Each January, the President of the United States addresses the citizens of our country to report on the political, economic, and social issues facing our nation. He will also pitch his identified solutions, and lay out an agenda to lead the country in a more positive, healthy, and unified direction. In addition to being a fun play-on-words, the term “State of the Union” can also describe a powerful conversation in marriage that can strengthen, recharge, or even transform the union between a husband and wife.
What is the state of your union? Have you and your spouse ever scheduled a purposeful, undistracted conversation about the state of your marriage?
Essentially, many of the same questions you asked before marriage (in pre-martial counseling) are the same questions that need to be revisited from time-to-time in marriage.
The purpose of the State of the Union is simply to evaluate the great, the good, the not-so-good, and the ugly parts of your marriage. To be honest, all marriages need these kinds of conversations, not just those that are struggling. Throughout marriage, there ought to be times when each individual can honestly express what’s going on, from their side of the relationship, and feel known and heard by their spouse. But it’s easy in the day-to-day routines of life to not have these discussions and simply go through the motions of work and family life without really connecting as a couple. Therefore, set aside one night per year to have a State of the Union. After all, you’re on the same team, and you need to encourage and celebrate that unity as a couple, bring any concerns to light, make action plans for the future and move forward in greater strength and commitment.
Once you have discussed this idea with your spouse, and you both agree that it would be wise to have these conversations once a year, there are a few things to do to prepare for your State of the Union.
- Pray! Pray that God will open your eyes to small issues within your marriage, so that they can be resolved early. Pray that you will be transparent and honest with one another, but also sensitive to the other’s feelings, kind and loving in approach, mindful to not break the other’s spirit, and fully committed to the work that will follow the conversation. Pray for God to do mighty works in any difficult circumstances, and, if needed, to bring revival to your marriage. Pray for God to bless your marriage, as you seek to follow Him both individually and as a couple.
- Agree on the general topics beforehand, so that each spouse knows what to expect.
- Schedule it. Write it down in your calendar, and prioritize this date with your spouse. Look forward to it! Perhaps go out for dinner with your spouse before heading back home for your State of the Union. Make it a special time of connection, not just a meeting to be endured.
- If you have children, find a place for them to stay the night elsewhere in advance. You definitely need to have a whole evening alone without any distractions or possible interruptions. Perhaps you can swap childcare with another couple, so that they can have a State of the Union night too.
The suggestions below are general and work to get the conversation flowing for most couples. However, please feel free to create State of the Union topics and questions specific to you and your mate, particularly if you have any unique circumstances.
Money: Discussions about money are of particular importance if one spouse manages the family’s budget and one spouse is more hands-off.
- Where are we at financially?
- Are we both satisfied with our saving, spending, and/or investing habits?
- Do we need to start a family budget, or make changes to our current family budget (shifting priorities)?
- Are there areas where we need to cut back? Or, can we make that purchase we’ve been dreaming about? (e.g. the new or “new to us” car, a vacation, etc.)
Romance, Companionship, & Sex: Each component is vitally important to the marriage relationship. Discuss ways to keep romance nurtured, companionship close, and sexual passion ignited.
- Are you satisfied with our sex life? What would increase our intimacy?
- Husbands can ask: What can I do to make you feel more cherished and loved?
- Wives can ask: What can I do to make you feel more respected and honored?
- Tell each other what works: “I like when you do this for me” (and give specifics) or “I like when you do this with me” (and give specifics) or “I like when you do this to me” (and give specifics). Addressing these topics from a positive perspective will encourage your spouse at what they do well, and the feedback will be better received.
Work: When discussing work, make sure you include work both outside and inside of the home.
- Are you satisfied and energized in your work?
- What can I do to help you or encourage you in your work?
- Are there any household chores or projects that we need to discuss, reorganize, or shuffle responsibility?
- How is my work positively affecting our family? Is my work negatively affecting our family in any way?
Home Life & Parenting: Unity is important in this category for a lasting, satisfying, and meaningful family life.
- Are we on the same page in raising the children? What is working and what isn’t working in terms of nurture, discipline, parenting style, and parenting roles?
- What am I doing well as a mom and what could I do better? What am I doing well as a dad and what could I do better?
- Do we need to make household rules? Change household rules?
- Do we spend enough time together as a family? If not, what actions can we take to prioritize time together?
Hopes & Dreams: The State of the Union isn’t just a no-nonsense meeting. Include some fun & frivolity! You probably used to discuss your hopes and dreams a lot when you were dating. Continue these conversations in marriage, and laugh over the fun memories you’ve created.
- What are some things we did together this past year that you absolutely loved, and what made that activity so great?
- What are some things you want us to do together this year just for fun?
- Do you have adequate time to pursue your favorite hobby? Or, is there something new you want to try? (e.g. a new hobby, a class)
- When you think about our future together (as a couple and as a family), what are your hopes and dreams?
Faith: Last, but definitely not least, check-in with one another spiritually.
- What has God been teaching you lately from His Word?
- How can I pray for you?
- Have you read any Christian books or devotionals, listened to a sermon, or heard something on Christian radio or online that’s challenging you right now? Inspiring you?
- Are you satisfied with the amount of time we spend attending church services and events? Serving our church family? Serving the community? Is there anything you want to get involved in at church? (small group, choir, mission trip, committee work, etc.)
So, are you ready for a State of the Union conversation with your spouse? Are you prepared to get transparent and vulnerable with one another to strengthen your relationship? Are you willing to listen and hear what the other has to say? Remember to always keep the end goal in mind: You are meeting to build up and encourage unity and satisfaction within your most important earthly relationship, and it deserves invested time and attention. As we reach the end of the calendar year, make it a priority to come together to evaluate, bond, and create any necessary changes to positively impact your lifelong, God-given blessing of committed love . . . marriage.