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I Resolve … to Improve My Marriage

By Danielle Bean

January is a time for making resolutions for our finances, health, diet or other ways to improve ourselves in the next 365 days. But have you ever considered resolving to improve your marriage?

Here are some common self-improvement resolutions, which can be adapted to your marriage:

1. Lose Weight

Could your marriage afford to lose some weight? I don't mean the kind of extra pounds that come from too much pizza and ice cream – although surveys show that women especially tend to gain weight after marriage. I mean the weighty burden we place on our relationships when we hold onto hurt and cling to old resentments.

That really awful thing she said in the throes of a heated argument three years ago? Lose it. The righteous indignation you feel every time you remember how he got the wrong gift on Mother’s Day? Drop it. This year, give your marriage the gift of freedom to toss off weighty emotional resentments.

2. Quit a Bad Habit

You might not smoke, drink or bite your nails, but I guarantee there are some bad habits in your marriage which you should consider quitting. Your vice might be habitual, excessive anger or annoyance at small offenses. It might be laziness that leads to neglecting your physical appearance, “forgetting” to practice basic manners, or failing to do the little things that matter most to your spouse.

Or your marriage’s bad habit might be just a rut you’ve both fallen into – taking one another for granted and not expressing your love and appreciation for one another.

Whatever the habit, a new year is the perfect time to commit to quit. Talk with your spouse about what “vice” you want to focus on and resolve to battle it together.

3. Get Fit

Our bodies become fit and strong with exercise, but our marriages need strengthening too. We strengthen our marriages, first and foremost, by filling them with God’s grace.

Do you know that in the sacrament of matrimony, God gave you all the graces you need to fulfill your earthly vocation to marriage and family life? One sure way to strengthen your marriage is to call on God and cash in on those graces. Make time to pray together as a couple, specifically asking God to bless and strengthen your marriage. If your spouse will not pray with you, you can commit to praying daily for the strength of your marriage. Print short prayers on small pieces of paper and post them where you will be reminded to pray throughout the day.

Sacramental Confession is a God-given way for cleansing the soul and renewing the heart of love. Sin clutters your life with negatives; Confession gives you a new start and a fresh perspective.

Most importantly, attend Mass together each Sunday as a family. Statistics show that significantly more women than men attend weekly Mass, so if you’re in this category, you may need to develop a plan for getting your husband into the pews. You can find suggestions at the Fathers for Good section “How to Get a Man to Mass.”

4. Pay Off Debt

Cutting up your credit cards is an admirable new year’s activity, but even more important is paying off what you owe your marriage and your family. It can be awfully easy to keep track of your own household contributions and calculate exactly what others owe you.

You may think, ”Would it kill her to take out the trash once in a while?” or “Am I the only one who knows how to change this baby’s diaper?”

If you must keep score, recognize the fact that you consistently fail to acknowledge many of your spouse’s household contributions and commit to always giving more than you take.

5. Get Organized

De-cluttering your kitchen cabinets or clearing out the garage are good ideas for the new year, but your marriage could probably use a little organization as well. Even with the best of intentions, good marriages don’t just happen. They take some planning, some effort, and some good old fashioned follow-through.

If spending time together regularly is important to you, schedule it. If you want to make intimacy a bigger priority, plan that too. Are shared mealtimes important to you or going to bed at the same time? Talk about your goals for your marriage and then put a plan in place to meet them.

Resolve to improve your marriage, lean hard on God’s grace, and you can make 2010 the best year of your marriage.

Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of  Faith & Family. She is writing a series of columns for Fathers for Good that explore the relations between husband and wife