The simple daily habit that has most strengthened my marriage

My husband, Joseph, and I had only been married a few months when we signed up for a marriage retreat at our local parish. We knew we had a lot to learn when it came to married life, and we wanted to start out strong.

While we were on retreat, we met a couple who had been married for over 50 years. At dinner, they told us that they were more in love with each other that day than when they’d gotten married decades ago — and we believed it. Their joy and passion for marriage was obvious. Spending time with them made us excited for what our marriage could be.

On the last day of the retreat, this seasoned couple modeled what their daily prayer looked like together. They wrapped each other in a hug, put their foreheads together, and prayed out loud over each other. During their prayer, they also thanked God for a quality in their spouse that they admired and loved.

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Immediately, both Joseph and I knew that we wanted to make prayer together a daily priority. But we also wanted to make affirmation a habit in our marriage. So that night when we got home from retreat, we took turns sharing with each other something that we saw that day in our spouse that we loved.

We called it sharing each other’s “most endearing quality.”

The most endearing quality of the day could be anything from how Joseph got up with our toddlers in the middle of the night to the way he looked in a new shirt on his way to work. Or it might be the way that he hugged me in the kitchen while we made dinner together.

It’s been almost six years since we went on that retreat, and Joseph and I have named thousands of endearing qualities in each other. Here are a few things that I’ve learned along the way.

Affirming my husband helps me grow in awareness of his goodness

Naming each other’s most endearing qualities isn’t just something that impacts the way Joseph and I end our day together. It’s also a practice that impacts the way that I think of Joseph throughout the day.

Because I know I get to share his most endearing quality that night, I’m more aware of him throughout the day — even though we spend most of our work days apart throughout the week. It’s the way he laughs with our girls while they play after dinner. Or it might be how he is intentional about eye contact during a conversation with me. Or how he values time with our family and comes home over lunch break to see how our day is going.

Sometimes Joseph’s most endearing quality is something he does. But more often than not, it’s something about who he is. Naming one of these qualities at the end of the day as the most endearing helps me be more aware of all of the ways that I love him throughout the day.

Even when we’re arguing, there is always something about my spouse that I can affirm

Joseph and I have been married for over six years, and we’ve had our fair share of arguments. We’ve butted heads over parenting, big decisions and little misunderstandings. But even on days where we climb into bed frustrated with each other, we still make sure to call out the other’s most endearing quality.

On the hard days, it’s tempting to go to bed and have a catty remark be the last thing I say to Joseph. But taking the time to think of an endearing quality reminds me that those qualities that I love about Joseph are still there, even when we aren’t seeing eye to eye.

We might have spent the day angry at each other about a miscommunication. But Joseph still told me he loved me on the way out the door to work. Or we might have gotten frustrated with each other about a chore that didn’t get done around the house, but Joseph still sat down and listened to where I was coming from.

Naming each other’s most endearing quality reminds me that Joseph is still on my team. It’s not me against him. It’s him and I together, stumbling on our way to heaven.

Our daily affirmation practice is a daily examen for us as a couple

Although you can affirm your spouse anytime of the day, I love that we share each other’s most endearing qualities at the end of the night. It’s actually one of the last things that we say to each other as we’re drifting off to sleep.

Naming Joseph’s most endearing quality of the day makes me pause and think back on the entirety of the day. The practice acts as an examen, a time of reflection, for our marriage.

We’re in a busy season of life right now — we’re wrangling toddlers, training an ornery puppy, and preparing our home to welcome a child through adoption. It’s far too easy to let our conversation as a married couple center around family logistics and to-do lists. But when we end the evening talking about the qualities that we find the most endearing, we get past the to-do list topics and have a conversation about what matters in our marriage.

Naming each other’s endearing qualities reminds us of why we got married in the first place

My marriage with Joseph isn’t about who unloaded the dishwasher last, who is picking up our daughter from preschool, or what side of the family we spend the holidays with this year. Marriage with Joseph is my vocation, the way the Lord is calling me specifically into a life of holiness with the final goal of heaven.

We vowed to love and honor each other in our vocation for as long as we both shall live, and this simple practice of calling out each other’s most endearing qualities every evening has been such a great way of living those vows out every day.

Affirming each other on a daily basis gives me an opportunity to remind Joseph that it is good that he exists and that I’m committed to helping him to heaven and sainthood. And as his bride, I get to receive his affirmation and remember the reasons why he asked me to be his wife all those years ago.

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