Sunday, September 15, 2013

#262 - Part 2: Fueling A Marriage That Will Last

Proverbs 31:12 -  She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (MSG) -  Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
Going on 13 years of marriage (January 6th!), Tyler and I got to talking the other day about our marriage. It was a good conversation. We discussed why we felt it had been so good up to this point, how to improve it going forward, and one specific building block came out of our conversation that I thought would be valuable to share.

As a newlywed couple in our early marriage, we decided that we would implement a monthly marriage evaluation. Each month, we spent time filling out an evaluation with questions that we had pre-determined. We had seen patterns good and bad modeled by our parents and other people, some that we wanted to follow, some that we wanted to avoid. Our marriage evaluation may have took 30-45 minutes for each of us to fill out separately before coming together and discussing each question. The questions covered every possible aspect that could bring turmoil into a marriage if not dealt with, such as: How is the meal preparation going? How are household chores being done? Is this effective? How is money being managed? How is our sex life? Have you felt romanced in the last month? How is fitness working within marriage? How are relationships/friendships outside of marriage? How has our relationship with the Lord been, our time alone with God? And the list goes on.


At the end of each marriage evaluation, we had TWO of the MOST IMPORTANT questions. I'll start with the last question.
  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your marriage and why? Where could it improve? 
That was a great question! For one month, I may have scored our marriage as an 7 with the reason "why" as, "I feel like I wasn't romanced at all. Our schedules just got too busy, and there was little of the spark." The following month, I would notice Tyler working on keeping the spark in our marriage. Maybe bring me flowers, or scheduling a romantic date with a walk on the beach. It was RARE, if ever, for two months in a row that we felt the "weak" spot was in the same area.


For me, and probably for most young married couples, I did not know how to communicate in the beginning. I definitely did not like confrontation. If my feelings got hurt, if not for this most important question, I would have pushed my hurt feelings under the carpet, only for hurt to build upon hurt. They may have been small hurts, but hurts nonetheless. Over time, those hurts would have most likely created scars over and around my heart. For some marriages, those small scars undealt with are what has led to the "D" word down the road. What was that question? 
  • List 2 positive withholds and 1 negative withhold that happened in the last month. 
"What in the world is a withhold?" you may ask. First of all, a "withhold" comes with rules. The recipient could only respond with TWO WORDS. "Thank You." A positive withhold was something that Tyler did that month that made me feel good. Maybe I didn't have time to comment or say something to him at the moment it happened, but it was something that made me feel good. A negative withhold was the opposite. It was something that he did or said that month that hurt my feelings or made me upset. We may have been in a public environment, not allowing me to comment immediately on it, and then maybe it was forgotten..... until I had to pull together 3 things for "Withholds" on our marriage evaluation. Then we would sandwich the withholds when we told the other person: one positive, one negative and wrap up with the final positive withhold.

What this taught me? As a newlywed, this was CRUCIAL to me in learning how to communicate. I knew that ALL Tyler could say in response was, "Thank you." That was the rule. He couldn't get defensive and try to defend his position, but could only say, "Thank you." Whether my feelings were right or wrong, had no bearings on the fact that they were my feelings, and my feelings had been hurt. Same with Tyler. When he would give me his "Withholds," I could not defend myself, but could only thank him for telling me. 

It was WONDERFUL! It allowed a "green," "newlywed couple" to voice our feelings, even the hard ones. Some months it may have been about something sexual, that would have been embarrassing for one of us to bring up otherwise. Other months, it may have been something I said to undermine Tyler in front of people he respected. 

Ultimately, our first year of marriage we LEARNED how to communicate. We learned how to talk about topics, despite how difficult the subject may be. When most of the time, newly married couples may take years to learn how to communicate and talk about the tough issues, some never talk about them, we learned during year one. 

We no longer do a monthly marriage evaluation, although we did discuss re-implementing it a few times a year when we go on our "husband/wife" weekend recharge retreats. Why reimplement it after so many years? Communicating and keeping our marriage fresh is worth it! 

What about you? How do you keep your marriage fresh? How do you keep the communication lines open with a busy life, jobs, kids, and everything else that goes on?

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