Just prior to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night I thought of the above blog title and that it probably makes sense to every married couple to have their own state of the union review. Then I had fun imagining the similarities that such an occasion might have with the political review before the 2 other branches of power and the rest of the American public. First, the more dominant spouse speaks to what is going well with either cheers and/or ice-cold silence from the other spouse. Then the dominant spouse goes on to outline what they want to see happen in the following year. Afterward, the minority spouse rebuts and/or counter proposes his or her plans for the coming year. Since there is no media present to breakdown and critique the arguments, each spouse takes the role of reporter to give a replay of the key points and also that of pundit by debating the merits of said points.
Sounds like most couple fights. I guess we don’t need a special night for this!
All kidding aside, it is good for couples to do an annual “take stock of our marriage” review. Here are some ideas that might be more constructive:
- Start with remembering why you got married and what you really like about each other. Too often we focus on the negative and allow those issues to skew the picture. Remind each other of their strengths and of their value to the marriage.
- Take time to listen to the dreams and concerns of each other. Take the lead in seeking out the mind of your spouse. What are their dreams and concerns? Don’t debate the merits of these dreams and concerns…and don’t problem solve to make them happen just yet. Just listen and validate everything you can! Oh, and if you are sharing your concerns…make sure you do two things: share them in a way that doesn’t accuse and attack (“I’m concerned that you don’t love me” may not help as much as “I’m concerned about how little time we spend together.”) and be sure to return the favor by asking about their dreams and concerns.
- Acknowledge your own weaknesses and ways you know you need to improve (could be anything from eating better to giving more compliments). And when your spouse does admit the need for improvement, resist piling on or adding to their list. Be bold. Ask for and extend forgiveness!
- Name the hot spots or threats to your marriage (external, internal, controllable, uncontrollable). See if you can’t find agreement on a couple. During this time, don’t go too deep into the complexities or get into problem-solving. Just name them in a matter-of-fact way.
- Set one goal and a simple means to start moving. Goals need to be something you can control. “Get our kids to respect us” isn’t one either of you can control. It also helps to be specific. “Spend more time together” is pretty vague. Try, “spend 2 hours one night per week together doing something other than talking about kids or watching television.” Then consider what barriers might block you from meeting the goal. Keep your efforts simple, doable, easy to repeat. This doesn’t mean you are setting the bar low but that you are trying to be faithful in the little things and trusting God for the bigger things.
One last thing: don’t wait til the following year to review. Otherwise you might have a mutiny at the next mid-term elections and get voted out of (dominant spouse) office.