Q. My husband and I have a fairly good marriage but over the years we’ve focused largely on our careers and raising our children. We both have some disappointments about our relationship which we’ve largely ignored. I wish we could talk to each other on a more intimate level and he wants me to enjoy his hobbies with him. Now that the children are older we would like to find ways to improve our relationship. What do you suggest?
A. It’s good that you want to enhance your marriage. In the midst of child rearing and “life” many couples avoid facing the differences and difficulties between them. These minor disappointments fester beneath the surface. Later these issues surface along with bitter or frustrated feelings. Couples whose lives are necessarily focused on children and careers in the early years may find they have grown so far apart that it takes conscious effort to create a more satisfying relationship after the children are grown and gone.
If both partners are willing, any couple can learn to enhance their marriage to make it a more satisfying relationship; one that meets the needs and wishes of both of them. Couples can learn to overcome distance or bitterness that has crept into their relationship.
One of the most useful ways to improve communication is scaling questions. Scaling questions will help you understand what kind of a marriage you each want. Begin by asking each other the following question: “On a scale of one to ten with one being “terrible” and ten being “perfect” where do we want our relationship to be?” Then ask, “Where on this same scale is our relationship right now?”
You may be surprised to find that you differ on how “perfect” you want or expect the marriage to be and on what level you view it as being right now. Women tend to expect a more nearly “perfect” relationship and they also are more tuned into the lacks in the relationship.
Next ask each other, “What specific things could we do within the next month, together or individually, that would move our marriage up the scale?” Women can usually answer this last question more easily than men can. Listen to what your partner says he or she needs and act on these requests. This alone can make a difference in your marriage. For example, you may get more intimate conversation as you enjoy one of your husband’s hobbies with him.
To further understand your marriage, answer and discuss these questions:
1. Do we need to spend more time together? How much? What is the best use of our time together? What time of day do you prefer we spend together?
2. Do we need to talk more with each other? What is meaningful communication? What have I done in the past that ruined meaningful communication? What are some positive things I’ve done during conversations in the past?
3. Am I keeping my verbal commitments? What needs do you have that I could meet? How can I help you?
4. Describe a “10” evening out together? What might I do that would ruin a “10” evening?
5. What is best about our relationship?
See Faithnotes blog post on Help for a Dull Marriage and you will learn other ways to enhance your marriage including the value of shared faith and praying together. The Faithnotes post on Smart Marriages gives information about marriage groups which are very helpful in enlivening marriage communication.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10