Catholic Husbands’ Ten Commandments

My wife, April, and I have been offering marriage preparation recently and it has me thinking of what makes a good husband. I brainstormed a list of “10 commandments for husbands” but discovered that the best advice was already there in the original Ten Commandments.

So I rewrote my list based on God’s list. (Note to April: Don’t laugh when you read these. I know I fall short on many of these, but I promise to work on them!)

1: Bring the family to Sunday Mass; call the family to evening Rosary.

The real first commandment is “I Am the Lord Your God, You Shall Not Have Other Gods Before Me.” But the truth is, unless we are actively seeking out God in our life and making an effort to meet him, we absolutely will have other gods in our lives.

For husbands, it’s an even greater danger. If our wife takes the lead in going to Mass and praying the Rosary, it won’t be long before our fragile egos make us feel like we’re being dragged along and start to resent it.

So be the spiritual leader. As I tell the guys in marriage preparation class: “If dad prays, everyone prays.”

2: Don’t be a hypocrite.

The second commandment is “You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain,” which means practicing the reverence for God that we preach.

Husbands have a lot of opportunities to practice what we preach.

We expect her to listen to us, so we should be expert listeners to her. We expect her to do a lot when she’s sick; so we should be something other than a helpless baby when we’re sick. We expect her to remember important things in our life, so we should remember hers. We expect her not to interrupt us; we shouldn’t interrupt her. I could go on, but it’s making me feel guilty.

3: Use work to earn more time with your wife.

…  rather than using work as an excuse to spend less time with her.

To “Keep Holy the Sabbath” means to avoid work on Sunday. But the lesson the commandment teaches is deeper. As St. John Paul put it, it teaches us that “work is for man, not man for work.”

4: Build your family relationships.

Speaking of St. John Paul II, he also said “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”

The fourth commandment — “Honor Your Father and Your Mother” — is therefore critically important. The closer our families, the stronger our society; the stronger our society, the brighter our future. So call your dad. Welcome your wife’s sister. Facebook message your mother-in-law. The future depends on it.

5: Take care of yourself for your wife and family.

There are many important applications of the fifth commandment, “You Shall Not Kill” but in a world where middle aged men suffer from high levels of anxiety, depression (even suicide), obesity, and heart problems, sometimes the man in the mirror is the one you may be killing.

Life will be hard for your wife and family if they lose you — so do your best to be there for them.

6: Be open to life.

“You Shall Not Commit Adultery,” says the sixth commandment. In your marriage vow, you promised three things: Fidelity, indissolubility and openness to life. The three are intimately linked — but the linchpin may be openness to life.

If you close off your sexual life to the possibility of children, then, for guys especially, it will quickly become focused on pleasure. If your sexual life is focused on pleasure, then it becomes less unifying. Your wife will feel used and start to resent it. Then you will resent her resentment, and the vicious circle will pull you apart. Don’t do it.

7: Don’t take advantage of your wife.

“You shall not steal,” says the seventh commandment.

If two men were partners starting a pizza business, and one of the men watched television as the other did the hard work of food preparation and clean-up — and balancing the registers and ordering supplies — it would quickly become obvious that one man was taking advantage of the other.

If anything, behaving like this is even worse in a marriage partnership.

8: Witness to the greatness of your wife.

“You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor,” says the eighth commandment. That includes the neighbor who shares your bedroom.

You are the one person in her life who sees what she is truly worth, because you are the one person who dedicated your whole life to serving her. She has her faults, but she also has a unique beauty that only you have seen. Don’t tell people her faults. Tell them how great she is.

9: Ruthlessly eliminate any and all pornography.

“You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Wife,” says the ninth commandment. That includes not coveting porn stars.

Pornography is incredibly addictive and devastatingly destructive. Looking at it dumps feel-good chemicals into our brains that then demand more and more. Being addicted to it cuts you off from your family and turns your wife into a sex object.

Ironically, eliminating pornography entirely has precisely the opposite effect. The feel-good chemicals are all associated with your wife. She stops being an object and becomes the person you are most interested in pleasing. I could write a whole article just on that. (Wait. I did!)

10: Keep (or keep to) the family budget.

“You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Possessions,” says the Tenth Commandment, and boy do we need to hear that as U.S. Credit card debt hits a record $870 billion.

Whether you do the books or your wife does, keeping to a budget is a gift to a family, funneling money to the things we need the most, not the things we covet the most.

This appeared at Aleteia.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.