Read Time: 4 minutes

If there’s something in your past you haven’t revealed to your partner, it may seem like it’s not that important. Especially if you’ve made it from dating to engagement or even marriage without telling them. However, keeping secrets, even little ones, can erode the foundation of an otherwise strong relationship.

Why Does It Matter?

Healthy relationships are built on mutual trust. That means that each partner has committed themselves to honesty because you cannot build trust without it.

When people get into relationships, they typically begin building trust by being honest in their present dealings with their new partners. As time goes on, they begin sharing past details of their lives, increasing the amount of things they share as trust in the relationship builds.

Being honest about your past and present behavior, thoughts, and experiences is an opportunity for your partner to know you intimately. It gives them a context for knowing who you really are and all the complexities that make up your personality. This intimate knowledge of each other provides the basis for a fun-loving friendship and deeply satisfying physical intimacy.

Where Do You Start?

After trust has been established, sharing your most personal thoughts and experiences should come over time. As your relationship develops, there will be many opportunities to let your partner know more about you. Taking advantage of these opportunities, either in the moment or soon after, will establish a pattern of openness that will benefit your relationship in the future.

If you haven’t grown up in a family that had good communication skills, this may be challenging for you. You may feel that your past is irrelevant to your present relationship or that your thoughts and feelings are better kept to yourself. If that’s the case, consider the quality of the relationships you’ve seen that were devoid of openness and honesty.  Are you comfortable repeating those patterns and experiencing similar consequences?

Many people can point to a couple who’ve been together for years, but they don’t have a relationship marked by joy and camaraderie. The couple stays together, but they don’t seem to enjoy each other or derive a lot of pleasure out of their marriage. Deciding not to divorce or living separate lives may keep you celebrating wedding anniversaries, but if you want something more than that in your relationship, growing in openness and honesty will be essential.

If you’d like to pursue a relationship with your partner that has a deeper level of sharing, it’s not impossible to expand the way you were taught to communicate. It will take effort on your part, but you can grow in this area if you’re willing to try.

What About the Bad Stuff?

It’s always easier to share your successes and the fun parts of your history than it is to talk about your losses, grief, and failures. Part of the reason we choose our partners is because they see us as special and amazing, and they chose us out of a sea of potential mates.

It’s scary to think of tarnishing their view of us by letting them know the less-than-wonderful things we’ve thought or done. That’s why secrecy is so appealing; the risk of losing our partner’s favor is more threatening than the perceived value of being open and honest.

However, the problem with secrecy is that it doesn’t stay in one area of our lives. As multi-dimensional and complex beings, small habits in one area of our life tend to flow over into other parts of our lives. Tightly-guarded secrets create a defensive layer in our personality. To protect them, we must keep our partner away from that part of ourselves.

What About the Really Bad Stuff?

When we allow ourselves to keep secrets from our partners, we’re essentially saying that they don’t have access to our whole selves. They can only know, love, and commit to part of us. Even if we consider the secret “small” in relation to our whole selves, we are still holding something back.

One of the problems with this is that secrets usually resurface multiple times in our lives. We can’t forget because they are a part of us, a part of our story. When we’re confronted by them through a memory or a trigger, we react in a multitude of ways that affect our emotions and behaviors which in turn affects our partners.

Who you are affects your partner, and if you are committed to them and the health of your relationship, they deserve to know the truth.

The reality is that all people have thoughts, behaviors, and experiences that they regret or feel ashamed of. Some of us have been victims, and some of us have been perpetrators. Some have been both. We’ve all been mean, selfish, hateful, and immoral. Coming to terms with those parts of ourselves individually is difficult; confessing them to the people we love makes us feel incredibly vulnerable. If this feels like more than you can handle on your own, seek out a trusted counselor, mentor, or minister.

The Amazing Thing About Grace

If you’re willing to be honest and open, you will have to confront your own vulnerability. When you share your secrets with your partner, there will be a period of time when you can’t control their reaction. To move forward, you’ll have to accept their feelings and allow them space to process. Surrendering to this instead of trying to manage it will also build trust. Additionally, it sets a precedent for them to come to you with their own secrets, understanding that this is part of a healthy relationship.

A loving partner will listen while you share. They may ask questions as they process, and they may get emotional for a variety of reasons. These are all normal responses. Depending on how long they have known you, it may take time for them to synthesize this new information about you into their frame of reference.

This can be uncomfortable, but experiencing deeper levels of connection with your partner is worth it. If you’re sharing something that you regret or feel ashamed of, especially something from your past that no longer represents who you are presently, being honest about it may help you move on. When people love one another, they are able to accept and forgive imperfections, failures, and bad behaviors. Receiving forgiveness helps us forgive ourselves.

What to Hold Back


Having an open and honest relationship doesn’t mean having to tell your partner every single thing you think and feel. As complex creatures, there is a place for private thoughts and feelings. We all have places where we are processing the world, our faith, and our mortality in solitude, and that’s okay.

You’ll know a secret is worth sharing if something about keeping it creates a wall between you and your partner. Deciding what to share isn’t as important as making sure there isn’t anything you’re intentionally hiding. Your partner should be privy to important facts about your life, thoughts, and feelings, and the freedom you’ll experience from being honest is worth the effort it takes to openly communicate.

Read Time: 2 minutes

As we look around us, we see signs of new life everywhere. Spring is that time of the year when we see growth and flourishing in nature as the cycle of life continues to develop. In the same way, God invites us to experience this same growth and flourishing in every aspect of our lives. If our marriage and spiritual life has been dormant — stuck on cruise control — now is the time to give it new life and new strength. So ask yourselves: Are we flourishing as a couple?

Growing As A Couple

We understand that it may be difficult to address this challenge. We are all bred to avoid answers to difficult questions like, are we flourishing as a couple?

However, we cannot truly flourish in life if we do not face those difficult conversations head on.

If our relationships have been stuck due to routine, lack of enrichment or just simply boredom, now is the time to do something about it. What do we do when we see that a plant is not growing? What do we do with a tree that is not producing fruits? There are many things to do!

  • We can dig the dirt around the plant and let the oxygen enrich the ground bringing new life to the plant. In our relationship, we can do the same! Take a close look around you and look for your support structure. Who supports your relationship? Friends? family? the Church? Reach out to them and set up a time to have a conversation about how the relationship is going. You will see that soon you will experience ‘new oxygen’ and new life in your relationship.
  • When a plant is looking sad and withered, we can also add fertilizer, extra food that will bring new life to the plant. The same can happen in our relationship, sometimes we feel sad because we think our relationship is dying. There are things we can do to give our relationship that extra food it needs to flourish again. You and your spouse will need to determine what that is; is it marriage counseling? is it a couples’ retreat? is it more dates? What are you and your spouse craving for in your relationship? Remember to provide your relationship with the food it needs to flourish.
  • Some plants and trees will need a little pruning to redirect the growth of the new sprouts. In our relationship, there are times when we also need to cut whatever is not healthy for the relationship. This is the time when we need to look at relationships, attachments, bad habits, or even interests that may not be beneficial for the relationship. It is time to cut whatever is not helping the relationship to grow and flourish.

God Is The Source Of Life

“Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;9it may bear fruit in the future.”  Luke 13: 8-9.

God really wants us to flourish, both individually and as a couple. The best way to do this is by staying close to him who is the source of eternal life. He is also the living water (John 7:37-39) that our relationship needs to continue thriving and flourishing.

So again, ask yourselves: Are we flourishing as a couple?

It is in him and in the Eucharist that we find the source and summit of life everlasting that we need to fulfil our mission as a married couple. Let us respond to His invitation to grow together as a couple!

Happy Spring!

 

Read Time: 2 minutes

What phrases do you need to hear from your spouse?

This video excerpt is from our Pre-Cana segment: Communication and Conflict Resolution. In that segment, Jay and Laura discuss the four phrases that each man needs to hear from their wife, and each wife needs to hear from their husband (based on surveying several couples).

For those of you who haven’t completed our Pre-Cana program yet, don’t worry, this won’t spoil anything for you. In fact, it’s important to begin discussing right away what you both need to hear from each other in order to truly become a more unified couple.

For those of you who already have completed our Pre-Cana program, this is always a great reminder on becoming more and and more intentional with speaking into each other’s lives as your marriage grows.

As I watched this segment again myself, I found it very empowering to go through the exercise of determining what I and my beautiful bride need to hear from each other. We usually have our time of uninterrupted conversation after we put the kiddos to bed. We sat at our dinner table, played cards, and talked about this very topic.

This video isn’t intended to be the “be-all, end-all” regarding this topic. It is intended to help be a launching point for conversation between the two of you. You may have different answers than they indicate. In fact, I’d venture to say that all of us need to hear “I believe in you” and “I cherish you.” So, make it your own! God has put a special thumbprint on your relationship — uniquely beautiful to your story together.

So your homework?

I encourage you and your companion to do exactly as I did with my wife — schedule an intentional, uninterrupted moment with each other to discuss the phrases that the two of you need to hear from each other. Once you establish those phrases, then you start saying those phrases to each other — simple as that!

It may seem awkward at first, but if your heart is in the right place as you say them, you don’t have to worry about coming across as disingenuous. Have faith that your beloved has your best interest in mind, and wouldn’t, in a million years, take advantage or disparage your vulnerability.

When you operate out of a genuine heart, this exercise becomes a beautiful thread within the tapestry of your life together.

Read Time: 6 minutes

We are well into this season of Lent, remembering the love of God that was poured out through Jesus with his death and celebrating his resurrection. Through that, we truly learn how to love like Jesus — selfless and with humility.

Although the “season” of Lent is broadly considered just that — a brief time set aside for holy reverence and reflection — it should yield positive, long-term results. In fact, Fr. Mike Schmitz just put out this great video: “Lent is a Process—Not an Event.

As many of us are avoiding carnal indulgences, allowing us to focus on improving our spirituality in a deeply profound way, additionally I encourage you and your beloved to focus on enriching your marriage for Lent.

Loving Your Spouse Through the Lens of Jesus

Being a son or a daughter of God means so much more than wearing our faith on our sleeve as some sort of badge of honor. Our faith empowers us to live more like Jesus, and this becomes more evident in every area of our lives — especially marriage.

How did Jesus live his life? Through humility and with a servant’s heart.

That is how we lead — loving our spouse through humility and with a servant’s heart. Marriage is referred to as a “mystery” in Ephesians, and also gives us a glimpse into what that means. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (5:31)

Marriage is the complete giving of one’s self to another and becoming one flesh.

To put this into simple terms, before marriage, I was Gordon and my wife was Regina. Over a decade ago, we became “the marriage of Gordon and Regina.” We are individual human beings, but unified as one, under the bond of our marriage.

But developing our marriage did not stop the second we said, “I do.” We weren’t magically made perfect as a married couple that day. We quickly learned that continued effort and hard, but rewarding work was to begin right away — if we truly believed in our vows for each other… and we certainly did.

So how do we work on this, practically speaking?

Dropping Negative Tendencies and Strengthening Positive Temperaments

Spoiler alert: this won’t be easy. But as I mentioned before, working hard on improving your marriage is so rewarding.

We all approach life and its nuances in different ways. How we interact with each other and the react to things that directly or indirectly affect us is what makes up our temperaments. In very simple terms, we can refer to this our prevailing “mood” or “mood patterns.”

It is vitally important to, at the very least, have a general idea of “what makes us tick.” In my opinion, it is also just as important to develop a deeper understanding of the innermost parts of our being by learning more about our temperaments. In marriage, it becomes even more important to learn about each other’s temperament.

Think about it this way: wondering why there is tension in your marriage when you haven’t learned how to speak your spouse’s language (empowering them within their temperament) is like getting frustrated that your microwave hasn’t filed your taxes. All of us have a unique set of wires that make up who we are, and if we use the wrong tools on each other, we lose our functionality. We end up destroying the beautiful creature that we fell in love with.

So how do we put this into practice within our marriage?

1 . Talk about everything.

And I mean everything.

The good, the bad, the ugly. Even the things we feel might be irrational fears, everything.

Lack of communication is the very withholding of one’s self to the other. When that happens, we lose the very Christlike nature within the foundation of our marriage. We can and should be excited to share everything with each other. Lack of communication leads to so many negative results, the chief among them is the compromising of trust and integrity within your marriage. None of us are mind-readers, so the guessing game cannot be a part of a healthy marriage.

If being an open book with your spouse isn’t your M.O., my friend, you are backpedaling on your vows. Really, at the end of the day, what are you trying to hide? If fear of looking weak in front of your spouse is holding you back from sharing, well then, start there. Tell your spouse that you are afraid to share with them. Have a conversation about it. Open communication will undoubtedly unlock deeper levels of intimacy with your spouse.

Communication is also equal parts talking and listening. We’ll talk more about being a steamroller later on, but make sure that when you communicate or have a conversation, it isn’t a one-sided event. Your spouse needs to be actively listened to just as much as you do — remember that.

Listening to your spouse is also not just a passive stance to take — merely “putting in your time” while your spouse drones on. We all have a desire to be heard, but not many of us develop the desire to hear. We can and should be excited to listen to each other.

Set aside time every single day to have uninterrupted conversation. If you need a milestone to get you started, set aside fifteen minutes every single day of intentional, uninterrupted conversation. Phones on silent, on the chargers in the other room.

2. Learn more about each other.

I always cringe a little when couples indicate that they “know everything about each other.” While this may seem like an excellent goal, I feel like life together as a married couple becomes quite boring if there isn’t anything new and exciting to learn about each other.

When someone passes away, we usually say “rest in peace” — insinuating that the afterlife is the ultimate peace to attain. Ergo, if we achieve this “ultimate peace” of knowing everything about each other, is it safe to say that part of our marriage is kind of… dead?

Setting that aside, I would go further to say that I don’t necessarily believe that husband and wife can ever truly “know everything about each other,” especially just after a few years of marriage. We all change as time goes on, even if they are slight changes. The beauty of marriage is growing in love, together. Going through changes, together. The only danger is not allowing the other person “in” on that growth. Again, see: “Talk about everything.

In one of our other articles, we wrote about having a jar filled with conversation prompts, and I can’t begin to express enough how powerful that tool can be. Load it with questions like, what was it like for you the first time we met?, what is your ultimate dream for us as a couple?, what is your ultimate dream for yourself as an individual?, what does true happiness look like to you?, how do I make you feel like you are my priority?, what are things that could be better for us?

Get creative and specific for you and your marriage with these questions. This is a beautiful exercise and can yield very profound results — you may be surprised at each other’s answers, and that rules.

3. Do not be a steamroller.

Using your temperament as a weapon of self-indulgence completely invalidates your spouse’s needs, wants, and desires. This can destroy any and all possibility of thriving together as a couple if it is not brought to your attention, or if left unresolved. Did you catch that?

One part is the awareness that steamrolling may be happening, and the other part is to resolve it.

Our temperaments are unique, beautiful and individualistic, but also complimentary as husband and wife. Marriage is a dance. It is all about give and take. If you notice your spouse needs to express their temperament a little more on a given day, it might mean that you yourself need to take a step back and allow for them to feel loved and listened to in a meaningful way.

If you feel like your spouse may be steamrolling a bit, it can be easy to get frustrated. In fact, I’d say that you may be justified in your frustration if you feel like you hardly have a chance to express your temperament, your emotions, your thoughts, so… talk about it! If you haven’t noticed already, the common theme throughout this article is all about communication.

During those times of uninterrupted conversation mentioned above, bring up the fact that you feel a bit steamrolled at times if that is the case. Or, if you are on the other side — doing the steamrolling — if your spouse makes you aware of this, respond with humility and with a soft demeanor. When your spouse is justifiably upset, it isn’t time to double down and make excuses for hurting him/her.

In short…

I’ll leave you with three very practical ways to help with enriching your marriage for Lent. Bonus points and ten gold stars if you do all three:

  1. You may already have a general idea of what your temperament is, but if you would like to go deeper into the inner-workings of who you are, there are plenty of assessments you can take online to find out. This assessment from the study “I Said This, You Heard That” is really well done. This isn’t an official endorsement by any means, but my wife and I took this course with the assessment and it really improved our way of communicating and interacting with each other.
  2. Regardless of if you take the assessment or not, as I mentioned above, set aside that time every day to have your uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. It’s easy, and we all have time, so don’t make excuses — put it into practice! I believe in you.
  3. Use the conversation prompts to learn more about each other.

At the very least, the takeaway here is the awareness of how we are built and wired as human beings. Through this knowledge of ourselves, we then continually work toward becoming better versions of ourselves for our spouse.

Read Time: 3 minutes

Love is in the air! Greeting cards, chocolates, and roses fill every aisle at the grocery store. Your favorite local restaurant is booked solid on the 14th. Couples everywhere are celebrating their undying love for one another — for one day only.

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is fast-approaching. I personally enjoy Valentine’s Day — my wife and I usually get dressed up for our date (usually dinner, shopping, and a movie), and my kids get excited to pick out the box of valentines they distribute to their classmates (usually Batman, Spider-Man, and Elsa/Anna-themed). While I don’t buy into the “Hallmark Holiday” conspiracy theory, this year, I couldn’t help but think, how many couples save their expression of love for each other only for Valentine’s Day?

You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’

I’m not sure where it all started, but after you got married, did any seasoned veterans approach you and your spouse (like they did to me) and ask:

1. How is the married life?

and

2. If you indicated that things were good, did they follow it up with something along the lines of, “Oh you just wait until the honeymoon feeling wears off!”?

Why is that? It’s almost as if the general consensus of marriage is that it has to be miserable. I’m not downplaying the fact that challenges do arise in marriage — in fact, quite the opposite. I just can’t help but to think, why is marriage generally perceived to be a dreadful experience?

That way of thinking leads to husband and wife becoming glorified roommates, and I’m certain that I don’t have to explain how damaging that can be to a marriage.

So how do you hold onto the magic?

Never Stop Pursuing Each Other

We’ve always heard the expression, “Marriage is hard work.” That is true, but we cannot forget about the reward for that hard work. Marriage is hard work and so rewarding. This is where cherishing your spouse really comes into play.

Regardless of how busy we are, we all have opportunities to connect with our spouse in deeply profound ways. The excuse of schedule limitations restricting you from spending quality time (frequently) with your spouse indicates that your spouse has moved to a lower spot on your list of priorities. How much time are you spending on your phone or watching a show to “unwind” at the end of the day? Every minute that we are able to spend with our spouse should be considered precious and sacred.

A simple solution to this is — and we repeat ourselves an extraordinary amount throughout our website about this — schedule frequent date nights. Again, they don’t have to be extravagant. Find out what you both love to do and connect with each other.

Also, surprise each other! Spontaneous acts of kindness, gift giving, and other expressions of love show your spouse that they are your priority, and that they are always on your mind. I like to leave sticky notes with little love notes on them throughout the house before I leave for work. My wife finds them at some point during the day and loves them!

She will send me texts throughout the day along the lines of, “I’m proud of you and I love you!,” and I can’t express to you just how strong that makes me feel.

Continually pursuing each other is not as complicated as people think, it just requires a healthy dose of effort and forming positive, love-expressing habits.

So… Don’t Save it All for Valentine’s Day

Should we still celebrate Valentine’s Day with our spouse? Absolutely — go all out! Have fun with it. Just remember, your expressions of love for one another should not be limited to one day of celebration. To keep with the theme, when you and your spouse celebrate Valentine’s Day, it should be a special day, but only because you have continually expressed your love for each other in profound ways throughout the year.

Learn what really fills each other’s love tanks. Husbands, buy your wife flowers just because you were thinking of her. Wives, write a note about how much your husband means to you, and tell him you’re proud of him (we need to hear that more than you’ll ever know). Never stop pursuing each other, and don’t save it all for Valentine’s Day.

Read Time: 5 minutes

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It’s the beginning of the year, and for most, that means that it’s time to outline the plan for the next 12 months!

Normally that can generally include things like a review of finances, planning for purchases both big and small, home projects and renovations that need to happen, and perhaps a nice vacation.

You may be thinking — that covers all the bases!

But as a married couple, we feel like there is something that often gets overlooked amidst the review and planning of all of the day-to-day, logistical items — and that is a review of the relationship.

First Things First…

We highly recommend working on your beginning of the year plan (including but not limited to the things we mentioned above) together, as a couple.

While this may seem obvious, there may be some out there who feel like they have to tackle the everyday challenges of running the household alone.

We understand that there may be dedicated “managers” of certain aspects (finances, for example), but there is a huge difference between a mutual understanding that someone may be gifted more in areas, and an attitude of, “You’re better at this, so YOU handle it.”

To clarify, one is a partnership, while the other is demanding and setting unhealthy expectations.

Roles within your marriage certainly change as time goes on, and you gain new experiences in life together. However, although as roles are defined, they should always be cooperative and complimentary with and of each other. Regardless of who is doing what, it is important to remain on the same page, and for both to have an understanding of the overall, broad objectives. Otherwise, you can become glorified roommates.

How to Review Refocus and Reenergize Your Relationship

As we mentioned before, it is absolutely important to approach the beginning of the year planning with practicality and from a bird’s eye view. Equally as important is putting your relationship under that same new year review.

Why is that important, and what does it mean?

Reviewing your relationship together at the start of the year helps to establish your roadmap, and helps to set expectations for you as a couple. This includes your romance, your family spirituality, your pursuit of each other, your intentionality to grow in your love for one another, your scheduled date nights for times of reconnecting and fun, for instance.

So let’s talk about that!

Romancing and Pursuing Each Other

Romance within marriage can often be perceived as, “the longer you are married, the less you feel ‘in love.'”

But it doesn’t actually have to be that way. In fact, according to Today, in a new national survey of married Americans, 40 percent of those who’d been married at least 10 years said they remained “very intensely” in love with their partner. So you may be asking, “how is that attainable?”

Although we never claim to have all the answers, we do have some suggestions to keep that spark alive and well.

We have all heard that real, long-term love is a choice, not a feeling. However, we believe that the more you choose to invest in the romance of your marriage, the more you begin to feel in love.

What do we mean by that?

It’s quite simple, really.

You can choose to hold your spouse’s hand when you’re in the car together or walking through the store together.

Start small. This will help to give you and your spouse a sense of connectedness and comfort — especially if either of your primary love languages is physical touch (we have more to say about love languages later in this section).

You can choose to put your phones on their chargers (in the other room, of course) when you are spending time together in your home.

Yes, in the other room — we were sure to cover that loophole! Look, we don’t make many definitive statements here, but we are fairly confident that if you constantly check your phones while you’re spending time together, you’re not actually spending time together. The act of removing that distraction from your immediate access tells your spouse that they are your priority, and they have your full attention. You then become intentional about the quality time you have with your spouse. Checking Facebook and your Cryptocurrency can wait.

You can choose to learn what your spouse’s primary love language is, and become masterfully fluent in it.

We all have a primary love language. It’s the thing that makes us feel most loved when when communicated effectively. For some, a bouquet of flowers as a “I was just thinking of you” gift is most meaningful. For others, quality time like we mentioned in the previous point fills the love tank. When those needs to feel desired are not met, husband and wife begin to feel disconnected from each other. If you haven’t checked out the Five Love Languages yet, or if it has been a while, they have an online quiz to help you determine which love language is your primary.

Growing in Love — Practically and Spiritually

It’s one thing to surprise your spouse with any of the tips mentioned above, but it has to be put into practice in order to keep the fire burning. Trust us when we say that the longer you implement those practices within your marriage, the more natural it feels. It shouldn’t get “easier” because the things worth fighting for involve effort. Hopefully you believe that your marriage is worth it.

Growing in love is how you and your spouse tread the path toward remaining “intensely in love” like we mentioned before. Growing in love is truly living out what it means to cherish your spouse. Every choice you make should have your spouse’s best interests in mind. Every word you utter to your spouse should be that of unconditional love and respect — especially in times of disagreement or conflict.

Cherishing your spouse also involves your intent to invest in your marriage. If you are experiencing difficulties, seeking council and attending couples therapy is always recommended by the leading experts. But you shouldn’t only invest in your marriage when the rough waters begin to rise. When it comes to finances, you generally invest when times are good and when money is flowing. The same goes for your marriage — invest while your marriage is hitting its high notes. If your church or parish offers marriage enrichment classes, attend them! Find programs within your community or purchase programs to do together, at home.

Growing in love also includes the spiritual health of your marriage. Are you praying with and for each other with regularity? Do you attend church together, as a family, with regularity? Do you volunteer to serve your community? Practicing any of what we mentioned helps to develop your family spirituality, bringing the two of you closer together on a tremendously deep level.

Reconnecting by Scheduling Date Nights

Schedule your date nights. Plan them out. Even if your plans include pajamas and unhealthy, delicious snacks while you binge watch The Office, plan it out! The act of planning out and scheduling your date nights will get you both excited at the prospect of spending time together.

We even have an article on Affordable Out of the Box Date Ideas to help get you started.

Your Call to Action (In Conclusion)

As you are planning your year out, have a meeting with your spouse to review your relationship. Put it on the calendar, even. Be deliberate with the meeting. It is vital to review your marriage from time to time if you both intend to be in this for the long haul.

So that’s your homework.

Be renewed by this exercise. Pray together as you meet about this, and have fun!

Read Time: 3 minutes

In the last article, we provided questions to spark discussion between you and your spouse and the challenge was to come up with new traditions of your own, as a couple.

So… Did you do that?

If so, we hope your conversations led to fruitful results with the exercise! If not, don’t worry! These conversations don’t happen overnight, and honestly, they shouldn’t.

Either way, we had a blast putting together this article to provide you with some fun, out-of-the-box ideas for the Christmas season to help get you started.

Ideas for you as a couple:

Arguably the biggest challenge with making plans around the holidays is the finite amount of time that you actually have. In fact, we’re convinced that time somehow moves faster during the holidays! The good news is that our suggestions might actually help you to feel like you can slow down just a bit amidst the hustle and bustle.

The Mystery Christmas Movie Randomizer

This one’s a whole ton of fun! All you need to do is wrap your Christmas movies in Christmas wrapping paper, and each night that you can dedicate to a movie night, unwrap a movie, grab some popcorn or other snacks, and cozy up on the couch together. The best part about it is, even though you know your library of movies, it will still be a surprise for every movie night.

If you are digital-only folks, you can still make this work! Simply write down the movies you have or can rent on pieces of paper, and draw one from a jar instead.

Quick note from everyone here on our team in case there is still any confusion: Die Hard absolutely counts as a Christmas movie. Probably the best Christmas movie ever made.

Moving on…

Make Christmas Cards

This one isn’t a “new” idea by any means, but making Christmas cards together is always a good time. Get creative! Design your own together, or buy a pack from Target. Either way, hand-written notes to loved ones wins every time!

Attend Mass Together

If attending the Christmas Mass is not or hasn’t been a tradition of yours, we highly encourage it. Even though you may be faithful members and attendees of your local parish, there is just something special about joining your brothers and sisters to observe and celebrate the beauty and holiness that this season brings.

Ideas for celebrating with your new family:

Now that your married, your family becomes your spouse’s family and vice versa. Assuming you both have good relationships with your families, it can be fun to blend some Christmas traditions between both parties.

Hot Chocolate Bar and Game Nights

If you really want to surprise your in-laws, schedule a fun hot cocoa and game night on another day that isn’t the expected family Christmas party. This helps to show them that you are intentional about getting to know them better, and to help your in-laws and parents get to know each other better as well.

Bring over ingredients for hot cocoa, including the toppings (marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, sprinkles, etc.), and get the board games out. If you really want to see everyone’s true colors, crack open Monopoly and let the good times roll.

Attend Mass Together, as a Family

As we mentioned before, if this hasn’t been a tradition of yours, or your family of origin’s, we highly recommend it. If either your in-laws or your own parents aren’t necessarily churchgoers, inviting them to Christmas Mass may have a higher probability that they will accept the invitation.

In conclusion…

As we wrap up (see what we did there?) the year 2021, our prayer is that 2022 is abundant in blessings for you and your spouse. We hope that you were able to make wonderful memories during the holidays, and that you continue to make more, as you build upon your traditions.

The most important point that we can make with all of these traditions and fun celebrations is, be present (see what we did there, too?).

In all seriousness, we can all become so busy with all that this season brings that we lose sight of the important things. “Trying” to be present with family and friends becomes a paradox in and of itself. The only advice we can give is to see each moment for what it is — temporary. That’s what makes a moment special. If it could last forever, it would become boring.

With all of the love that we can muster, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Read Time: 3 minutes

The moment you say, “I do,” you and your partner begin the adventure of intentionally getting to know each other at deeper levels. The mystery of who you are as a couple, and who you will grow to be, is like a gift you get to unwrap together!

One thing that you’ll learn about your partner is the traditions they had in their family of origin when it comes to the holidays.

You may be wondering… What is a Family of Origin?

A family of origin is the family you grew up with — the home that helped form you into the person you are today. We all have a family of origin, and they all look different.

As the saying goes, we are a product of our environment. There are a lot of nuances to how our families of origin shaped us, but let’s focus on one area: holiday traditions.

Each family celebrates the holidays differently.

Just talk about it!

As you continue getting to know your spouse, it is important to know his/her family of origin’s traditions when it comes to the holidays. The best way to do this? Simply ask!

We suggest that you ask your spouse the following questions:

  • How did your family of origin celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • How did your family of origin celebrate Christmas? 
  • How did your family of origin celebrate New Year?
  • What other family traditions are celebrated during this holiday season?

Take some time to consider each family’s religious traditions, cultural expressions, and even the “house rules” or unique twists a family puts into their celebrations. Even simple things like food items and who gets to open presents first are important elements of celebrating holidays.

The end of the year can be a challenge for many couples, and we often have our own expectations about how the holidays should be celebrated. Taking the time to talk with your partner about what your holiday traditions are and what they mean to you will be an important step toward blending your lives and traditions together.

Something Old, Something New

Once you’ve both shared the importance of your holiday traditions, it’s time to discuss how your new family would like to celebrate. As you look at the ways your two families of origin expressed their faith, traditions, and customs, begin to talk about how you want the holidays to look in your family.

Consider taking elements from each of your families of origin along with adding new elements that express who you are as a couple and what you value. You might be surprised that your traditions go hand-in-hand and there is little you’d like to change, or you might find that you’d like to establish entirely new ways of celebrating the holidays.

As a new family, it’s truly up to you to decide. As long as you communicate openly, and you agree to honor each other in the process, the decisions belong to you as a couple. We encourage you to honor your parents and extended family, but ultimately, your new family traditions need to make sense for you, and you alone.

Our challenge for you and your spouse:

Create your own traditions together! These new traditions can be a mix of what you and your spouse experienced in your own families of origin, plus a dash (or several dashes) of what makes your relationship unique.

Remember — This is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

This is part of the beauty of marriage!

We hope that you find this article to be helpful as we enter the holiday season.

From all of us at The Marriage Group, we wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Read our next article to help spark ideas for the Christmas season!

Read Time: 4 minutes

Fall in love… Ha! See what I did there?

Fall, or Autumn, is a beautiful time of year for most of the area significantly north of the equator. It happens to be my favorite time of year as well! I may be a little biased, but Michigan has some of the most beautiful explosions of color as soon as it consistently dips below fifty degrees.

Fall is a great time for those of us who love anything pumpkin-flavored, cooler weather, and apple orchards. It’s also a great time to reflect on the past several months since the calendar year is winding down.

Being Comfortable vs. Complacent

You may have been married a few years, a few months, or maybe you’re in the middle of preparing for your marriage.

Regardless, any married person will be the first to tell you how easy it is to start to sway to the rhythm of the day-to-day symphony of wedlock. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either! Routine and rhythm just means you’re getting more and more comfortable with each other. You are getting more and more comfortable with the idea and practice of actually being married. It’s pretty cool!

The challenge is to not allow yourselves to become complacent. Complacency happens when comfort turns into a desire to stay the same at all costs. It worsens when couples begin ignoring opportunities for growth in their marriage. It can even be rooted in pride, a mindset that your marriage is fail-proof, and there’s no need for improvement. Couples who choose not to grow may end up unhappy in their marriages, or they may simply become glorified roommates as time goes on.

How to Overcome Complacency in Marriage

If you want avoid complacency, here are some suggestions for growing closer to your partner.

1. Remember the Magic

It’s probably safe to say you both had butterflies at even the thought of your partner at some point in your relationship. Reminisce with each other. Talk about your first few dates. Talk about the moments when you knew you were falling in love. Life may have turned out differently than your daydreams at the start of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean excitement and anticipation are totally gone.

It may seem easier said than done, but making this part of your “reconnecting routine” will begin to feel natural over time. You’ll even add new memories as you go through life together, accumulating more stories that remind you why you’re together.

Honestly? What has worked for my wife and me is sharing our favorite memories over a rousing game of Uno. In the middle of getting bombarded with 30 “Draw Two” cards, the fond memories are a nice buffer.

Which is a GREAT segue into…

2. Do Things Together

Please excuse the broad brush here, but really think about it — how many things have you done with each other lately? No, scrolling through your phone in the same room doesn’t count.

When is the last time you really connected with each other?

We’re not saying you need to go to a five-star restaurant or spend a weekend at a fancy hotel. Those things are great when you can do them, but there are a multitude of ways to connect with your partner that don’t require a lot of money or planning. In fact, we recently published another article with some great, affordable, out-of-the-box date ideas to help you get started.

It’s also important to be intentional about the time you spend together. If you your date night conversation only centers around home and work projects and what’s on the grocery list, you may need to set aside time to have those conversations other times.

It’s okay to end up at the grocery store at the end of a successful date night, I’d just encourage you to spend a good portion of the night talking about more than just running out of toilet paper.

Find that spark again. Have fun together. Turn on some smooth jazz and wash the dishes together in a dimly lit kitchen. Do things together.

3. Talk About It

Simply bring it up in conversation. Some of the most damaging things that happen in a marriage are the things left unsaid. I may sound like a broken record here, but slipping into the monotony of everyday married life is easy — and most of the time you don’t realize it has happened. Identify that elephant in the room and embrace the conversation together.

Is it scary to be vulnerable? Of course!

We’re taught from a very young age to bottle things up, and some of us are pros at it (talking to myself here… I’m a textbook recovering bottler).

This might be the simplest yet most difficult suggestion on this list.

It can also be the most profound, if you let it.

Ask your spouse these questions:

Are you happy? What does that mean to you?
Are we on the same page on X, Y, and Z?
Is there anything weighing heavily on your mind?
Are you bored? If so, why? How can I help you to feel alive in our marriage again?

Those are just some suggestions for sparking conversation. Use your own words if it makes you more comfortable — but have these conversations. You don’t know what you don’t know, so talk about it. Bring the answers to these questions out into the light.

How Do We Start?

To summarize, start small, but start somewhere.

If you noticed, all three suggestions work very well together, and they don’t have to be done in order.

Here are some action items to get you started:

Schedule a date night (do things together).

On that date night, ask those questions, especially if you don’t want to (talk about it).

And finally, reminisce about your life together so far — the times where you were your happiest (remember the magic).

Once these things become part of your rhythm as a couple, you’ll truly find yourself falling in love all over again.

Read Time: 5 minutes

You cannot predict the future, but you can plan for the future.

Okay, okay, I know that’s pretty cliché, but if something is a cliché, it usually means it’s true, right?

The Future (personifying it a little bit here) is scary by nature. The overall ambiguity of it all can be staggering. Within all of that multifaceted kaleidoscope of uncertainty, there is also a little bit of excitement when it comes to dreaming about the future. With all of that said, it is important to plan, rather, start setting goals

While there are no “magic formulas” when it comes to setting goals in your marriage, there are a few common denominators that just seem to work.

We have put together this practical guide — along with a few things that have helped in our personal marriages — to help you organize a roadmap for your future and setting goals in your marriage.

Ten, Five, and One

When thinking of setting goals in your marriage, inherently, initial thoughts may be what things will look like years down the road. So let’s start there!

I’m a simple man, and I like to have some sort of formulaic foundation whenever I begin any exercise. What has worked for me and my marriage has been the Ten, Five, and One Model.

Start with your ten year goals (I personally think any longer than ten years can start to become too broad/too distant in the future). What sort of career are you looking to have? Will you both be working? Will you have children? How many? Think broadly with this — as much as you can, obviously, but also be specific on some of the things that allow you to be. This creates the framework to work within while making the other plans.

Think of it like finding all of the edge pieces of a thousand-piece puzzle and putting it together. You’re framing in the tapestry of your life together!

After you’ve mapped out your ten year goals, start working on your five year goals. This one’s a bit easier to map out because there are probably things in your life already that come with a timeline. For instance, if you have already purchased a home, you might say something like, “in five years, we would like to have X amount paid off.” You get the idea.

Once you feel good about the five year goals, it’s time to work on the one year goals. This one might arguably be the most difficult to work through.

Remember the puzzle metaphor? Man, those middle pieces can be challenging.

Somehow, it’s easier to dream about ten years from now because it’s lofty and a literal shot in the dark. The one year plan might also be the most important plan out of the three. It helps to eliminate most “surprises” (for better or for worse).

It also really helps the two of you become closer together with communication and balancing life. Again, there are few surprises, especially when it comes to the day-to-day stuff because you’ve already laid out a concrete plan together. Embrace the “mundane” and the perceived monotony when it comes to  the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month schedules. Be as specific as possible to eliminate those unpleasant surprises.

As soon as you complete the ten, five, and one year plans, go through it again from the top. Make sure that there is some sort of ebb and flow to the overall plan, with consistent themes as the thread.

Practical, Pleasing Plans

Like I said, I’m a simple man and I enjoy alliterations.

Now that we’ve established functionality of creating a plan from a birds-eye view, let’s get into some specifics.

Let’s tackle the practical planning first.

Everyone wants to be prepared as much as possible. What does that look like for you and your spouse?

Do either or both of you have a life insurance policy? Do you have an emergency fund in place in case the unthinkable happens? This could also include severe illness, medical bills, things like that. What about general savings? What are you hoping to accomplish with your finances as your plan begins to unfold?

During this portion of planning, it’s easy to become so overly-vigilant that we end up eliminating any sort of enjoyment or hopeful outlook from the goal-setting or future-planning process. As I’ve mentioned, you are going to be discussing some heavy topics — life insurance, planning for illness, emergency funds…

So, let’s talk about the fun side of setting goals in your marriage!

I understand that we are all wired different, and those of you who may be reading this tend to lean on the more practical side when setting goals in your marriage, which is okay! Just hang with me here for a minute.

Inasmuch as practicality is important to discuss, the enjoyment of life and overall happiness is also just as important. This life is tough, fleeting, and confusing at times, so we have to enjoy it as much as we can.

So, what makes you happy? What sort of things have you always dreamed of having in your home? What vacation have you always wanted to go on? Dream big, be specific, and have fun with this.

Revisit with Regularity

Plans change. Maybe you and your spouse decide to have children sooner than what you originally planned (learn more about Natural Family Planning). Maybe you receive an inheritance and you are now able to purchase that dream home this year, rather than five years down the road. Or maybe you simply have different ideas of where you’d like to see yourselves in the not-so-distant future.

Whatever the case may be, put something on the schedule to revisit your plan with regularity. What does that look like? I can’t answer that for you, but what works for my wife and I is a quarterly assessment of the overall plan.

So How Do We Start?

I’m glad you asked!

I would like to encourage you and your spouse to participate in a simple exercise.

Get out your notepad and your favorite pen or pencil. Sit down with your favorite beverage and snacks, and turn on some soft music. You can do the following in any order, but here’s what works for my wife and I:

Don’t start with the plan yet. Start by writing down your fears.

Get everything out in the open, regardless of how irrational you feel your fears may be. We’re taught from a very young age that we must vanquish fear and not give it any time of day.

Contrary to that belief, one of my favorite quotes on this very notion is from Nelson Mandela:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Writing down your fears is a great exercise because somehow, it strips all of the power from them. You see the words written down on paper from an arial view. You feel a bit “above” your fears.

When you embrace fear and ambiguity together, you begin to see that perfect love that casts out all fear play out in a very real way.

This exercise was my wife’s idea, and it honestly helped me more than I could have ever imagined.

Once you get your fears out of the way, start tackling each one through the lens of your plan/goals for your marriage.

Again, be practical, but also have fun with it. Dare yourselves to dream a little and get creative.

After you complete those two exercises, I encourage you to take it just one step further.

Now that your plan is in place, come up with the daily encouragement you need to keep you on track with your dreams and goals. Think of this as creating your family mission statement to remind you of where your life is headed. Print it out, frame it, and put it in a spot that you see every morning before heading out to start your day.

Live, breathe, embrace, and recite this over you and your family. It may feel weird to do at first, but the Mayo Clinic talks about the benefits of positive thinking/speaking over yourself.

The future may be unclear at times, but with a plan in place, you begin to feel a bit more in control of the overall narrative.

And that’s pretty comforting, honestly.