Do you ever feel competitive with your spouse? If you enjoy a friendly challenge involving word games, board games, or sports games, why not try a spiritual challenge based on advice from St. Paul?
Although St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians contains his most well-known wisdom on love, his Letter to the Romans also teaches valuable lessons about how to live together in harmony. In fact, the U.S. bishops have highlighted one passage from Romans as a recommended reading for the Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty  (Rm 12:1-2, 9-18). Below are eleven tips taken from that passage. See if you and your spouse can outdo each other in following St. Paul’s advice for the next 30 days. You’ll be happier, no matter who wins!
1. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” You can do this in large ways and small. For example, is one of you a morning person and the other a night owl? Try switching your habits to be with your spouse during the hours that they like to be awake. Overcoming your body’s preference for sleep at set hours is a small sacrifice that can really make a difference.
2. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Pick an edifying book, television program, or movie that you can learn from and enjoy together.
3. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” Work at getting rid of one habit that annoys your spouse and strengthening one habit that really pleases them.
4. “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Pay attention to how you speak to one another, particularly in front of the kids. Do you act dismissively, roll your eyes disrespectfully, or raise your voice unnecessarily? Try to keep that tendency in check and be as respectful as possible.
5. “Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.” Everyone gets tired sometimes. Sometimes we can even get tired of each other. Revive your zeal. Write a list of all the reasons you first fell in love, look at old pictures, listen to “your song.” Then arrange a hot date night to reconnect.
6. “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Don’t let life or troubles keep you down for long. Pray together regularly even if it’s just one Hail Mary.
7. “Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.” Remember that marriage is a path to sainthood, and that you, your spouse, and your kids are all future saints, God willing. How would you welcome a saint who showed up at your door? Try to treat your spouse and kids that way.
8. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Sometimes extended family can pressure you or criticize choices that you make as a couple. Use it as an opportunity to defend each other and become more united as a couple.
9. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Ask your spouse what happened during their day, and notice the little things that make them happy or sad. Look for chances to praise them or commiserate with them.
10. “Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.” If you feel tempted to criticize or begin an argument, resist it. If your spouse says something that wounds your pride, don’t respond. Or better yet, ask yourself if they might be right.
11. “Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” Your spouse has probably done something to hurt your feelings. Each of us is only human, after all. Work on letting go of your resentment and allowing forgiveness to enter your heart. Remember how much Our Lord has forgiven you.
If you decide to take this challenge, leave a comment below. And then another one 30 days from now!