Two people sliding into marriage don’t naturally “fall into” being aligned. Their expectations are different, their goals are different, their habits are different. Even when both partners are Christian believers and totally “in love”, their experience with God and understanding of Him is different. Over time they’re “supposed” to get on the same page. But how do you do that?
Last time we talked about what being on the same page with your spouse does and doesn’t mean. In a healthy marriage you and your spouse see the world through different eyes, but you are heading toward the same destination. You’re using the same blueprint to build this house, not that one.
God’s blueprint for marriage is a critical place to start – coming to understand how His covenant love is to be displayed in marriage, and what He says about things such as money, intimacy, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
In a Christian marriage there are also many possible destinations that could fit within God’s overall design. What obstacles do you need to through work together? What kind of lifestyle are you working to build? How are you going to impact the world around you for God’s kingdom? There are many possible godly answers to questions such as these.
Here are some practical steps you can take to increasingly get on the same page with your spouse.
Check Your Own Heart
This step is not just a place-holder. Nothing else will work if your heart is not right. If you enter this process trying to get your spouse to do what you want or to agree with where you think your marriage should be heading, stop right now.
It’s absolutely critical that you enter this process seeking to understand your spouse rather than trying to get your needs met. If you can’t do that, you need to deal with your own heart before God first.
Invite Your Spouse
If this is important to you, you take the initiative to set things up. You can say something like, “Honey, I love you! Our marriage is important. I’d like us to work together to intentionally move our marriage in an even stronger direction.”
If there is a particular issue that’s a big sticking point between you, you may need time to focus on that one thing first before addressing more “global” issues. The best scenario is a time you together devote to looking at all the critical areas of your marriage. Be conscious of what you’re inviting your spouse into.
If you are able to communicate in a reasonably healthy way, plan a day or two-day marriage retreat to work through your mutual goals for your marriage. Don’t try to make this the first step if you’re struggling to talk about issues such as sex or money. If you tend to easily start fighting, deal with learning to communicate first. (See the end of this article.)
Whether it’s a Saturday morning, an evening, or a 1-2 day retreat, make sure you will be undistracted and able to focus on each other during this time.
Ask The Questions
Make sure to invite God into your conversation first. And then for each area you plan to address, ask three questions;
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to be in a year (or some other time period)?
- What are we going to do together to move toward that goal?
Remember that you are each likely to see things differently initially. Your focus in this kind of a talk is to spend most of your time looking toward what you want your marriage to look like in the future. Take time to understand each other well enough that you come to agree on what those big goals will be.
Focus On Agreement
Spend at least 50% of your time listening to your spouse. Be curious. Find out what is important to each other, and why. Seek to understand! And then you can come to some agreements – not what one person wants, but what you can both embrace and move toward for the benefit of your marriage as a whole.
You might agree that you are x amount in debt, and you want to be debt free in x period of time. Perhaps you will then plan to go through Financial Peace University to get to your goal.
You might agree that you are not giving your marriage the nourishment it needs. You want a deeper sense of connection by next year. Perhaps you will plan to have a date night every 2 weeks, and write those dates in your calendars.
What Areas to Address
For a couple who has reasonably healthy communication, this kind of marriage vision retreat can profitably happen every year. You can decide ahead of time what areas you want to work through, but a reasonable list might include:
- Physical health and lifestyle
- Work/life balance (schedule)
- Intimacy and sex
- Outreach (how we help others)
- Parenting (if you have kids)
- Spiritual growth
If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s partially true. Building a high-quality house takes a lot of work and effort; it’s the same in building a high-quality marriage. Doing this kind of intentional planning together can lead to wonderful intimacy if you both approach the process with an open heart.
If your communication is not that great, diving into this type of marriage vision retreat may not be the first step you need to tackle. It may be much better to study and practice communication in “smaller” doses first. Remember, your job is not to change your spouse. Don’t try!
You may need to study communication as a whole. (Dr Carol’s Guide to Healthy Communication in Marriage can help you here.) Learn to communicate about money or sex or spiritual things effectively.
Regardless of where your marriage is right now, it can become stronger and more satisfying. Being intentional can make your marriage grow.
Your Turn: Have you ever tried a marriage vision retreat? How did it go? What has helped you and your spouse move toward being more on the same page? Leave a comment below.
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