As a new calendar begins, many of us make goals for the next year—or next five years if we’re visionaries. These might include paying off a car loan, remodeling the kitchen, joining a local gym, or enrolling in grad school. Somehow, however, we often neglect to set goals for marriage.
Urgent and pressing needs often dictate how we spend our days. It’s all too easy to put life on auto-pilot and cruise through the year. This approach to life, though understandable, does not always help us to arrive at our desired destination. Making a strong and healthy marriage will not happen without the same kind of intentionality and specificity that it takes to get our body or our bank account in better shape.
Consider the GPS
It can only give accurate directions when it knows the specific starting point—where we currently are—and the specific destination we want to reach. Before driving someplace unfamiliar, I try to review online maps. I’ve lost my signal at a crucial fork in the road one too many times. A few weeks ago, I forgot and simply configured the device while waiting for a red light to change. For whatever reason, it programmed the longest and most circuitous route possible. What should have taken thirty minutes took over an hour. I could have blamed technology, but I knew it was my fault because I didn’t take the time to plan the best route.
Small Decisions, Big Difference
If we take this approach, our marriages may not be as healthy or vibrant as we hope. Fulfilling, intimate marriages require vision and effort. Though we can never anticipate all of life’s surprises (such as pregnancies, health issues, or job transfers), we can evaluate how we’re doing in a given year and strategize about how to make adjustments or improvements. Sometimes, this simply means altering daily routines like committing to turn off all social media after a certain time. What I’ve found is that improvements often require many sacrifices and an ongoing willingness to change.
Improvements often require many sacrifices and an ongoing willingness to change.Tweet this!
For example, my husband is a verbal processor and extrovert extraordinaire. I am an introvert who prioritizes using the fewest words possible. He particularly enjoys long conversations before falling asleep. I usually prefer reading before bed. It took me years to realize his love language is quality time, and listening communicates my love in his language. Over our twenty-five years together, I’ve had to confront my selfishness by putting my book down and giving him my full attention. While this might sound trivial, it’s not. If you haven’t realized yet, marriage is made up of thousands of these decisions.
Plan the Best Route
To avoid defaulting to GPS style planning, try asking questions such as: What do we want our marriage to look like when we hit our tenth or twentieth anniversary? What kind of spouse do I want to be? Where am I underdeveloped and how could I work to develop that character trait in the coming year? Where am I most resistant to change and why?
I’m not sure which is easier: losing ten pounds or becoming less selfish. Both seem stubborn to change. I do know for a fact that I won’t get thinner or become less selfish unless I admit my deficits to others, ask for help, and doggedly pursue transformation. Try plugging that into the GPS!
Comment to Win!
If this resonates with you, I’d love to encourage you to read my new book, Making Marriage Beautiful. In it, my husband and I vulnerably discuss areas of our marriage that have needed to change and how we’ve leaned into God to make those changes happen. I’ll be giving away three signed copies of the book to randomly chosen readers who leave a comment below.
[Dorothy Greco’s book, Making Marriage Beautiful, was released by David C Cook, Jan. 1 2017. Its available wherever books are sold.]