if sometimes it doesn’t look or feel that way. (see Tip #3 on ways to resolve that)
LOVE YOUR SPOUSE THE WAY THEY WANT TO BE LOVED.
I am sure by now you’ve heard of the love languages? It is the idea that each individual feels loved in different ways: for some it’s gift-giving, for some it’s touch. It is worth reading up on this subject but for this tip, we are talking about something even more simple.
Remember when you first met, how you just loved such and such perfume, or such and such meal? Remember how a few years ago, you first learned about such and such and just loved that for a few months?
Did you know that people change? Did you know that people’s tastes change too?!
Why does this matter? Well, because if you don’t work on staying connected throughout your marriage, you will one day look at your spouse, and you may think “who is this person?”
Grow with your spouse. Everybody grows and evolves over time. Stay in touch with your spouse’s interests, their preferences, what makes them happy, what brings them joy! This isn’t just about gift-giving, but about knowing who your spouse is becoming before your eyes and loving them where they are at TODAY – NOT who they were when you were dating, or when you got married.
Love them where they are at today and it will show them that a) you see them, b) you know them and c) you love them!!! Everyone wants to be seen, known and loved.
BE PLAYFUL AND YOUTHFUL ALWAYS!
Come on! Don’t be a drag! Life is often stressful and serious, your marriage doesn’t have to be the punching bag! INSTEAD, let your marriage be the place you come to feel refreshed and renewed!
Have fun together! Laugh! Be silly! Be spontaneous! Joke together! And for the love, see Tip #1 again!
PRAY FOR AND WITH YOUR SPOUSE DAILY AND GO TO CONFESSION FREQUENTLY!
I feel like this is obvious so just do it, okay? If your marriage is suffering, if your spouse makes you crazy, if you are constantly at odds with each other, praying for your spouse will HELP! Maybe your spouse doesn’t practice faith and won’t pray with you- but you can still pray for him/her. Prayer doesn’t work to only change their heart, but yours too, which is always a good thing.
Also, confession. Please, for the love, just go. It truly is life changing and so very necessary for any kind of growth, personal and/or growth and healing in your marriage. If this is new to you, that’s okay. There are so many resources online. Just google it. Or message me and I can tell you more. Confession is a healing balm for the soul. You will never regret going.
HAVE AS MANY KIDS AS YOU CAN…..THEN HAVE ONE MORE!
(Of course, it goes without saying, that not everyone is able to have children and I can only imagine that heartache. So please, please don’t be offended by this tip. I fully appreciate that not everyone can have children, let alone several or many for a variety of reasons.)
This is directed to all the fertile couples out there who are in a healthy space to have children (taking all the things into consideration, blah blah blah):
BE OPEN TO LIFE! Having children is the natural fruit of the bond of marriage! Don’t be stingy! Love begets love! Life begets life! The love of a Christian couple mirrors the interior life of the Divine Trinity! This is no small matter!
How does married love mirror God’s life? God is a communion of Persons- a perfect, unending union of Love. The love is selfless, whole, total, fruitful and eternal. We, in our humanity, mirror that Love and in marriage, we get to participate in it!
The natural fruit of married love, namely a child, brings new love, new hope, new life to marriage. It stretches the individual spouses and the couple as a whole, and when God is at the centre of the union, great things happen! There is no room for selfishness when your marriage becomes about pouring yourself out for another (or many others!)
So please, be generous with your love! It will be multiplied and I promise, that if God is at the centre, your marriage will be blessed beyond measure when you say “yes” again and again, even when you *think* you can’t have one more.
I have never met anyone who said they wished they hadn’t had so many kids, but I have met many who have said they wish they had had more…. (see Tip #1, Tip #2, Tip #4, Tip #7 😉)
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR MARRIAGE- DON’T JUST LET LIFE HAPPEN TO YOU!
I think this goes for all areas of life. You are in charge of your life (obviously God is in control, but in the day to day, and in all the decisions, you are in the driver seat!). Don’t just be a bystander and watch your life happen.
Plan, strategize, work for your relationship! What is working? What isn’t working? Is there something your spouse is doing/not doing that is problematic? Talk about these things!
Don’t be a victim to life. ‘Life happens!’ Yes it does, but you don’t need to just stand by and watch it happen. You have a choice. You are an adult. You get to decide what is important to you and your marriage and what is not. You decide how you will spend your money and your time.
I have known many people to say “I wish we could do such and such but we are just too busy/our kids are in all the activities/it’s not in the budget/we aren’t like that/my spouse doesn’t like that/we are just too old/tired and on and on and on…..
PEOPLE, this is YOUR life, YOUR marriage! YOU decide: what are your priorities? What is your marriage worth to you?
HOW MUCH ARE YOU WILLING TO INVEST IN A HAPPY, HEALTHY, FULFILLING MARRIAGE?
Be intentional. Decide what you want, pray, discuss, plan and execute. And God will do the rest.
But you have to want it.
Well friends, there you have it! Disclaimer: this was obviously written from the perspective of a practicing, fertile (!) Catholic couple. I know not all of it will apply to everyone. But I am confident that there is truth in each tip and I am confident that God wants our marriages to be happy and healthy and fruitful in all the ways that he sees fit!
Let’s reclaim marriage from this crazy culture that seeks to destroy and redefine this ancient institution and become those married people who are crazy, madly, deeply and truly in love with our spouses and God who is the source of all LOVE.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts on this list! Anything you’d add?
Anita Healy is a wife and mom of seven living in Cambridge who has a degree in Theology with a concentration in Religious Education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Anita has been active in her parish teaching the RCIA program as well as leading a mothers group and other sacramental prep programs.
She has appeared on the series “Motherhood Matters” and has spoken (and sung) at the Dynamic Women of Faith Conferences over the years.
With her oldest starting university and her youngest starting elementary, Anita has decided to venture into the blogging world to share her musings on life as a Catholic wife and mother in hopes of sharing the truth, beauty and goodness that comes with living out the vocation of motherhood.
Recently Anita has started a blog and we invite you to visit it here.