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: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.