When is the best time to work on your marriage? Today. Everyday. My guy and I spend a lot of our time with couples who are in crisis. We wade through discussions about household chores, parenting and sex with people we don’t know well. We hear accusations, doubts and even pleadings for one to do more around the house, or to step it up in the bedroom. Rarely is the argument truly about those kinds of details, but it’s the place where we land because these are tangible characteristics – behaviors, that show how much someone is invested. It is then our job to try to get to the root of the problem, sometimes that root is years old and something that hasn’t been discussed ever between the two of them.
How do we avoid getting to this place? This past weekend we were at a Couples Retreat, and heard a great quote by John F Kennedy: The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Brilliant. I doubt Kennedy was talking about his marriage when he said this, but I think it pertains to this confusing, mysterious relationship best. So, what does roof repair look like in a marriage? Here are some of the common topics discussed when we are talking with couples in crisis, and potential ways to work on them while the sun is still shining:
Feeling like the roles and responsibilities in your marriage are out of balance? Bring it up while out running errands together. Tell the other how you feel without picking a fight. Praise your spouse for what they do well already. Ask for what you need.
Have differences in your views on parenting? Go for a walk, probably a long walk, and talk it through, being open to compromise. Talk about how you were parented and listen to their stories, as well. Tell the other what you long for without accusing.
Stressed about your finances? Don’t wait until you’re paying bills to mention it, sit down and iron out details over coffee. This seems to be an area that can carry a lot of shame, so tread lightly. Paint a picture of your future together without debt, inviting your spouse into the details.
Communication is difficult even in the strongest relationships; it can be awkward to talk about your hopes for your sex life while the lights are on, but you are both less likely to get hurt or defensive if you discuss it in a non-threatening setting. In our marriages, we must make the effort to talk about the little things early and often, before they get too big. This small step can help you avoid one day sitting across from a couple like us, desperately trying to cover over the hole in your roof.
Let’s hope couples discuss these LARGE marriage issues before walking down the aisle. It sounds like the both of you are doing great work. 🙂
Agreed that these and more topics should be discussed before marriage, but the people we are spending time with have been married for years and have been pushing things under the rug for a long time. Makes for a lot of tripping.
“This small step can help you avoid one day sitting across from a couple like us, desperately trying to cover over the hole in your roof.”
So the two of you do counseling as a couple within your church?
Yes, we lead the Couples Ministry at our church, which involves lay counseling and mentoring, as well as small groups, retreats and date nights. Here is a link to way more information that you may want to know!
Wow. That looks fantastic. You look like a highly effective and organized ministry and church. So many young guys at the top. Well, young relative to me anyway. I wish our church had “enough” to do something like that. Even some small things are difficult for us to pull off. More than once we have bitten of more than we could chew. The pastor is ambitious enough, just not a lot of worker who are reliable and obedient or called. You seem to have an abundance of men who are willing to step up, a pastor for every purpose.
As to heartbreaking, my wife works in the church office and has come to know more than she would want about our church body. Churches seem to be full of marriages that are window dressed for all the passers-by to gaze into but are secretly suffering in silence behind the glass. (Got to tell you, I am pleased and proud of that sentence and yes you may use it. I so love writing especially when I surprise myself with a little gem like that.)
Thank you for the kind words about our church, we are blessed with strong men leading. Like your wife, I am at the point of knowing too much, sitting in church yesterday I was surrounded by folks we are spending time with regularly. I love the call and am burdened by the knowledge all at the same time.
It’s a tough and often uncomfortable spot to be in at times. You can understand where being a pastor and knowing what you come to know could burn you out in short order. It really does have to be a calling and not just a desire.
We do, we lead the Couples Ministry with three areas: lay counseling for those in crisis, mentoring for those who are surviving and maintenance for thriving couples. We offer date nights, speakers and a couples retreat to all. It’s been very satisfying and heartbreaking at the same time.