Start of school. Check!
First round of teacher’s conferences. Check!
Navigating the chaos of the Christmas season. Check!
Kicking off a new calendar year. Check!
You and your spouse have probably had what feels like a million tactical conversations about who was going where and taking whom with them. Take a breath – you’ve accomplished a lot so far this year!
Perhaps now – before more checklists clutter the counter and the year-end madness begins – would be a good time to do a little marital spring-cleaning. Because it is easy to forget if marriage is not on the checklist.
Give one of these five refreshing ideas a try.
- Rejoice, pray, give thanks: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I love this definition of “rejoice:” to be delighted. For the next 21 days, commit to doing these three things. Can you find something every day about your spouse that is delightful? How about praying for your spouse daily? Gratitude changes our attitude about things. What if you found something your spouse did that you could give thanks for each day? Look for little things or big things to rejoice in, pray about, be thankful for; but do it every day.
- Evaluate how you fight
Marriage expert John Gottman has been studying marriages for more than 30 years. He found the main predictor of a lasting marriage is how a couple fights. The biggest danger sign for a marriage was expressing contempt during conflict. Take some time to talk about how you and your spouse disagree. Is contempt seeping into your arguments? What steps do you need to take to change this pattern?
- Give each other the benefit of the doubt
Take a moment and let this one really sink in. How often do you assign motives to your spouse before you understand what was intended? What story are you telling yourself about why your spouse didn’t fill the car up with gas or put the cap back on the toothpaste? Obviously, your spouse is a selfish person who doesn’t value your time or tooth-brushing experience. Why else would your spouse not fill up when he/she knew you needed the van or leave the cap off so you had to deal with all that crusted toothpaste?
Maybe, just maybe, there’s another reason, like your four kids were all buckled into the backseats and the youngest thought he might have to throw up the last time your wife was driving the van. Her priority shifted from filling up to getting him home before vomitpalooza happened. Maybe your husband was distracted while brushing his teeth because he has to have a difficult conversation today and isn’t sure how to handle it.
- Be kind
A few years ago I got a wake-up call in this area. I came home after running errands and was unkind to my husband. It hit me that I was kinder to the strangers I had just been interacting with while running errands than I was to my own husband. I knew that could not continue. It is such a simple idea but hard to practice in the daily grind. Even though I can still grow in this area, my husband has noticed a difference in how kind I am to him. It has had significant impact on our relationship.
You’ve heard before that you need a regular date night and in theory you’d like to make it happen. I know it’s difficult but I promise it is worth it. The 7-7-7 idea is to have a date every 7 days, an overnight away together every 7 weeks, and a weekend (or longer if possible) vacation every 7 months. Why is it important to create a rhythm of time together? You might be asking, “Why can’t we just order a pizza and watch a movie at home?” Those nights are fun but it is important to have time away too. Time when you can’t be interrupted by a kid waking up or the laundry that needs to be folded. It’s too easy to fall into tactical instead of strategic conversations without intentional time away.