Five Habits That Cultivate a Lasting Love
A good marriage takes talk, and talk takes time. If you need convincing, a television report just confirmed it: couples that communicate with each other at least 30 minutes a day are happier.
"Communicate" is a useful word, but my husband and I use the Latin communicare—meaning literally to come together because that's what we're learning to do in our conversation, our candor, and our marriage. Every couple forms its own habits, of course, but here are the "coming together" habits that work for us.
1. The morning vow.
Forbes said recently that a common thread of successful people is their commitment to early morning routines. Successful people allot chunks of those hours to what they love. So besides hygiene and exercise, at our house, our prime early hours include our vows. Out loud. My husband vows to love me "as Christ loved the church," and I vow to "love, cherish, honor, and respect" him. (I may add "and to have a gentle spirit" for those times of short patience and my sharp tongue.)
2. The nightly check-in.
Not just Forbes but the writer of Ecclesiastics says two are better than one because it improves the return for their labor. This is wisdom straight up. The sage continues, "If either falls, the one will lift up his companion." So in the evening, as we prepare for bed, my husband and I will check our companion status. "Did I honor my vow to you today?" The usual answer is "yes," but occasionally one of us has tripped, and in those cases, we tell the other of the slight, insult or hurtful thing done or said (or not done or said), followed by: "How may I make amends?" The effect is like turning an Etch-A-Sketch over and shaking hard; we have a new screen.
"What would you like me to know?" one of us asks. Or "What would you like to hear?" This part of communicare may prompt the other to say, "I need to hear ‘I love you,' or ‘I appreciate all you did today.'" Turns out neither of us reads minds; but if one partner can voice exactly what's needed, the other can respond. Check.
"Thanks for saying you appreciate all I got done today. That matters." Each of us wants to know we're on the other's radar. We're saying, "I hear you."
Less than 1 percent of the couples that pray together daily will divorce, a stat says. Amen to that. Sometimes my husband prays out loud, sometimes I do. We thank God for the day, for doors that opened (or shut), for people, for our sacred relationships with Him and with each other.
Aristotle said we are what we repeatedly do and that excellence is no single act but a continued habit. And though he likely said it in Greek, I feel certain his words also made the circuit in Latin, bringing us back to what it means to "come together."
Whatever language you and your spouse use, the point is, as every mother tells her two year old, to "use your words." No day is problem-free, no marriage will be. But face time and talk, early and often, is the kind of all-year-long ritual that keeps the Valentine factor fresh.