I made a beef stew for a big family event over the holidays. It was a big hit. A simple stew! Later it struck me: marriage is a lot like a beef stew. It doesn’t have to be complicated. And the better the ingredients – the better the end result.
So this year, may we encourage you to put the best ingredients into your marriage? Simple ones like time. Attention. Intention. Romance. Sex. Laughter. Gratitude. Celebration.
At the beginning of every year, Neil and I have a “State of the Union” weekend where we review the past year and look forward to the next. We talk about the joys, challenges and disappointments of the year past and set some goals, make some plans and dream forward into the new year. We started doing it about 15 years ago after a particularly troubled time in our marriage. In fact, it was the roughest season we’d ever experienced. We found ourselves frosty roommates rather than the passionate friends and lovers we’d always been to each other. We couldn’t believe we’d allowed ourselves to get so far off track. A weekend retreat helped us get honest and slowly start making our way back. We realized our marriage had become the victim of benign neglect. We’d been trying to keep a marriage alive on scraps. Scraps of time, scraps of attention, scraps of energy. Cheap ingredients. We agreed we wanted more than that. So now we get away once a year – for a day, a weekend, and this year, for a week – to take stock, to plan and to make sure we’re putting the very best ingredients in our 33 year “stew”.
We use different tools to guide our conversation. This year we’ll be using a guide I found on a blog site (simplemom.net) I visit occasionally and highly recommend. You can download the Goal-Setting Guide here. It might help provide a process and some great questions for you and your spouse to talk through.
1. You don’t have to answer all the questions. Start with one or 2 that matter most to you.
2. Don’t get too caught up in measurable outcomes and benchmarks and implementation evaluation and all that stuff. You’re not a corporation.
3. It’s not about the list. It’s about life.
4. Remember you’re on the same team.
5. When all the goals aren’t met – and they won’t be, let’s just be honest – give each other lots of grace.
And cover it all with a big helping of prayer. That’s the best ingredient of all.