WHEN YOU DO NOT choose to make adjustments to enrich your spousal relationship, you are likely to stagnate or to regress in your married life. Your current marital situation is different from that when you were just married, and different from last year's. There have been changes in you, as individuals and as a couple: in appearance; in outlook on life; in the level of physical, emotional and spiritual maturity; in your jobs, financial and social status, assets and liabilities; and in your support network and the environment. Therefore you cannot be fixated in your past manner of communication, or power sharing or role play. You need to change your time and financial management, your method of coping with stress and conflicts, etc.
Your choices must be honest, realistic and positive. Good choices enhance your marriage while poor ones inhibit it.
Areas to recommit yourself
Choose anew your spouse; make the spousal relationship the first priority in human relationships.
Make a decision to love and care for your spouse. Accept his or her expression of love for you. Learn the language of love preferred by your spouse - hold her hand; drop your work to listen to him; praise her effort to cook dinner even when she is tired; leave him alone for a while when he is upset; help to do household chores, etc.
Take the initiative and be creative. Do not expect the other to take action while you wait and see. Find ways to make your togetherness more pleasurable and intimate. Give time and heart to your marital and familial affairs; give of yourself. Do not take things and people for granted. If you sense something amiss in your relationship, have the courage to dialogue about it, to self-examine, and to find concrete ways to address the problem.
Affirm yourself and make an effort to grow your personhood. Resolve to be responsible and diligent in fulfilling your agreed roles and functions. Be courageous to express your needs and make your requests known, and be gracious enough to accept rejection and alternatives.
Nurture yourself by upgrading your skills and knowledge so that you can be of greater service to yourself and your spouse. Be courageous to abandon your bad attitudes and behaviours, and learn to acquire good habits, so that you can be a more pleasant person to live with.
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Other positive choices to make
Learn to be honest with your feelings and acquire the skills to express them amiably to your spouse. Watch out for your spouse's attempt to communicate his/her feelings by verbal or non- verbal expressions, and be attentive. Use the positive language of love to show praise, affirmation, acceptance and encouragement. Avoid the negative language of hate; do not accuse, condemn, criticize and discourage.
Be optimistic and positive. Recognize the pains, disillusions, struggles and conflicts you have experienced in marriage. But also treasure the joys and satisfactions you have experienced together. Be attentive to your own good qualities and that of your spouse.
Be patient and hopeful. Trust that your positive attitude and efforts can bear fruits of good will and happiness. Believe that by sharing the common desire to renew your marriage and that by putting action to wish, you can build a brighter tomorrow together.
Keep God as the centre of your married life. Trust him to be the source, the model and the sustainer of your love. Consider God's purposes for your marital relationship: Leave your parents and be united as one with your spouse; love your spouse as Christ loves the church; take care of your spouse just like you take care of your body; make a lifelong commitment; give life to each other and to your children; and turn to God in prayer in good times and bad.
Annually, as you approach your wedding anniversary, renew your effort to better your spousal relationship. Choose again your spouse to be the person you want to commit your affection, time and energy to. Thank God for the gift of this companion on your life journey. Decide that you will not allow work, children, entertainment or other things to distract you from your dedication to your spouse.
Father Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is the spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.