Published on October 9th, 2012 | by Elizabeth Hoxie3
This article originally appeared at Finding Great Joy as part of Cynthia’s wonderful mother-to-mother series. Please take a moment to stop by Finding Great Joy and read through the archives. Cynthia has many beautiful and encouraging words for women striving to be holier wives and mothers.
Early in our marriage, a wise priest counseled my husband to have a “five things” conversation with me. He was to ask me for five things he could do to make me feel more loved and really listen to the answers. Once I finished with my list, it was my turn to ask him: How can I love you better? The simple tête-à-tête has become a very fruitful habit in our marriage. Sometimes we do our listing after a disagreement to reconnect, sometimes at the end of a date to carry the romance into the coming week. Every time I feel the strength of the Sacrament. Christ present in our midst giving us the courage to love more.
The best thing about these discussions is the surprises. The first time we sat down together, I expected something along the lines of cook more hot meals and stop complaining. What I got instead was a list that showed me just how deeply my husband cared for me and our marriage. He wanted me to stop panicking about the future-to trust that he would work hard to provide for our family and, more importantly, that God would provide for us. My husband wanted me to be more confident – about my appearance, my abilities as a wife and mother – but to accept that perfection isn’t possible. “You’re human. Get over it.” He genuinely wanted me to talk to him about my struggles instead of keeping things bottled up.
…And he wanted me to clean the car with him.
That last one made me laugh, but it’s a perfect example of how different we are in what we perceive as a loving gesture. I’m as oblivious to a messy car as my husband is to dirty laundry, but it’s important to him to make sure the car is orderly with a flashlight, emergency kit and a mechanic’s tools all easily accessible. Now it’s important to me.
Although our “five things” conversations sometimes feel a bit silly, they’ve really given us a tremendous amount of insight into the way the other thinks. It can be tempting to love in the way you want to be loved, but marriage is an invitation to go beyond our own desires. Marriage is a call to be the servant; to give the gift of our self to the other. In order to love my husband well, I need to know what will make him feel loved. It’s always a bit humbling to realize I don’t know him as well as I should!
I feel like a disclaimer should accompany any kind of marriage advice, so here it is. My husband was counseled to try the “five things” conversation within the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I truly believe the Holy Spirit inspired the priest to tell my husband exactly what he needed to hear to make our marriage more beautiful, holy and perfect. If this article helps you find new ways to love your husband better, terrific. If not, that’s okay.
I think we as Catholic women are often tempted to look at other couples and wonder why our marriages don’t look like theirs. Why don’t my husband and I pray the Rosary together every day? Why aren’t we part of a pro-life ministry or homeschooling our children? Why isn’t our house decked out with statues of the Blessed Mother? Why don’t my husband and I have deep theological conversations over our morning coffee? Sometimes these thoughts give us the motivation to do better, but just as often they breed resentment, discouragement and dissatisfaction.
Every marriage is a work in progress. God leads us each by our own way. Love your husband as best you can today, cherish him as the gift he is, but don’t be afraid if you fall short. Every marriage has its difficulties, every couple has their own struggles, but we don’t need to be afraid. The love of God is alive – working in and through us to make our marriages the most perfect Image of His love on earth.
Happy 2nd anniversary!