Several years ago I counseled a man who was a professional bodybuilder and also a very strong Christian. He came to me because he wanted me to help him turn his marriage around. During the course of our conversation I presented to him a hypothetical question.
I asked, “If you had four days to work only on your athletic ability and physique do you know what you would do?” He nodded his head in confident affirmation, as he told me what he'd eat, how he'd workout, with the number of repetitions and so on. (It was more information than I needed!)
Then I asked him if he knew what he would do if he were to spend four days where he only worked on his faith. Sure enough he told me what passages of scripture he would read, what books he might go through and how he would pray. Once again he was quite confident. Then I ask him what he would do if he had four days to work only on his marriage. His confidence dropped and he shook his head. He said "I'd take her out to the movies". (And he was serious!)
Frankly, I was expecting a little bit more than that, maybe flowers or a dinner out at least! This man understood personal disciplines in the area of bodybuilding and faith, but he didn't know how to apply personal disciplines to his marriage.
For example, individuals who have spiritual disciplines exercise prayer, reading of Scripture, meditation on those readings, and some kind of fellowship, to name a few. I find that couples who have marital disciplines typically exercise and engage in some kind of emotional intimacy and closeness, scheduling of the calendars, financial stewardship, and some kind of inspirational readings or devotions with prayer. (There are of course many more we could add). How you may achieve this in your marriage may vary from other married people you know - but most of us touch on these basic elements in our time together.
Researchers show that couples who get together on a regular basis for a meeting (with just the two of them) for the purpose of building their marriage show a drastic reduction in typical divorce rates. Couples who start having a meeting like this and later on abandon it also have a strong reduction in divorce rates (but not quite as good as the couples who continue to meet). I guess there is strength in just knowing “how” to get together!
One evening my wife and I were at a local restaurant having our marriage meeting together. She brings a wall calendar from our kitchen and I have my little electronic PDA (so we can compare our calendars). A couple that I had been counseling walked by and looked at us with our calendars and said "Oh, you two are having your marriage meeting". And I said, "Yes we are". And we all had a good laugh together!
WHAT HAPPENS IN OUR MARRIAGE MEETINGS (and for many other couples)?
Take a look below…
Here are disciplines that some couples have found to be helpful (and these are just a few).
OF COURSE THE WEEKLY MEETING.
It is usually held outside of the home and includes several of the following disciplines. I find that most couples typically go out for dinner or breakfast. (My wife and I like our local Thai restaurant.)
- Create and then read on a regular basis your couple of mission statement. Allow for 1-2 minutes for reading.
- Compare calendars and avoid the scheduling train wreck!
- Review and/or write some personal goals for the week and share with your spouse. 5 minutes max (This has become more of a personal exercise for us now, but many couples like this kind of sharing.)
- Practice a brief communication exercise such as...
- Ask your spouse, “If there's one thing you can say to me and have me really understand, what would it be? Please include your feelings.”
- Next, write down what your spouse says, and yes, they must be brief--only one to three sentences. Keep your notes in a marriage notebook for further review.
- Read back what you have written and get a bull's-eye from your spouse i.e. “Yes, that's what I said”.
- Switch roles and do it again - 10 minutes max
Feeling Word List Check-in
- Briefly share two to four words off of a feeling list with each other as it applies to your week and as it applies to your marriage. 5 minutes max. (See a Feeling Word List, you can find tons of them on Google). This is a wonderful way to get to the emotional intimacy that we all long for in a direct and fairly quick way!
- Read something educational and inspirational with each other. I suggest reading one half to two pages from a book on marriage and discuss for two to five minutes.
Wow! You can have this meeting in less than an hour. If you watch your time you can even do it in a half hour. Weekly meetings need to be doable. If you end up closing of the restaurant at 2 a.m. you probably won't want to repeat the process the following week.
HERE'S SOME MORE MARRIAGE BUILDING DISCIPLINES...
- An overnighter in a hotel every two to four months. (This is a personal favorite of my wife and me. We love shopping around and finding a great deal on a hotel.)
- A yearly couples retreat. (My wife and I still go to retreats from time to time. When I go I want to hear one new thing and just have a great time with my wife. With those expectations I am never disappointed.)
- Attend a class on couple communication or marriage.
- Have a date night every week or twice a month. (This is different than a marriage meeting where you have an agenda to follow. A date night is just a fun night out.)
- Find your vows or write new ones and read at each meeting or every overnighter.
- Have a yearly summit meeting (or every quarter). Take the same agenda as your weekly meeting but expand the agenda, e.g.
--What will the yearly vacations look like?
--The budget! Make one if you don't have one!
--Yearly calendar review
Write your own! And have fun!
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Turning Point Counseling
1370 N. Brea Blvd., Ste. 245 ~ Fullerton ~ CA ~ 92835