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Being in a relationship can be one of the most beautiful things in the world. Being in love, sharing the same hopes and dreams, and having similar expectations with someone is special. At times we might admit that being in a relationship can be intense, messy, and tough – and not very pretty. So, what separates a beautiful relationship from one that’s not so pretty? One thing is observing what happens when differences arise between you and your spouse … Are you reacting instead of responding? What do you do when you may want to have more of something, do more, or even be more than what your partner wants or is prepared to offer to have you achieve your desires? Do you feel that when you both agree on everything, your marriage is “beautiful,” and when you don’t, your marriage is in trouble? How can you navigate through the peaks and valleys and still stay emotionally, spiritually, and physically connected?

Yes, the answer is God, prayer, and love … But it also takes significant effort and intentionality on both your parts to get onto the same “page” and create a common vision for your marriage.

It was 15 years ago – after nearly 20 years of marriage – that Teresa and I took a marriage enrichment course called Dynamic Marriage. The course helped us understand that we needed to become more intentional and strategic in how we wanted our life and marriage to look and feel. To help us in this effort, we make it a priority to go away once a year – just the two of us. We use this time to reflect on all the happenings of the previous year – in our marriage, with our kids, with our business, and with the ministry – and try to identify how we might have done things differently. Next, we cast a vision forward by designing and agreeing to a plan toward what we – individually and then as a couple – want to do, the things we want to have and even become in the year ahead. It might sound easy, but it isn’t always; some years are more productive than others. Teresa and I process activities and tasks very differently and I’ve learned that often her ideas and ways are better than mine. We believe every couple’s relationship would benefit from going through a similar yearly exercise. I want to share with you 2 ways you can prepare your relationship to get the most out of a yearly review, and 1 additional thing we do today to continually grow our marriage.

Work Through a Relationship Inventory

Teresa and I did our first inventory using Prepare Enrich® after taking Dynamic Marriage. Our suggestion might be to do an inventory first. The benefit would be that you would see areas in your relationship which require growth and need your focus. Doing the inventory and the accompanying exercises helped us by:

  • strengthening our skills in communication;
  • identifying major challenge areas and their stressors;
  • providing us with tools in helping us resolve conflict;
  • exploring strength and growth areas in our relationship; and
  • helping us understand our personality differences and how to maximize teamwork.

Doing an inventory only provides you with a snapshot of where your relationship is today. It helps bring you and your partner to the starting line, facing forward, toward where you both want your relationship to go. Getting to where you want it to go may require the help and education provided through a marriage enrichment course.

Take a Marriage Enrichment Course or Workshop

Having completed a relationship inventory, get the additional benefit of attending a marriage enrichment course that addresses the needed areas of growth in your marriage. You’ll also learn about having shared goals, compassion, communication, and intimacy; all these will help you build a stronger marriage. We encourage you to be strategic about applying yourselves to the teaching and the homework/exercises between the classes; this will also help toward a happier, healthier marriage and relationship – it did for us. We continue to take a relationship-related course or workshop or attend a weekend marriage retreat once a year as well. One theme we found consistent in each course is the suggestion to do activities – together.

Do Activities Together

One of our homework assignments in Dynamic Marriage was a “Recreational Companionship” exercise. In this exercise we independently went through their list of around 100 recreational exercises and graded each one toward how satisfied we would be doing it. When we compared our reports, Teresa and I found we shared the same interest in cycling. Now, previously we hadn’t even considered cycling. So, we embraced it as a joint activity, bought bicycles, and found that we enjoy it so much that we now work our domestic travels, including camping, and our international travels around cycling opportunities.

Another thing we have done is subscribed to the home delivery of meal kits (think companies like Chefs Plate, goodfood, or HelloFresh). Although these meals include fresh ingredients and delicious recipes, they do require some assembly. And if we’re being completely honest, as we prepared our first few meals not only were we able to hone our cooking abilities, but we also had an opportunity to work on our communication and conflict resolution skills. The fun thing about these meal kits is that they are available in portions of 2-4 people, so you could include the kids in the process. Your objective should be to do activities together as a couple, but joining with other like-minded couples is also healthy for your relationship.

What’s Your Next Step?

What inventory, class, workshop, or activity could you begin to do today as a couple? When we do things as a couple that are physically, emotionally, and spiritually related it helps grow our relationship. When we do things with a common purpose, and with intentionality toward shared goals, we begin to develop a common vision, and experience less division.

It’s our belief that “beautiful” marriages never happen by accident but thrive with a vision of Christ at their centre, intentional effort, and the right tools.

Remember … You’re better at marriage than you think.

Ron and Teresa Buschman lead a team who coordinate a variety of relationship-building opportunities at FAC. Let God provide the vision for your marriage; you initiate the effort; and the Relationship Fitness Centre® will give you the tools. Visit us and find out about resources and upcoming events here.