Happy Together: The Catholic Blueprint for a Loving Marriage

by John Bosio
Twenty-Third Publications, New London, Conn
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(Reviewed by David Gibson, former editor, now retired, of Origins, CNS Documentary Service)

Faithfulness in marriage “is more than a promise of sexual fidelity. It is the commitment always to be aware of each other and honest with each other,” says John Bosio, author of the newly published book Happy Together. He tells husbands and wives, “Your wedding promise of love and fidelity was a vow to make your spouse the top priority in your life.”

This easy-to-read book reflects on the essentials of marriage in the light of faith. Aided by helpful discussion questions, the book guides spouses into their own reflection on ways to strengthen their marriage and bolster their happiness. The author is a husband and father, family-life educator and former marriage and family therapist.

At the start of a marriage, all couples must learn to “live together while giving one another the companionship and the personal space each needs to be comfortable. This is a process of learning to balance the ‘I’ and the ‘we,’” Bosio writes. Adjustments in early marriage lead to “welcoming one another’s uniqueness and making room for each other.”

Bosio’s thinking on the importance of learning to welcome and accept each other within marriage might sound at first like common sense. This is, however, one of the six basics of his “blueprint” for a loving, happy marriage; as his discussion of this point unfolds, many readers undoubtedly will recognize it as a vital, but sometimes neglected, need in marriage. How do spouses express this welcome and acceptance? “Through respect, understanding and graciousness,” says the author.

Bosio’s blueprint also calls upon each spouse to “be attentive” to the other and truthful; to sacrifice for the other; to forgive and to ask forgiveness; to “comfort and help your spouse to heal”; to “serve God and your spouse” in a generous manner.

In this brief review I can merely hint at the wealth of valuable insights found in “Happy Together.” I’m sure that Bosio’s discussion of “words” -- how spouses speak to each other – will capture many readers’ attention. He suggests that spouses listen to themselves and think about how they use words.

Bosio asks, “Do you use [words] to praise, to encourage, to comfort and build up your spouse, or do you use them to criticize and to put down?” Here the author’s advice is particularly direct: “If words of affirmation are not in your vocabulary today, learn to use them.”

Several true stories are told by the author about couples he knew or worked with who wrestled with great challenges to their happiness. I wish he could have devoted more space to these stories, revealing much more about how these couples resolved issues or found their way forward. Case studies of this kind serve to anchor the author’s thinking about marriage in real life. But, who knows? Perhaps such stories will serve to anchor yet another book by this author.

Happiness in marriage will not happen “accidentally,” Bosio tells readers. Rather, he says, “God calls you to ‘become what you are’ in his grand design,” and “this requires you to make intentional choices through which you show care for your spouse and for your relationship.”

The good news is that in God’s design the life of a husband or wife “is filled with divine energy” through the Holy Spirit’s presence, Bosio makes clear. And faith prompts a spouse to turn to the Holy Spirit for courage to overcome selfish tendencies, “guidance to take the first step in making changes, humility to seek and understand [the other], and wisdom to say and do what is right.”

This review is reprinted from For Your Marriage, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.