Practical Ways of Sustaining a Healthy, Intimate Relationship
by Fr. Peter deSousa
A life long relationship takes effort and courage. Commitment, communication and couple prayer will help build your marriage. Work on it constantly, especially during difficult situations in your life.
It is said that nothing happens unless you make it happen. Our children are encouraged to work hard at their studies for twenty to twenty three long years from lower K.G. to post-graduation. If one studies for the priesthood, it is even longer!! A lot of daily effort, perseverance, hard work, sacrifice and commitment is required to sustain good grades and to excel. The same is true of sports. One has to spend so much time practising, training and observing self- discipline if one wants to shine. This is true of every career. There are so many competing today for such few jobs that one cannot afford to give in or give up when the going gets tough.
A marriage is a relationship between a man-person and a woman-person. Each one grows and evolves as a person through an ongoing relationship. The conjugal relationship of newly-weds has to grow in depth and strength through the years and this requires an effort from each one to give 100% of himself or herself to the other, everyday for a life-time.
One can never take the other for granted or get used to the other, because he/she wears your ring. It is not too difficult to adjust to the other if the other is static, and does not change or grow. But we know that everyday, we grow or regress as persons. Some put a label on the other and it unfortunately sticks, so that the other does not grow. Where there is an atmosphere that is conducive to personal growth, each partner in a marriage will grow.
A plant needs sunlight, good soil, nutrients, weeding, green fingers, care from termites and sufficient water, in order to blossom and bear flowers and fruit. Love, forgiveness, caring, sharing, bearing one another's burdens are nutrients in a marriage relationship. Because we are human and often give more importance to our career, children or pastimes than to our spouse, we may fail to provide what a good gardener provides to a plant he cherishes. In a happy marriage, where there is growth of persons, there is probably good and consistent nurturing of the relationship, in all the stages of the marriage. Even where couples have taken each other for granted over the years, but decide to start again and work at their relationship, one will notice new growth. Commitment means effort, perseverance, courage, but above all, faith in God that He has called the two to be help-mates and companions. His grace is sufficient for you and He will provide you with what you need to be a good spouse everyday. Maybe we need to make our relationship a priority, one day at a time, for everyday is a wedding day. In good times or bad, sickness or health, riches or poverty, you decide to give your hundred percent to your spouse.
Have you made a firm commitment to give your spouse the first place in your life after God? Will you continue to honour that commitment even when you do not feel loving towards your spouse? God's plan for you as a couple is to make Love a daily decision. Decide to love each other and allow yourself to be loved by each other. God is love. You are merely channels of that love to each other. Allow God's plan to be realised in your marriage. Perhaps you would prefer God to use a holy priest or a trusted friend to sanctify you. But God chooses your spouse. Communication will be treated as a topic by itself in another talk. A husband and wife need to communicate daily on three human, conjugal, levels. A) They need to share their ideas and listen to each other's ideas on various topics. B) They need to share their feelings in these areas. C) They need to communicate non-verbally. Touch, tone of voice, expression in one's eyes, posture and body language are all important.
Couple-prayer is essential to build a good marriage. Personal prayer is very necessary to open one's life, daily, to the Holy Spirit, so that one may live as God's precious child. When a couple prays together, they are conscious that it is the Lord who has called and chosen them to be life-companions to each other this day. Today, each one sees the other through the loving and compassionate eyes of Abba Father. Each one's eyes reflect to the other how precious the other is. Oftentimes we experience failure, difficulties, disappointments and disillusionment in our lives. God gives you a flesh and blood companion in whose embrace you can come to life again. He gives you this power.
As a couple, be aware of God's presence and love for you in your home everyday. He is the One who enables you to be one in body, mind, heart and spirit. Nothing is impossible with God. So together adore, praise and thank Him for this beautiful call to be One so that you may mirror His love to others as a couple. He has not called you to a celibate love but to a conjugal love. His plan for your holiness and salvation is tied up in your living a conjugal spirituality. Ask Him for the grace to die to yourself. Your pride, self-righteousness, superiority, coldness, indifference, impatience and lack of love prevent you from witnessing as a couple. In humble prayer ask and give forgiveness to each other and remove the blocks of pride. Thank Him for your beautiful vocation as a married couple and for the gift of each other. Thank Him for your children and your home. Thank Him for the food you eat and all the blessings He gives you. Thank Him for the crosses through which He prunes you to bear more fruit. Ask Him for the graces you need in your sacrament. Remember the answer to prayer is always a person and not a thing. Very often people are discouraged because we ask for things. God will never refuse the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. In couple prayer, humbly ask the Holy Spirit to accompany you this day as husband or wife, father or mother, parent or child.
Reflect together on God's Word spoken to you as a couple this day and share with each other what you hear God saying to you in your marriage. Listen to what the other tells you God is saying to him/her. Do not preach to the other, but accept the other unconditionally and lovingly, as God's precious gift to you this day. God wants you to touch, to kiss, to embrace each other in love. Sex is a form of communication between husband and wife. You communicate your delight in each other, your need for each other and your forgiveness to each other. You affirm, appreciate and trust each other when you are united in love. You are not brother and sister to each other, but husband and wife, all the days of your life. Ask Him to make your love alive and life-giving. Your relationship will be then be joyful .
Effort and courage, commitment, communication and couple prayer are what every couple needs to work at. How are you doing?
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