Say ‘I do’ to 3 New Year’s resolutions for couples

Matt and Mindy Dalton

Now that we all have lost five pounds since implementing better eating and a new workout routine, and started a new budget for the year (and this one we are going to stick to), we want to talk about some resolutions that could have a longer effect: on our soul.

Since the ultimate goal of marriage is to help your spouse (and children) get to heaven, we each must take steps toward this goal. We hear talk of “falling in love” and being “swept off our feet” when we each first met our spouse, but then the reality of life sets in and that’s where the phrase “labor of love” comes into play. We must make an effort each day to love our spouse; to honor, respect and die to ourselves for the sake of our beloved; the one we said “I do” to.

So here are a few suggestions of New Year’s resolutions for marriages.

#1: Make the commitment to greet your spouse with a hug and kiss every time the other arrives home (or at an event).
The power of a simple hug or kiss can go a long way—every day. Once, while waiting for our daughter’s high school volleyball match to start, we observed the men and women arrive at separate times; maybe the husband or wife came directly from work. The man would walk in, go sit with all the other dads, while the wife continued her conversation with a group of moms located a bit down the bleachers. If we were first-timers to this game, it would have been very difficult to tell which man and which woman were married; which two went together.

A simple moment of walking up to your spouse, with a hug and a greeting is a wonderful way to be united, a wonderful witness to others of your love!

#2: Let go of the one thing about your spouse that irritates you the most.
Maybe it’s the wet towel left on the bathroom floor, or flipping through channels without ever stopping to see what’s actually on TV, or some other annoying habit. Let go of the need to have the toilet paper roll with the paper put over versus under. Don’t worry if the drawers and cabinets are full of make-up, perfumes and the latest moisturizers. Take to heart that we all have a different way of doing things. Keep in mind that each of us has something that gets under the skin of our spouse.

What an opportunity to love, serve and make a gift of ourselves. Work on the virtues of kindness and humility. Pick up the towel and say a prayer for your spouse, make an effort to put the toilet paper roll on the way your spouse likes it (and do it without any expectation whatsoever). Consciously make the effort to not let these things bother you any longer—so help you God.

#3: Pray together as a couple.
This may be the most important and most fruitful of your New Year’s resolutions. Couples that pray together stay together. Invite God into your marriage and into your family. Start each day with a morning offering and end each evening praying as a couple. Most of us would say, “We pray as a family, we say grace before meals.” That’s good but there’s more. Spiritually connecting as spouses brings about a closeness, a peace and a love that is set apart, in a word—HOLY.

COMING UP: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.