The Grass is Greener Where you Water it.


In a Catholic Marriage ceremony, the bride and groom exchange solemn promises with one another that form a covenant bond between them.

The bride and groom exchange promises to be faithful to one another, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love and honor one another. The couple also promises to enter a permanent relationship, which lasts “all the days of our life.”

Modern psychological research has demonstrated that the pillars of a lasting marriage are commitment and trust. A Catholic Marriage ceremony dramatically highlighted these values.

When we think about commitment in Marriage, we need to realize that commitment grows slowly over time. Commitment is an act of the will, a firm decision to value our partner above others. We must do this in both difficult traumatic times, and in mundane busy times. Our commitment carries us forward.

Trust is also something that builds slowly, as we experience our partner being trustworthy. We build trust with our husband or wife in small day-to-day interactions that may seem inconsequential. Trust is also lost in a thousand small cuts when in little ways we prove untrustworthy to our partner. Brené Brown has observed what she calls the paradox of trust. In order to build trust we must be open with them and risk vulnerability. Yet at the same time, it is the building of trust, which inspires vulnerability. In small ways, then we must take the risk by offering our own vulnerability, in order to begin to inspire trust, this trust will in turn help us to be more vulnerable.

In an extensive four-decade-long study, “trust” emerged as the key factor for strong Marriages. Trust, however, is not like a light switch or an attribute that we either have or do not have. We build trust slowly in small interactions and experiences with another person. In the case of spouses, in our daily life together.

We build up trust slowly as we prove ourselves trustworthy in our interactions with our partner. Each moment, we have the choice of turning toward them and connecting with them or turning away and ignoring them. In these interactions, trust either is built up or declines as the cumulative effect of these interactions.

Some simple activities for inspiring trust in our married relationship include showing up and being there for the other person. There are many distractions in our lives, and most of them are on a screen. Setting time aside to be present and to listen to our partner is a simple way to build trust.

In conversations between couples, our partner often makes small bids for connection. They give us a signal that they want us to stop and pay attention to them and listen to them share about their life. In these small moments, we need to turn towards and not away from our partner. In doing so, we will slowly allow our trust to grow in the relationship.

Consistently turning away from our partner erodes trust and eventually makes us spiral into negative thinking about our partner. Once we have allowed this negative climate to become normal, one study showed that we are 50% less likely to respond to our partner’s needs. Negative thinking often leads people to think the grass is greener somewhere else. Neil Barringham points out, it is more true to say “the grass is greener where you water it.”

In Sacred Scripture, we learn that love is not a passive emotional state, but a call to action on our part. St. Paul tells us, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

In his great ode to love, St. Paul notes, “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; … Love does not insist on its own way…it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, cf. Philippians 2:1-5).

What can we do to water the grass in our relationship? 

The answer might be deceptively simple. We need to pay attention to our spouse and be ready to respond to their bids for connection. Although this isn’t hard to do, often when we are tired or already engaged in some entertainment, it is an effort to stop or to turn off the screen and respond.

In a study of 3400 couples followed for more than 40 years, the couples who turned toward their partners 86 % of the time remained married, while those who did so only 33 % of the time later divorced.

If we have allowed our relationship to become somewhat negative we need to make a serious effort to change or replace negative thoughts with patience, kindness, and forbearance. We need to learn to compromise rather than ‘insist on our own way.’ Rather than ‘rejoice in the wrong we see,’ we can forgive, and learn to ‘rejoice in the right.’ We can take these things to our prayers (cf. Philippians 4:8).

One powerful way to change our thinking is to take time to appreciate our partner. Make a list of things you appreciate about your partner and share it with them. Perhaps read The Five Love Languages together and figure out how your spouse best likes to be appreciated and loved.

Schedule time together for date nights. Build rituals for connection.

St. Paul tells us that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endure all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

 Read more:

Is conflict in Marriage Normal?

The Virtues of a Strong Marriage Commitment

The Dynamics of Betrayal


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