Far too many couples are convinced that a weekend marriage seminar, or the newest book on marriage with be the silver bullet that “fixes” their relationship. We all wish it were that easy. There are no quick fixes for marital satisfaction. Certainly, seminars and books can be the catalysts. But relationships improve (or not) only if couples are willing to do the hard work of applying the new knowledge and skills. Albert Einstein well said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were when we created them.”
Stable and satisfying marriages are enjoyed by two people willing to do the hard work. In my doctoral work, I took couples through a process of pre-testing, an enrichment program, and then post-testing. Not surprisingly, the couples who did the least amount of work in the enrichment program scored lowest on the post-test and the couples who did the most work scored highest. Marriage is an ever-changing connection that has to be continually examined, recharged, and redirected as new circumstances, stages, issues, and problems arise.
Here are four very basic things you can do to get started:
- Take 10 minutes 5 days a week to read a devotional together. I suggest:
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
Heirs Together for Life, Charles and Norma Ellis (Banner of Truth, 1980)
Becoming Soul Mates, Les and Leslie Parrott (Zondervan, 1995)
2. Take 5 minutes 5 days a week to pray together.
Praying together can be difficult for many couple. Here are some things that will help.
- Establish a set time to pray. Make the time work for you and your schedules.
- If you are not used to praying together, begin by praying silently together. When comfort and trust is built finish the prayer time by praying aloud.
- If you are not comfortable praying aloud together, write out your prayers then share them with each other. In them you will be able to develop the discipline of praying openly and honestly.
- The more you pray together, the more you will want to pray together. Also, you may want to check out a couple books by Ken Boa, Face to Face: Praying the Scripture for Spiritual Growth and Face to Face: Praying the Scripture for Intimate Worship (Zondervan, 1997).
- Begin dating again.
A major desire that spouses have is for their partner to be a friend. Re-fresh your friendship by going out and having fun together. Dates need not be expensive. A walk in the park or on a trail provides much opportunity to talk and enjoy one another’s company. If dates have fallen by the wayside, begin with one a month. Have some fun.
- Schedule a thirty minute weekly meeting.
Establish a time to meet once a week where planning, conflict resolution, and healthy communication can take place. I know it sounds too simple, maybe even too formal. But a weekly meeting is an important habit to establish in a growing relationship. With busy schedules, it provides a time to put upcoming events and activities on personal calendars. Researchers Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg note that a weekly meeting provides a tangible way to place priority on your relationship by carving out a set time. So, find a comfortable place, grab a cup of coffee, and take a few minutes to get on the same page.