Advice for Strengthening Your Marriage

“I ask couples often, ‘Listen, is your marriage the same today as it was 5 years ago?’ And they say, ‘Well no, no it’s not.’ ‘Well, will your marriage be the same 5 years from now as it is today?’ ‘Well, no, probably not.’ ‘Well, this marriage you’ll have 5 years from now, are you going to leave it to chance, or will you make it the result of conscious intent?’” said Doug Hinderer, Catholic marriage and family therapist.

John Morales welcomed Doug onto Morning Air to discuss the ways couples can plan on developing and growing together as one so that their marriage doesn’t have to weather the storm of time without reinforcement.

Doug said that failing to plan is equivalent to planning to fail. Our marriage is one of the most important things in the world, so why do so many people ignore the development of their marriage? With so many marriages ending in divorce these days, you’d think people would spend more time on their relationships. One of the small things that could help people in maintaining loving relationships is each spouse’s appeal to their guardian angel. Your guardian angel will give you the strength to stay patient, respond calmly, and keep yourself from rolling your eyes.

It can also give you the humility that you need to admit when you are wrong. You don’t need to win every argument or always prove you’re right. “If you win the argument, you do it by defeating the person who you love most in the world. Is that really what we want to do? Do I want to win at the price of hurting my wife? I think not,” said Doug. So, couples should look inwardly on a regular basis to find where they can be better for the sake of their spouse.

John asked Doug how big of an impact criticism could make on a marriage. Doug said criticism is like a “poison”. It slowly erodes a relationship through damaging comments. While often criticism can come from a place of love, it doesn’t exactly work. If it did, everyone would have a perfect marriage. Criticism is an impulsive response to the negative emotions we feel at something we dislike. Therefore, the solution doesn’t lie in criticizing outward, but in reflecting inward on why we get upset at certain things.

Doug said that according to a study from Dr. John Gottman, a spouse requires twenty acts of positive reinforcement to recover from one critically negative comment. In other words, one negative could result in the critical spouse working all day to make up for it. The best solution is to never make that comment at all! A good way to “crowd out the negatives”, is with an “abundance of positives”. Actively identify good things that your spouse does and let them know that you see their effort to be a good husband, wife, father, or mother. It seems like a small act that won’t do much but every little thing we do for the sake of another results in an abundance of graces.

Another helpful tip Doug offered to replace the negative thoughts with the positive thoughts is to keep a gratitude journal. Whenever we get a chance, write down something that we are grateful for. By doing this, we keep an actively positive mind that’s focused on what brings happiness to our life and marriage.

As a final goal, Doug said that he often sits couples down and asks them if they’re willing to make a 1% investment of time to each other. Every couple replies yes, of course. They can do 1% which comes out to about 15 minutes a day. That 15 minutes means no phones, no TV, no kids, no distractions. If just you and your spouse can spend 15 minutes of quality time talking about your days, your joys, your struggles, your needs, your desires, and develop a real curiosity for each other, that will help produce the family culture that both of you want. You will get to know each other in a deeper way than you ever knew was possible. That 1% is the secret to a happy, lasting, loving marriage.

Listen to the full segment below:

Tune in to Morning Air weekdays at 5am CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.