A relationship between two people can be one of the most rewarding and life-giving experiences known to man, but it can also be the source of much pain, disappointment, and frustration. There are countless books, movies, poems, and songs written about both successful and unsuccessful relationships. How can we ensure that ours has a greater chance of succeeding? One suggestion that may help is to get in sync with your spouse.
The ProblemIt was during a recent conversation between my girlfriend Brandi and I that we realized how opposite we can be at times. It was clear from our discussion that she had her list of priorities and I had mine. I also recognized that we both were feeling a bit frustrated, hurt, and disappointed.
At this point in our relationship, there were countless incidences of missed opportunities, unmet expectations, and frustrations with not getting the support that one needs or wants. She wanted me to participate in what was important to her and I wanted the same. However, since I knew she wouldn't be interested in what I was doing, I never asked her and as a result, she felt left out. In turn, I was so busy working on my own list of priorities, that I wasn't much interested in hers. Do you see the problem here?
The SolutionAs soon as we understood what the problem was, we both agreed to make time each week for a strategic discussion about our priorities. The idea is that each of us would bring a list of items that we want considered, for some this may begin with the "Honey Do" list.
As we sit down in our discussion, we each bring our individual lists and calendar. I personally like using a shared document on Google Drive, but a simple paper and pen works, too.
What Went Right?The first question we agreed to ask was, "What went right over the past 7 days?" Using this as a starting point for discussion allows a couple to focus on positive events, memories, comments, and actions. What things were appreciated? What did the other person do to create feelings of love? What made you smile or laugh? Whatever you come up with, write it all down.
What Needs Improvement?Once completed with the "What went right?" question, then take focused energy to address those things that weren't so good. What things could we have done better? How can we take challenging moments, poor decisions, arguments, and extra "colorful" comments to learn from them? Like in the previous section, write it all down.
What Will We Do This Week?Once you have a list of things that went right and a list of things that could be improved, now is the time to focus your energy on what action the two will take over the next 7 days. This is where everyone gets to brainstorm ideas on the top priorities for the week.
This list may include actual items off of the "Honey Do List" or it may take the more pressing ideas from the things that went right to the things that need improvement.
Here are a few examples:
- Fix the refrigerator
- Paint the guest bedroom
- Pray together each morning before we go to work
- Talk over dinner without distractions (no phones at the table)
- Put up Christmas decorations both inside and out
- Agree to take a short break when arguments begin to get heated
Prioritize The ListOnce the list is complete, it's time to prioritize your top 3-5 items. It is at this point where the couple gets to discuss what's important and work together to develop a collaborative list of priorities. Remember, this is not about you alone. Compromise on what should be on that list. Let it be about giving and receiving. Maybe you give up getting something this week with the understanding that it becomes a top priority next week.
All in all, have fun with this process.
Taking It FurtherWhile our current effort involves only a weekly gathering of the minds, I see value in doing a monthly or quarterly review as well. Using the same process as outlined above, one can look at larger spans of time.
Another great idea that I received from my pastor, Matt Fry, was an annual retreat for couples based off the book, "Mountaintop of Marriage: A Vision Retreat Guidebook" by Jimmy Evans.
It is during this quiet time, couples would review the past year and create a vision for their relationship and family. Isn't that awesome? Just think about how close you and your spouse could become when you work together to build a life you both can be proud of.