Some possibilities include praying together, participating in regular date nights and giving a heartfelt card
Here we are, just days before St. Valentine’s Day — a day that brings thoughts of hearts and flowers, love and joy.
I remember as a kid how I enjoyed decorating a shoe box with red and pink construction paper hearts, doilies and glue — lots of glue. This box would come home from school filled with beautiful cards from classmates, offering their friendship. These sentimental wishes proposed the hope of future love and commitment, maybe not with one of my classmates, but with someone, someday.
My Valentine came many years later, with the promises and commitment I had hoped. As adults, Valentine’s Day helps us celebrate that love and has rightly developed into a week — National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14 — so that we can foster the rich understanding that marriage calls us to, and to which society is in much need.
I honestly believe that, deep down, all married persons desire a rewarding lifelong commitment with their spouse. But in the midst of challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit our personal lives. Did you know that:
- On average, married people are better off financially.
- Marriage is associated with better health, sex and safety for men and women.
- Children do better when they live with their own two married parents. Divorce and unwed childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers $112 billion annually.
Marriage does matter, and the benefits of marriage endure. On our wedding day, we profess our love, as we state our intention to “love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives.” Then again, as we place the ring on each other’s fingers “as the sign of your love and fidelity.”
Our declaration of love is for a life-time, and it is each spouse’s vocation to keep the fire of love kindled and alive, making our love a conscience decision, day in and day out.
Here are some ideas and resources that can help you celebrate marriage on Valentine’s Day and beyond:
- Spend a little dedicated time in prayer and reflection as a couple. If you are not sure how to get started, you can participate in a seven-day virtual retreat focused on marriage. This year’s retreat is titled “Marriage and Mercy” in honor of the Jubilee of Mercy and can be found at: http://www.foryourmarriage.org/marriage-and-mercy-retreat-day-seven-forgiveness-in-the-family.
- Spontaneously give your spouse a hug, kiss and tell them you love him/her. You may be surprised by the response.
Call your spouse during the day just to see how he/she is doing.
- This Lent, go to the sacrament of reconciliation together. Christ gave us the best marriage enrichment tool he could by instituting confession, for the power of forgiveness is important in all of our relationships, especially in marriage. Our self-examination, confession and absolution allows us to look at areas of our life we need to atone for and then to take a fresh step to be more loving to our spouse.
- Regular date nights with your spouse are proven to improve the quality of your marriage. Plan to go to dinner, or do something fun — just the two of you — bowling, a museum, a local theatrical production. Keep the conversation positive, focusing on your love, not things that you need to fill each other in on, like the kids’ grades or the bills that are due.
- Celebrate your love. Share with your spouse the things that first attracted you to him/her.
- Be vulnerable and grateful, sharing your appreciation for your spouse’s strengths and gifts that he/she brings to your everyday life.
- Of course, flowers, candy, and/or a card can provide a chance to remind ourselves of the love we have for each other. These things are always in order, no matter what time of year.
The sacrament of marriage does not exist just on the day of our wedding. We live the sacrament every day from the moment we say our “I do’s” until death parts us. We do this as we become the outward sign of Christ’s love to the world. For marriage to truly be a sacrament, it takes work, hard work, but it is definitely worth it!
Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Reach her at email@example.com.