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This simple exercise can help you become a better spouse

Wife supporting upset husband

Pearl PhotoPix | Shutterstock

Cecilia Pigg - published on 01/02/24

We all have our limitations, but a simple Ignatian exercise has given me hope that, with grace, I can grow to love my spouse better.

I have realized I am not very good at caring for sick people. Particularly, in caring for my husband when he is under the weather. Recently, my whole family got the flu, except me. This is not unusual — it seems that I have been blessed with an extra hearty immune system. The downfall in all this is that alongside my lack of experience being sick often, I lack sympathy for those in my life who do get sick.

Basically, I am a begrudging nurse, who serves her patient because it is the right thing to do, but barely hides her doubts that her patient could possibly be feeling that poorly. As one might imagine, my husband does not feel very loved when he is sick. This is one way I’ve pinpointed that I need to grow as a spouse over the next year.

This realization is in part due to a daily exercise from an Ignatian prayer bookI’ve been working through this past year. 

Here’s how the exercise works

A couple of times throughout the day you try to identify what triggers you — what sets off your addictions or anger or what makes loving the people near you tough. The goal is to be aware of where you fail in charity. When you have that awareness and you dig into it a little, it moves you into preventing those moments in the future (with God’s grace), prompted by a short exercise to pinpoint the trigger behind it all.

The eventual end goal is to be able to recognize the root cause and heal that area. This is a very helpful practice for the many different ways I fail to love everyone in my life overall, but I am using it specifically to work on my marriage, as that is an area that always needs work.

Practically, doing the exercise daily for my marriage might look like this:

First, you have to notice the problems

For me, I’ve noticed that my patience is low around mealtimes, and tension sometimes spikes around bedtime too. If it is a day where we haven’t communicated well or much at all, hunger and/or wrangling tired kids magnifies all of our imperfections — any little resentments or disunity between us comes to a head.

For instance, I am often more aware of where I’m failing to love around lunchtime or dinner time. It might be that I respond peevishly to a simple question, or I might decide to criticize or complain about some disappointment at a time that is inappropriate, thus setting a grumpy tone for the next few hours until we can have a real conversation about it, sans kids and craziness.

Second, you have to bring the moment to Jesus

When I realize I just stabbed my husband with my words for no reason, I apologize to him, and then I turn inward to the Trinity to figure out what is happening (either in the moment or, more likely, a little while later when the dust settles and I have a minute to think). “Jesus, that was wrong. Help me figure out what’s going on please.” I reflect on what might have triggered my reaction (already being impatient with how the day is going, hunger or tiredness, or whatever it might be that specific day).

Third, you make a note of the trigger, and offer it up in prayer

“Jesus, I’ve realized that my mood has been sour all morning because my husband let me get out of bed before him instead of letting me sleep in. Please help me let go of that and move on.” Then, at the end of the day,  if I have done this exercise a couple of times, I can remember those in my examination of conscience and start to notice a pattern over the days and weeks that pass.

Little by little, with a lot of grace, I hope to chip away at some of my recurring failures in love.

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