Three Pillars of Happiness in Married Life (Part Two: Inspiration) ~ Rev. George Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook


Father George Kelly’s take on marital happiness from

The Catholic Family Handbook

My Disclaimer

Part One is here.

Three Pillars of Happiness Part Two


Father Leo J. Kinsella spent many years as a judge in the matrimonial court of the Chicago Archdiocese. During that time, he had the opportunity to explore intimately the factors that led to difficulties in many hundreds of marriages.

In his excellent inspirational book, The Wife Desired, he declared: “I have no recollection of a single broken marriage wherein the wife was primarily to blame and at the same time an inspiration to her husband.

Failure and inspiration do not mix well. The ability to inspire her husband is the wife’s best guarantee of success in marriage. Only if she fails to inspire need she be fearful for their love and the future of their marriage. . . . ”

Take it from me, ladies, inspiration is your love potion. Men wander through the cold world seeking the warm eyes of inspiration like a thirsty deer standing at a fountain of water. Not having it, they are lost souls.

On finding it, they leap for joy, and the very mountain breaks forth into singing. So, be kind, ladies, lest men die of hunger and thirst. Give hope and encouragement to carry on. It is so easy for you; just be as God made you, his loveliest creatures.”

A national magazine has adopted the slogan, “Never underestimate the power of a woman.” This reminder actually is more necessary for women than for men. It is especially necessary for wives.

Most of them vastly underestimate their ability to inspire their husbands. Some do not even know that they possess this power. Others are but dimly aware of it.

Yet the fact remains that in most marriages, the wife who inspires can lead her husband to undreamed-of heights, or by neglecting her ability to inspire, can drag him down to dreary depths.

Every husband desires his wife to be a step above him, leading him upward. His wife must never descend from the level that her Creator, her sex, and even her husband expect of her.

It is she who must keep the spiritual standards of a family high. Despite all obstacles, it is she who must, by example and prayer, inspire him to do better.

Occasionally wives not only underestimate their ability but also their obligation to inspire their husbands spiritually. The wife who keeps herself modest, pure and above suspicion, by that very fact contributes to her husband’s inspiration and to his spiritual enrichment.

Nor should a wife underestimate her ability to inspire her husband emotionally. By nature, men become discouraged easily. Those in the business world literally go to battle every day.

They constantly struggle with others for promotion, for competitive advantages, for financial advancement. They often suffer disappointments and frustrations. And when they return to lick their wounds after a depressing day in the “business jungle,” it is their wives—and they alone—who can heal the wounds and restore the spirit.

A wife must strive to let her husband know that she has faith in him, that she is cheering for him in his battles, and that his wounds, defeats and triumphs are her wounds, defeats and triumphs.

Inspiring your husband to carry on in adversity may often be difficult. Sometimes he will welcome words of encouragement and will accept advice. Sometimes he will confide in you fully. At other times, he will be visibly disturbed but unwilling to discuss his defeats. He may reject your efforts to cheer him. Suggest how he might handle his problem more successfully, and he may accuse you of trying to run his affairs.

The wife who takes her duty to inspire seriously will accept these rebuffs patiently. She will not forget that the basic purpose of inspiration is to make her husband realize that he is a better person with greater capabilities than he himself realizes.

Praise—a continuing stream of it, in both direct and subtle forms—is the main tool of the wife who inspires. “But my husband is conceited enough,” many wives reply at this point. “All he talks about is how good he is. His virtues are his favorite subject, and I doubt that I could get a word in even to agree with him.”

Wives who make a comment of this type are revealing why their husbands are so conceited—the men get so little inspiration at home that they find it necessary to bolster their egos by constantly reminding themselves and others of their superior qualities.

The man who is frequently complimented for his capabilities does not have to remind others of them. Only when his wife or others fail to provide praise does he resort to “do-it-yourself” compliments.

Except in rare pathological cases when no amount of inspiration will suffice, the average man will reduce his own boasting almost in direct proportion to the quantity of praise heaped upon him by his mate.

Of course, inspiration is not a one-way street. Wives need it too. In fact, most need more of it than their husbands. Someone once suggested that an ideal way to make man and wife appreciate each other would be for him to take care of the children and the housework for a week, while she went to business and struggled through his daily problems. This suggestion has merits.

The typical male has only the vaguest conception of his wife’s duties and problems at home with the children all day long—and of the admirable way in which she handles them. Almost without exception, young mothers feel a need for adult companionship.

Throughout the day, they talk to their children in simple language and discuss simple subjects. The man who goes to business and talks to grownups does not know of his wife’s lonely days. Rarely does he realize the added loneliness she feels when after conversing with infants or children in one-syllable words from dawn to dusk, she then faces a mate who does not care to talk to her at night.

A mother becomes discouraged, too. At times, her discouragement can exceed that of her husband. She needs to be told that her children are making progress and that she is doing a superb job of raising them. The husband should remember his wife’s needs along with his own.

Know how to compliment! To be an inspiring husband or wife, you should learn the art of paying a compliment. As simple a comment as, “You sure have a way with pies” will bring a pleased smile to her face—and pie to your plate more often. A compliment to your husband when he’s well turned-out—”My, isn’t Daddy handsome!”—will do far more to keep him out of those disreputable slacks than caustic comments ever will. You will find that the course of your married life will run more smoothly if you learn to say the pleasant word.

Husbands and wives who have been married for a long time sometimes take each other so for granted that the paying of compliments falls into disuse. Some partners even reach the point at which they confess that they cannot find qualities to praise in the other.

Of course, everyone has virtues. It should be easiest for you to recognize these virtues in your mate, because these characteristics attracted you in the first place.

Learn to spend time each day dwelling on your mate’s good qualities. As you consider them, you may realize that you have more to be thankful for in your partner than you have realized.

Moreover, looking at the positive side is a certain antidote to one of the great blemishes on modern marriage: the urge to indulge in self-pity.

Self-pity is the major device of people who feel that the world has given them a bad deal. It is particularly prevalent among men and women who are prone to dwell upon their mates’ defects—and not upon their virtues.

A final caution to wives: While you should accept fully your obligation to inspire your husband, carefully draw a distinction between inspiring him so that he will grow in a spiritual and emotional way, and inspiring him solely for the sake of material success.

We live in an age when success is measured by the better home, the bigger car, the more fashionable fur coat. But money can never substitute for the true love of a husband and father, and the wife who encourages her husband to get ahead in business at the sacrifice of spiritual values often later regrets it, because her constant spurring may cause him to put material goals above all others.

Of course, some husbands become obsessed with material goals on their own; then their wives should strive to make them realize that growth of the spirit is of far greater importance than growth of a bank balance.


To Catholics marriage is a sacrament, symbolizing beautifully in the love of husband and wife the tenderness with which Christ regarded His spouse, the Church. While to others marriage may become a mere civil contract as prosaic as the making of a will or the taking of a partner into one’s grocery business, to Catholics it is a holy thing, a contract that Christ has transformed into a channel of untold grace for mankind. The Catholic Church believes firmly in the possibilities of so sacred an institution. -Fr. Daniel A. Lord, 1950’s
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