“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates
This is one of my favorite quotes, and I think of it this time of year because people are reflecting on their lives and making adjustments in order to make the most of the New Year. But, as you enter a new year, are you examining your marriage?
It seems to me that many people take their marriage for granted until it has a problem. But, why wait until you are on the brink of divorce or totally disconnected from your spouse before investing into your marriage. Your marriage is not an average marriage, so don’t treat it like one.
There are a myriad or things you can do to make your marriage stronger in the coming year, and most of them are free or simple, with a few extravagant ones thrown in because, well, sometimes love is extravagant:
– Show appreciation: Remember the things you loved about your spouse when you first met? Look for the good in your spouse and then tell him or her out loud or in a note what you appreciate. Give a specific example of a time you saw this in your spouse, such as, “When you took my mother to her doctor appointment when I was traveling, I appreciated how generous you were with your time.”
– Spend time with a mentor couple: Many couples get married knowing they do not want to repeat the relationship mistakes of their parents, but they do not know what to do instead. A mentor couple can serve as a living example of a marriage you want to copy. Look for a couple you admire and ask them to meet with you discuss what they do to make their marriage successful. Then, try their advice and watch good things happen in your relationship.
– Pray for one another and with one another: Pray does not have to be formal or poetic. Prayer is just talking about your hopes, fears and joys with a God who already knows your thoughts. Pray for concerns you have about your marriage. Pray with your spouse for the kind of marriage you long for. And, thank God for the good you do enjoy together. Prayer bonds your heart with another as you seek the same purposes before God. It also reminds you that God is with you and for your marriage.
– Encourage your spouse in personal pursuits: Marriage doesn’t mean each person leaves their personal goals behind. It is healthy for each of you to continue to enjoy personal hobbies and interests, as long as they are not more important than the marriage and other obligations. So, if you husband has decided to pursue his dream of running a marathon, support him with cheers on the race day and encouragement or practical support during training.
– Follow through on simple commitments: Most people are busy, so it can be easy to make work commitments more of a priority than home commitments, due to the urgent nature or work and the need for a paycheck. However, chronically neglecting talking about daily life or the “honey do” list can chip away at the feeling of positivity in a marriage. Keep the practical needs of having a life together cared for; it shows you value the other person.
– Dream together: Couples usually come together in the dating years because they can picture a life together where their hopes and dreams can be reached. Don’t let those dreams of youth get crowded out with bills and the needs of children. Take time to explore what each of you long for and what makes life most meaningful. You may just find a way to make it happen!
– Go on regular dates: Yes, dates take time, but they can work into everyday life more easily that most realize. A date for busy parents can be a movie after the kids go to bed while snuggling on the couch or a walk around the neighborhood to chat. And, if you could find money to date when you were a student, surely you can find the cash for a night out here and there. Keep doing the things you did at first when you were falling in love to keep the marriage fresh. And, try new adventures, too, to further spice things up.
– Keep romance a priority: In our culture, we schedule medical exams, work reviews, vacations and Christmas parties. But, we don’t often plan time for sex. It is OK and even wise to talk about when you can have sex if it is becoming too difficult with differing work schedules or the demands of small children. Write it down if you need to.
– Attend a marriage retreat, or simply plan a weekend away together: Some women need to get away for an extended time to fully relax and be present with their husbands. Try to schedule at least one trip away a year to reconnect slowly and restfully. Turn off the phones, talk, sleep in, and enjoy being alone with one another.
– Serve together: Working together to meet a need in the community has a way of helping couples appreciate the good they have together. Discuss a favorite charity that you can volunteer at together, or serve together in your local church. You will make meaningful memories while making an impact.
– Develop a shared financial plan: Financial stress in marriage is a big relationship killer. If you don’t have a written budget or some sort of spending plan, this is a good place to start. If you don’t have a plan for your financial future or need help with issues like buying a home or having adequate life insurance, seek help from a professional. Putting off money matters to avoid conflicts only creates landmines in your relationship that become more explosive as time goes on. And, if you cannot come up with a financial plan without gridlocked conflicts, seek help from a marriage mentor or counselor.
– Seek Counseling: Couples tend to wait years to get help from a professional, and by then, the original problem has become entrenched and affected the overall atmosphere in the marriage. If you are struggling with something that you cannot resolve on your own or with help from your friends or other trusted advisors, it is time for professional counseling. Give us a call to schedule an appointment while the problem is more easily resolved.
This year, be purposeful about your marriage. Make sure your spouse knows that he or she is still your priority.