How 90 Minutes Can Strengthen Your Marriage

“Far too often drift in marriage occurs for so long, that we come to hardly know or recognize the person we are married to.  Even worse, we start not liking them or seeking needs and wants filled by someone else.”

Mark Wanders

Some days life can be difficult even in the little things. Take for example, getting along with each other in marriage.  Sounds simple enough.  Most of us got married with that in mind.  But let me clarify… ‘getting along with’ has an interpretive component in meaning ‘to align with’.  So let me rephrase.  Life can be difficult aligning with each other in marriage.  How so?

See if you can relate to how it was with us.

In our marriage, we are two very different people with different needs, different wants and different schedules.  And the default position in the busyness of marriage was that we dealt with our own agendas separately. I dealt with mine; my wife hers – both dealing with things we thought were important and needed doing – and often we experienced some drifting apart.  Frustration would build, followed by disrespect, and communication would continue to erode.  Drifting further, we had a time of just passing each other like “two ships in the night”. 

Imagine…

A wife might press into her husband about all the things he’s not doing, actually pushing him away when she really wants him closer.

A husband might feel disrespected and further bury himself in his work.  This frustrates things more and widens the drift.

Far too often, drift in marriage occurs for so long that we come to hardly know or recognize the person we are married to.  Even worse, we start not liking them or seeking needs and wants filled by someone else.

And the relationship nears a high risk of running aground and getting stuck deep in the mire of failed communication.

Observe how the top 3 of the top 5 reasons for divorce in Canada are all related to this:

  1. fights over money (not talking and agreeing)
  2. infidelity (emotional needs not clarified and met elsewhere)
  3. and falling out of love (drifting way too far)

Our suggestion?  Stop!  

Stop the drift and take action to re-acquaint with your spouse sooner than later before it’s too late.  Reach out to the other and ask to free up time to meet.

One of the best things my wife and I have introduced into our marriage is a weekly marriage meeting (an example of a weekly Island of Clarity; see Islands of Clarity post), intentional time set aside every week to sit together and talk about life as it pertains to our marriage, family and ministry.  Essential drift avoidance.

We gave our weekly meeting a name:  it’s our AIM Marriage Meet in which we intentionally aim for greater togetherness (or oneness), aligning on the many things going on in our marriage, in our home and in our lives. 

Aligning

 In

Marriage

It’s proven to be very helpful and fruitful in keeping communication open and enriching our relationship. 

Over the past year we have refined our weekly AIM Meeting to include appreciation for each other, conflict discussion and resolution, emotional needs, schedules and calendar items.   We spend time in prayer for each other and our home, marriage and family, and often include prayer for our work, our ministry, and our impact in the community. 

Here’s a framework of one of our weekly marriage meetings.

We meet for about 90 minutes, often on Monday mornings because that’s what works for us.  If you’re thinking 90 minutes is long, ask yourself if you’d swap the length of a movie to invest in your marriage.

First, we open with a brief prayer to thank God for our marriage and each other and to bless our discussion.

Then we follow these items:

  • 1. Appreciate the Other – Share with each other two very specific things that we appreciate about the other, and why, ideally from within the last week or two.  My wife is first unless she bows out.
  • 2. Conflict Share/Resolve – This is a time to share conflict items with each other that perhaps we have not had time to talk about or fully work through.  The goal is to listen carefully, not interrupt, and receive it in love, and then respond only when the other is finished and work through the conflict one item at a time.
    1. Maximum 2 items (1 at time)
    1. Maximum 10 minutes per item

NOTE:  If you cannot resolve the conflict issue at this time, either agree to extend your time together to sort through it or decide to meet another time and deal with it then.  Then let it rest for now and continue with item 3.

This portion of the meeting has been so helpful to reduce conflict in our marriage because it gives an ongoing outlet to be able to openly discuss potential friction in the marriage far in advance of to it getting out of control.  Conflict stays small and in control.  It’s not that we don’t deal with conflict elsewhere in our marriage, but this gives the place to bring it up whether it was unknown to the other or simply unresolved.  A beautiful thing is when conflict resolving becomes an art in the marriage.  Lately we’ve often come to the meeting with either no conflict, or just a small item that we resolve quickly.  Now that’s time well invested in weekly marriage meetings!

  • 3. Schedule – This is an important time to align on all the things affecting your married life schedule.  We start with our two calendars (his and hers) and from that flows chores, to-do’s, and fun.
    • Calendar – We consider the current week as of primary importance, with an eye to the next week, month, and half year, and we share dates and events coming up and where we are expected to be together or work together or when and where we will be apart from each other.  We consider birthdays, dinners, socials, appointments, work meetings, conferences, and visits and aligning our calendars with each other.  In this way we share in each other’s life whether together or apart during the week.
    • Chores – We talk about the chores around the house, who is supposed to do what, and how the children are contributing and keeping up their part.  We talk about where improvement is needed if any.
    • To Do’s – Here we talk about anything that might be specific husband or wife duties and the timing associated with them.  Typically, Joanne has a list of some things around our home that need fixing or attending to, beyond what she or the children can do.  And I might bring up a few administrative items for her.
    • Fun – It’s always good to keep some fun scheduled into your marriage, even if it is something small.  (Talk about what fun looks like, because you might even differ here).  It’s so easy to forget about having fun, so at least once a month, book in something fun!
  • 4. Emotional Needs & the Love Tank
    • We each share one section out of our Emotional Needs reflections to remind each other of the best way we experience love from the other.
    • Then we ask a simple question, ‘How is your Love Tank?’ for a current reality.
      • the response can be quarter, half, 3/4, almost full and then we ask, ‘What can I do to top it up?’ because maybe there is an immediate adjustment we can make.
      • {Based on the 5 Love Languages.}

One of strongest ways to enrich your marriage is by learning how to best love your spouse as they inform you how they best feel loved, by sharing their emotional needs.  When we listen and learn how to do this well, we’re on the way to mastering how to fill each others’ love tanks.  And this becomes one of the best means of making your marriage secure.            {More on Common Emotional Needs in future blog post.}

Alternatively, for this item, if Emotional Needs and Love Tank are areas you still need to develop, you can approach each other in this way:

How are we doing in our marriage?

How am I doing as a husband? …as a wife?  What one thing might I do to improve?

  • 5. Pray to close your time together – We each pray including things we discussed and specific prayer for each other and our children.

Some days life can be difficult even in the little things… like getting along and aligning with each other in marriage. 

But it doesn’t have to stay that way.  You can enrich your married life by simply investing 90 minutes a week to strengthen your marriage, with a weekly Island of Clarity, like our weekly AIM Marriage Meet.

We’ve done it.  And it’s brought us closer together – even after 28 years married.  And if we miss a week because of a holiday or an outing, immediately we feel a little disconnected that week and we lean on the Daily Islands of Clarity to link us along, till the next AIM meeting that we anticipate all the more.

So do take action.  Reach out to your spouse and ask him or her if he or she could free up 90 minutes to sit down and talk.  Then perhaps follow the template or make your own.  And observe how bit by bit you fight the drift and intentionally come closer together… together towards greater oneness.


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