Over the course of more than two decades at Family First, my wife, Susan, and I have written many words about marriage. We’ve tackled all kinds of topics. But a recent analysis of our website traffic revealed three main themes running through our most popular posts: expectation, evaluation, and improvement.
You might define these marriage essentials as the following questions:
What should we expect from one another in our marriage? (Expectations)
How are we doing as a couple relationally? (Evaluations)
How can we do this better? (Improvement)
Let’s look at each more closely:
Having spent many years studying and learning firsthand about marriage, I have concluded that most conflict between husbands and wives isn’t intentional: they don’t typically set out to disagree about something. It’s the unspoken expectations that so often trip them up.
We are not aware that so much of how we think the way life should go is shaped by our past. If you grew up in a home where your parents disagreed openly and loudly, you’ll assume that’s the way marriage is. But if you marry someone whose parents avoided conflict at all costs, there will be a mismatch.
Acknowledging that we all have preferences—from the way we receive affirmation to showing love and affection—and then identifying them will help you and your spouse better understand each other and head off some potential clash points.
* What do I expect (emotionally, financially, spiritually, sexually, and more)?
* Are my expectations realistic?
* Are they fair?
* What should I expect of myself in regards to them?
* What should I expect of my spouse?
It’s been well said that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. In other words, there’s no way of having a better marriage if you haven’t taken the time to assess where things are at right now. You can’t improve without a clear goal in mind. [Tweet This] But don’t look to others as a guideline; their glossy social media profile may not be a true picture of their life together.
Instead, consider these 5 Measures of a Meaningful Marriage. You may also want to get a copy of Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands and Lists to Love By for Busy Wives. Susan and I wrote these two recently released, practical books intended to help couples strengthen their marriage. They provide easy-to-read assessments and action steps to help you in your relationship. And sharing with each other what you are reading and learning will further deepen your intimate connection.
There are some things that you need to put into action if you want to have a better marriage. You can have the best ideas and greatest intentions in the world, but you won’t achieve anything unless you start to put them into practice.
You can’t just have a good pair of running shoes and call yourself a runner: you have to lace up those shoes and head out the door. Similarly, you need to turn those wishes for a richer, stronger marriage into practical actions.
Don’t try to take on everything at once; you’ll only get overwhelmed and discouraged, and give up. Choose an area or two to work on first. Maybe you realize you need to be more helpful around the house: block out an hour in the evening or a couple during the weekend when you can take on a project or two. Perhaps you recognize you need to improve how you verbally communicate your love: set a daily reminder on your smartphone to check whether you’ve sent a text, left a note, or spoken words of appreciation and affirmation.
If you’re ready to commit to being different, remember that it will take some effort, because while Change is Easy, Getting There Isn’t. And here are some Questions to Ask When Your Spouse Wants You to Change.
Which of these three areas—expectation, evaluation, improvement—do you most need to work on to help enrich your marriage? Share your thoughts and experiences here. And be sure to check out our new ‘his and her’ books, Lists to Love By for Busy Wives and Lists to Love By for Busy Husbands to help you even more.