Drifting, wishing, or hoping doesn’t get you to where you want to go. That’s true in every area of life, and perhaps especially true for your marriage. The only way to have the kind of marriage you want in the future is to be intentional about navigating toward that place.
So many young people get married expecting the emotional fireworks to carry them through the challenges marriage brings, and it just doesn’t work. Life happens, and a marriage left to itself will deteriorate, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Remember the second law of thermodynamics; entropy? It applies to marriage too.
Every marriage, including yours, is the union of two sinners. Which means there will be conflict, pain, and disappointment. Marriage, by definition, includes two people, which means yours is not the only vote that counts.
But here’s the single biggest question that, if you follow through with it, will make the biggest difference in what your marriage looks like tomorrow:
What Kind of Marriage do You Want Tomorrow?
And now, what are you going to do to get there?
You know some things that don’t work; pouting, manipulating your spouse, putting up with bad behavior, being prickly, complaining, or simply wishing things would be different.
Instead, I’m talking about the combination of vision and action; picturing in detail the kind of marriage you want, and doing the things today that will result in that kind of marriage tomorrow.
Here’s what doing that can look like.
Write the Vision
The clearer the picture of what you’re working toward, the better chance you’ll get there.
Take some time to think and pray, and write out in either bullet points or paragraphs what you want your marriage to look like in five or ten years. Get as specific as you can. Imagine the life stage you’ll be at then. What are the specific characteristics that describe your marriage? What does your daily relationship look like together?
You can make your marriage vision as long as you like, but a good goal is a page or two. A few questions that can help you think this through:
- What is the emotional climate like when you and your spouse are together?
- How are each of you different because of your relationship together?
- What is the communication like between you?
- How are you handling money? Parenting? Careers?
- Describe the intimacy you experience together.
- What role is God playing in your marriage?
- What difference is your marriage making on the world around you?
Be as specific as you can. For example, in describing intimacy don’t simply say “we have good intimacy.” What does that look and feel like? You might talk about feelings of safety or connection, praying together, what your sex life is like, etc.
Now comes the even more challenging part.
Develop a Shared Vision
If your spouse is a person of good will, invite them into the process.
One option is to share your vision for what you desire for your marriage with your spouse in a vulnerable and open way. Take the position that this is the marriage you yourself are committed to working toward.
The other option, which is just as good, is to invite your spouse into the process early. You each write out what you envision for your marriage in five or ten years, perhaps after sharing this article with them. Your spouse’s vision will likely have some elements similar to yours, but it won’t be identical.
And then schedule a time to talk about your marriage together. See it as stepping back from the day-to-day-ness of living together to examine the trajectory of your relationship. Consider where you together want to navigate your marriage toward, and make plans on how you will get there.
Some couples plan a day or a weekend each year to work on their marriage vision. You assess how you’re doing as a couple, clarify and update where you’re headed, celebrate what’s good, and talk about any changes you need to focus on in the coming year.
Thinking, dreaming, writing, planning, talking – it’s all wonderful. And it’s an absolutely necessary part of getting where you want to go in your marriage. But it’s the action steps that make the lasting difference.
What is it going to take to get to that kind of marriage tomorrow? If you picture a marriage without the burden of debt, what are you going to do together to make that happen? Stronger communication; do you need to schedule weekly (or daily) check-ins, some new rhythm of communication together? Perhaps you want better intimacy; how are you going to, together, address the barriers to making that happen?
If your marriage is strong, such action steps are primarily the regular investments you’re making so your marriage can be even stronger tomorrow. Things like monthly budget meetings, regular date nights, periodic getaways together, rhythms of sex, praying together.
If your marriage is not so strong right now, such action steps are even more critical. What kind of help do you need? Financial Peace University to get out of debt? Marriage counseling? Some individual help to deal with addiction or trauma or other “stuff?” Setting some strong boundaries?
Your action steps are what will determine how close your future marriage is to what you want it to be.
(Note: if your spouse is not a person of good will, get some help! You can’t fix a toxic marriage by trying harder.)
Regardless of who your spouse is, there are only two most-important things to focus on in this process:
- Who do I need to be as a spouse in order to have that kind of marriage?
- Jesus, help! Please do in our marriage what only You can do.
May you navigate your marriage well.
Your Turn: What kind of marriage do you want for your future? What are you individually going to do to move in that direction? Leave a comment below.
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- Your marriage won’t get to where you want it to go by hoping, controlling, or drifting. Here’s what it looks like to set a vision for the marriage you want in the future. Tweet that.
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