If you are looking for practical, concrete ways to improve your marriage, be sure to check out the newly released book, 101 Tips for a Happier Marriage: Simple Ways for Couples to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other (Ave Maria Press), by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes.
“It’s a straight-forward tool box for improving your marriage,” according to Kerekes. “It says, essentially, ‘This is what you need to do, and this is how you do it.’ We hope that many people will dog-ear pages of what they most need to remind themselves of, again and again.”
Morse, a longtime marriage advocate, is founder of the Ruth Institute, a nonprofit, educational organization that promotes lifelong, married love to the young by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage. Kerekes is director of online publications for the Institute.
101 Tips for a Happier Marriage has actually been many years in the making, according to Morse. She had done a lot of academic work on marriage, and wondered what parts of her research she could use to help people with their marriages in a practical way, so she put together a booklet of the material. Later on, Kerekes added practical applications to the research contained in Morse’s booklet, and sent that information out in the weekly Ruth Institute newsletter. The research and practical applications were then compiled into book form.
The book’s 101 tips are broken up into one short, concise tip or marriage-related fact per page, along with a practical application. Morse said she wanted to create something that could serve as a wedding gift.
“The concept was anyone can do something to improve their marriage. Wherever you are, whoever you are, you can do something to improve your marriage,” said Morse. “With this book, we are defending the bond—anyone reading this book is defending the bond.”
101 Tips for Happier Marriage topics include: adjusting your attitude, recognizing that winning is for losers, handling criticism gracefully, letting go of grudges, asking for help without demanding, offering help without being demeaning, and forgiving and appreciating your spouse more, among many others, according to Kerekes.
“Here’s a little tidbit from the book that I’ll bet not many people know: Women tend to have higher levels of stress hormones in their systems than men the day after a quarrel,” said Kerekes. “This means that the woman may be battling with her own body as much as with her spouse in the aftermath of a fight. Knowing this, women can be more cautious of their actions, and men can learn to tread softly even when they think the fight is officially over.”
Morse and Kerekes said the book should help most married couples, with the exception being those who are affected by domestic or substance abuse. In those situations, spiritual and/or professional guidance is recommended instead.
The Ruth Institute was initially under the umbrella of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) as that group’s the educational arm. Earlier this year, NOM and the Ruth Institute decided it was time for the latter to branch out on its own. The change became official November 1, and Morse added that the Ruth Institute staff is very excited about the organization’s future and its goal of giving people the tools and information they need to have a better marriages.
“Marriage is important—it’s not good for man to be alone,” said Morse. “[B]ecause of the destruction of marriage, we know what we have lost, how desperately children need to see their parents love each other. Second marriages fail more often than first marriages. When you leave a marriage because there are problems, you are taking a lot of those problems with you.”
Kerekes added that all marriages need help from time to time, and that our culture does little to give that support. “We have such a hedonistic society these days that people feel entitled to instant gratification and constant happiness. Sane people realize that that isn’t possible this side of Heaven, but that doesn’t keep many people from striving for it in an unhealthy way,” she said. “The slightest hiccup or bump in the road for many of today’s married people, and it’s time to call the lawyer. Too many people believe that a fight means they married the wrong person and it’s time to simply call it quits and try again with someone else. This is neither healthy, nor holy.”
“God is God,” said Morse. “You are not. Your spouse is not. If you get yourself oriented toward the Cosmos, you will realize you are not God. Your [spouse] is not God.”
“Nobody reaches Heaven without some measure of suffering along the way,” added Kerekes. “And, yes, for married couples, that suffering will come while and within their marriage. It is not a sign of God’s disfavor, but often quite the opposite. He gives us crosses in order to make us stronger, cleanse us of our sins, and ultimately to unite us with him.”
According to Kerekes, 101 Tips can be of benefit for married couples of any creed or no creed at all. “The work we do at the Ruth Institute for married couples is ecumenical. And certainly the difficulties one finds in marriages are universal.”
101 Tips for a Happier Marriage
By Jennifer Roback Morse and Betsy Kerekes
Ave Maria Press, 2013
144 pages, $9.84