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New Year, New US: Part 3

Jan 22, 2022

The classic trope of a husband not being willing to stop and ask for directions should be dead by now since we all have live, interactive directional guidance in our pockets and purses.

SIDE NOTE: We work really hard to avoid stereotypes of the dumb, absent, or lazy husband/dad or the nagging, chore laden, or helpless wife/mom. They can be fun to joke about, but they also reenforce things that erode marriages...We can do better.

Even though we don't have to waste time driving around in circles and fight over who can or can't read the map correctly, we do still have these moments in our lives and marriages.  The 3 key elements to successfully navigating a road trip are 1. Where are we going?, 2. Where are we starting?, and 3. How do we get there?

In this blog series we have asked couples to examine where they are starting (Part 1) and helped couples think through where they want to go by considering their ideal (Part 2).  Today we are going to provide some insight into what things you can focus on to ensure that you move toward where you want to be.

On any journey or road trip we naturally watch the gas gauge, check our progress against landmarks along the way, and, of course, try to beat the GPS ETA.  There are several different frameworks for focusing your attention on the marriage journey, but the one we have found most useful is the 5 F's: Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, and Friends.  Over many years of using this to track our progress toward our desire for a more meaningful marriage, we have added 2 additional F's to the journey: Fun and Field.

Take your marriage to the next level by 1. defining what success looks like in each of the 7 areas, 2. creating some goals under each category, and 3. committing to monthly or quarterly action steps in each area.

This blog's focus is on understanding the 7 areas and to get couples thinking about what types of things would help them feel like they successfully navigated the journey.

The 7 Key Areas to Invest in to Have A More Meaningful Marriage

 

Family

Family is one of the most important areas of focus in our lives. It is the one place that we take for granted because we are surrounded by them, but we still need to be intentional about what we hope to accomplish in our closest family relationships.  There are so many things that this could include like weekend activities, meals together, vacations, a video calls, and/or holidays with the in-laws or extended family. If we don’t focus on these areas of importance within our family relationships we may end up with results that leave us disappointed, disconnected or frustrated.  Discussing family specific goals can help you repair damaged relationships, build trust, and increase the level of joy you experience as a couple.

Fitness (health)

Fitness is essentially a health assessment that is critical to physical wellbeing and emotional happiness.  This doesn’t have to mean an intense 7 day per week regimen. However, it is really important to consider what we are doing to focus on our health. Being on the same page in regard to physical health builds accountability, shared experiences, and allows us to focus on how to be our best for quality of life and longevity.  Sometimes being active and eating healthy drops in rank of importance when competing with other activities. A helpful tip is to set a realistic and reasonable expectation for being active and eating healthier (even if only once a week) and commit to it...together.

Field (work)

The majority of hours are committed to our work.  Some of us love where we work, some of us are working toward something more, and some of us are working to make sure the bills are paid.  Either way, we spend more time at work than just about anywhere else.  Having your spouse’s support in your career efforts and working together to advance your knowledge, expertise, and earning potential are important things to talk about.  Additionally, making decisions to spend more time at work, starting a business, moving for work, working from home, or deciding to quit a job are all important conversations to have in order to align with your desired future reality.

Finances

The majority of our daily decisions are tied to our finances.  Things like how much we earn, how much we spend, how much we save, and how much we work impact our expectations for our measure of success. Whether you are struggling to find spare change in the sofa or you’re currently driving a Rolls Royce; regularly discussing financial decisions is critical to the success and well-being of your marriage. Engaging in regular conversations about finances and where we spend our money can drastically improve your relationship by providing shared understanding, freedom in decisions, as well as, trust and security.  When both partners are fiscally “in-the-know,” your decisions regarding regular spending, time spent at work, and enjoying your hard-earned cash can provide peace and confidence that few couples experience.

Friends

Friends can be like family and are a crucial part of support and value in our lives. Spending time with friends at their houses, sharing meals together, offering accountability and perspective, and supporting each other’s kids adds an element to our relationships that sometimes a spouse alone cannot add.  Differentiating between helpful and harmful relationships can be part of this conversation, but it should also include what type of friends you want to be as a couple. It can also be helpful to discuss friends you have as a couple and friends you have as individuals. Take an “inventory” of how your attitudes and actions affect those around you and seek to be a source of encouragement to your friends.

Fun

In meeting with couples in turmoil we have become more and more aware of the importance of having fun together.  When all we do is work, do household chores, manage all the things necessary to keep kids alive, binge our favorite shows, and sleep less than 8 hours per night; you can be sure your marriage is not on a course for your desired destination.  Fun doesn’t always have to be something big, and it doesn’t have to be just the 2 of you.  We can have fun as a family, fun with friends, and even have fun activities as individuals.  No matter what it is that you enjoy, make sure it’s a part of your life or all other parts will be less beneficial to your overall happiness and joy.

Faith (beliefs)

Faith in relationships is simply spiritual connection.  We are more than what’s on the surface.  For us, it’s bigger than religion although that could be how you decide to engage on the matter.  Our beliefs help us see that we are connected to something bigger than ourselves.  As humans we are connected on a deeper level, our lives are interconnected, and we exist in a world where our decisions, behaviors, and emotions impact each other.  Seek to build a closer connection to your spouse by engaging the spiritual side of your personal life and your life together.  Some typical examples include sharing your fears and hopes and dreams, praying together, volunteering together, experiencing nature together, or going to church or similar place of worship.  Fostering the spiritual side of your relationship has the potential to increase the authenticity, vulnerability, and intimacy in your life. 


We always start with asking each other "What does success look like in this area?"  We then document that and build our goals around our shared understanding of success. An example of some of the conversational topics we have had in the past can be seen below.

In our Marriage Prep and Marriage Refresh programs we provide additional resources for couples to work through this conversation together.  We also plan to share all of these resources in a free webinar in February to help couples start the conversation.  The webinar will be more of a workshop so that you can discuss things together and learn more about how to have this conversation year after year.

 

P.S. Stay tuned for more information on a free webinar following this blog series just in time for Valentine's Day.    

 

 

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