Throughout my life I have struggled with decision making. I have gone under exhaustive self analysis to figure out why, and have a pretty good idea of the reasons behind it. There is one revelation I have had that has helped more than any other. It is this: when I don’t decide, I default to either what someone else wants and dictates for my life, or to what life circumstances dictate because of failing to decide. When I remember that, I make more decisions. Why? Because I don’t like defaulting. It makes me feel weak. It leaves me feeling frustrated about myself. I see that I am not taking an active part in what happens in my life and around me. I want to do better.
What does this have to do with marriage? A lot!!!
Most couples live out the entirety of their marriage in default mode. Que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be.) Very little time, money, focus or energy is used to move the marriage relationship forward and deeper. At best, they maintain their present experience as husband and wife. At worst, they put in little or no effort leading to a decline in their relationship.
It doesn’t have to be this way! I am convinced it is not what any of us want for our marriage. So often, we just don’t stop long enough to think or do anything about it. We get lulled into highway hypnosis, cruising down the road of marriage that we don’t notice the beauty around us or where we are headed. We miss road signs of danger ahead, turns we need to make to get us where we really want to go, or the warning light telling us our tank is on empty. If we don’t wake up, we end up lost or even worse, experiencing the death and destruction of our marriage.
If this resonates with you, here is a plan:
If you and your spouse are on good terms and equally desire your marriage to grow, do the following:
- Each take 10 minutes to write out in sentence or bullet form the worst case scenario where your marriage could be 5 years from now if you do little or nothing to invest in it. (This is your default future.)
- Then take another 15 minutes and write out in sentence or bullet form where your marriage could be 1 year from now if you made the decision today to invest in it. (This is your preferred future.)
- Both agree on the first action step you can take this weekend to move towards your preferred future!
- Commit for the rest of this year to keep investing as you work on your future together.
- Put on a calendar one year from now to evaluate what you have accomplished and once again consider where you would like to be one year from then.
If you are in a marriage where your spouse is unwilling at this time to do the above exercise, your task is obviously more challenging, but still doable:
Complete steps 1-5 on your own, thinking through where your marriage will be if you do nothing, and then where you’d like it to be. Decide what you can do on your own to help move your marriage towards your preferred future and commit to working on this (even if your spouse is not to ready to make the same commitment).
Begin working on your list, all the while praying for your spouse and marriage. At some point, you may decide to share your lists with your spouse – if they show interest, invite them to write their own lists (but do not force them if they are not ready).
This is a great exercise that can be done throughout every season of your marriage!
Here is a short sample with Zerrin and I right now where we are at in our marriage:
If Zerrin and I do nothing, this will be our default future:
- We will continue to live a very busy life, possibly missing opportunities God has for us.
- We will miss what this season of life (being empty-nesters) has to offer for our marriage.
- We may lose focus on building relationships with couples who help mentor us in our own marriage.
- Our relationship with Christ may lack growth, or at worst, stagnate.
If Zerrin and I intentionally work on our marriage this next year, this will be our preferred future:
- We will have slowed down and become more intentional with our commitments in order to enjoy our time with each other and those we love more.
- We will have made great improvements to our physical health so we can live as strong as we can as long as we can.
- We will have (and continue to) be purposeful about what we can do to leave a legacy for our children, their future children, and the world around us.
Our first specific action step:
- As of this week, we have decided to mark off on our calendar nights/times that are just for us – to think, pray, talk, and enjoy.