It's a new year and a new year usually brings new resolutions or goals, a chance to start fresh or revitalize a healthy lifestyle. Or maybe you just need a second chance to beat that sweet tooth (you got this!). Often, our relationships are also caught up in this yearly reflection. Something like, “I love our marriage, I just wish that ___” or “I love how we used to ___”. Whatever it may be, these kinds of drastic relationship resolutions can usher in a lot of pressure and stress that end up having the opposite effect than we intended. Well, I want to give you hope that when it comes to relationships, we can take control and make positive changes towards the relationship we want. Step by step and day by day. Let’s talk about marriage!
Many of us enter into marriage with naive notions and expectations, including myself. We want a happy, fulfilling marriage - the kind of marriage portrayed in the movies. Well, I am here to tell you that you can absolutely have the marriage of your dreams! I know this because…I do. Is it perfect? No, in no way shape or form, but is it so good and what I want? Yes! I’ve gotten to this point over many years and many conflicts that have led to true intimacy and connection.
The benefits of a strong marriage are many, which include: lower stress, a better mental health state, joy, and a sense of purpose. I am sure you can google a list of the benefits of marriage and it would list all of these things, but how do we cultivate this strong marriage? Every marriage grows when there is a deep emotional connection, a sense of safety, and being open with one another. If you were sitting in my office, I would tell you the number one thing you can do to start this growth is intentionality. We have to treat our marriage like any goal we set our hearts and minds to. We need a map, and an overview of what we want first so that we know where we are heading. If the goal is to have a fulfilling marriage, then we have to know what that means for us.
You and your spouse make a list of your top 5 marriage/family values. This will give you an idea of what to focus on during the year.
Define practical ways to achieve each value throughout the year. One of our marriage values is growth, therefore we decided that marriage counseling, coaching, and retreats are part of our yearly rhythms. The same goes for connection - we plan an adults-only vacation once a year and it does not have to be too far or a long stay (especially for those of us with kids and pets).
Set time aside at the beginning of the year to plan your year together so you can say yes to things that align with your values. That would mean that we look up retreats and plan vacations, etc. Book it and put it on your calendar. This gives you a higher likelihood of actually doing it.
So, intentionally is needed each day, especially in small ways: kiss your spouse goodbye before you run out the door, send an encouraging text message during your day, give a 30 second hug while cooking dinner. If you are like me, then you will likely need an alarm to remind you that your husband loves to hold your hand. Just remember that you can only control YOU and that needs to be the most freeing concept in your life. Know yourself and set yourself up for success. A happy, healthy marriage does not just happen, it is cultivated daily.
Transform your marriage with intentional choices—cultivate connection and growth daily, aligning actions with shared values for lasting joy.