While driving from Phoenix to Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, I asked my husband out of the blue, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our marriage?” Now, this wasn’t a loaded question, we’ve been married for 11 years, and have achieved a level of predictability in our lives that poses as happiness.
Mark’s answer was about what mine was in my head, “6-7,” he said. I agreed with him and started thinking about what it would take to get our marriage to a 10. Embarrassingly, this is not something I’ve ever thought of in this way before. I mean, we have worked through regular marriage stuff, but we’ve never stepped back and tried to strategically improve our relataionship with measurable goals and (gasp!) accountability for meeting those goals. Instead of “quality of marriage” as an ill-defined item at the bottom of my list, it rocketed to the top. This is something we can do! Improving our marriage is something we have control over (as opposed to our toddler waking up every night) and it’s something we want to improve, and it’s important. Let’s do it! (I’m talking aloud and Mark is just staring blankly at the rode, driving in silence. This is typical). Instantly, I’m thinking of books we can read together and discuss, marriage retreats we can attend, hobbies we can start together. This is going to be fun! (Mark still doesn’t know, I’m going to forward him the link to this post, hee hee!)
You can see the snowball effect here, right? I started brainstorming, I got excited. My mind filled with a surprising amount of concrete ways to measure a good marriage, and even some ways to quantify the more nebulous qualities. For example, I’ve always known that sex (aka, Special Couple Time) and a happy marriage were linked, but for years I was puzzled about the causal relationship. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It was just this year that I realized that for us, the sex comes first, the happy marriage comes next. So, that went on my list of measurable ways to continue improving our marriage.
Next was date night. My mother has been living with us for a few months and we’ve had a lot more time to go out (she’s happy to babysit, especially if the kids are asleep before we leave). We are fortunate to go out almost every weekend. It’s really beneficial for our realtionship to have time together, away from the kids. I wish every couple could have a weekly date night.
I added some behaviors to the list- listening, respect, affection. These are harder to measure, but if I review list weekly, I’m more likely to listen to Mark, be affectionate and respectful on a daily basis and we can talk openly about times when I’m not (and how I’m justified because he was being ridiculous).
EmilyCC gave me a book for my birthday, Flunking Sainthood, by Jana Riess. I’m really enjoying it and thinking that I’d like to adapt it to marriage improvement this year. We’ll try to read a different marriage book each month and work on a specific aspect of marriage.
Does you have suggestions for our reading list? I’m thinking the 7 Love Languages, and maybe one on parenting.
So, here’s my New Year’s resolution “Marriage Improvement” list that I got from the top of my head, but I’d love more ideas or links to good sites/posts.
Weekly Date Night
Special Couple Time (X times per week)
Weekly calendaring (many of our disagreements come from not planning ahead with each other. Ex: “What? I was going to basketball, we can’t go to XYZ!”)
Planning ahead for vacations, budgeting, etc.
2-3 Therapy sessions during the year (we have a great therapist, but haven’t seen her in years)
Create a parenting plan (I’d like some ideas on this, if you have a suggestion)
Divide Household tasks with a timeline (I’m starting school, so this will get a little tricky)
I’d like to review this plan every month on the first Sunday of the month and see where we’re making progress and where we’re falling short. Looking at the list, I can see that it’s a lot to do, but that even some of the smaller things (like calendaring) can make a big difference in how we get along. I’m also seeing some themes which would help in a monthly (or bi-monthly) book list. Parenting, communication, intimacy, love-languages, are all topics I’d like for us to read this year.
Another way to show accountability would be to post monthly or quarterly updates here at Exponent for the year. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. That would be more accountability for sure.
Lastly, I did just talk to Mark about the plan (but I’ll probably still send him a link). He was doing some online gaming so he said, “Yeah.”
I’m pretty sure he’s in. This is going to be great!
What is your New Year’s Resolution?
Have you tried marriage improvement strategies? Have they been successful?