My wife and I have certain patterns in our marriage we consistently work on. For instance, Christi loves to dream. For a long time, I (Josh) resisted dreaming with her. I thought everything she was dreaming up was something she expected to come true. So I shut her down because many of her dreams were unrealistic to me. I like to be content with where we live, what we have, and how we’re living our lives.
But Christi needs to dream. It’s part of her DNA. What I had to learn about her—over the course of years—is that she’s not enamored with any of the dreams coming true; it’s the act of dreaming alone that energizes her. Though we’re getting better at dreaming together, I’m still a work in progress.
Aren’t we all? Maybe that’s why the New Year is so exciting—it’s a chance to start over. To lose weight. Eat better. Read our Bibles more. Establish new habits. Build a stronger marriage.
Say what? OK, so the last one is rarely something we hear others say they plan to resolve in the New Year. But why is that?
Perhaps it’s found in the proverbial gap Christi and I have with dreaming together. Deep down, we all dream about how our lives and relationships could be better. Yet, we often think the dreams are unrealistic. If so few individuals can stick to a New Year’s resolution, what makes us think we could resolve something that requires two of us? So we dream (often alone), but never plan.
Resetting our marriage in 2017 requires us to dream. But if we want those dreams for our marriage to come true, we have to resolve—or firmly decide—a plan for making them happen.
That’s why we put together a list of five ways we can reset our marriage this year.
Before we discuss them, we know what some of you might be thinking, But my husband won’t dream with me, so what’s the use?
Let us encourage you. You cannot and will not change your husband. However, you can change how you interact with him, your attitude toward him, and how much you encourage him (1 Peter 3:1-4). All it takes to change the unhealthy rhythms of a marriage is for one person to change the music.
Here are five ways you can reset your marriage in 2017.
- Define what it means to “reset” your marriage. What the “reset button” looks like is different for each of us. Begin by rating where you feel your marriage is at right now. On a scale of 1 to 10—10 being it couldn’t get any better and 1 being it couldn’t get any worse—how would you rate your marriage? If your husband is with you in this, ask him what his number is too. Write your numbers separately on a piece of paper and reveal them at the same time. Even the discrepancy in the number is a great place to begin. If you’re at a 5, write down what it will take to get to a 7 by year’s end. Be realistic with your goals.
- Dream together. Setting a goal of where we are now and where we want to be is important. But for the sake of all that is good in the world, have fun dreaming together to get you where you want to be. Plan a get-away vacation just the two of you this year—without kids. We are! Even planning and dreaming about the get-away is an adventure in itself. Find adventures you want to go on together—hiking, visiting local museums, learning a new hobby together, re-experiencing your first date, or taking a cooking class. Resolve to make memories.
- Date again. Relationally, the environment of our home ebbs and flows on how well we feel supported, appreciated, and loved by our spouse. Regular date nights are crucial to staying connected at a heart level—and having fun! Try some out-of-the ordinary dates to keep things interesting, and come up with creative questions to ask your spouse so you connect on an emotional level throughout the date.
- Resolve to change bad habits of communication. Another area of our marriage we’re working to resolve is how we communicate. One of us has a tendency to use a condescending tone of voice and the other is passive-aggressive—especially when we don’t feel like the other is pulling their weight. Resolve this year to communicate about your communication. The key is using the Golden Rule of relationships, “In order to be understood, we must first understand.” Try to discover what’s going on underneath your spouse’s communication. In most cases, one of you is feeling hurt, rejected, sad, or lonely. We all could do a better job of communicating our feelings without blaming our spouse.
- Put it all on paper. Resolutions fail because we think about doing them without putting them on paper. Your chances of resetting your marriage and moving it from a 5 to a 7 this year increase dramatically when the dream becomes a plan on paper.
And by the way, keep it simple. Begin with one dream that brings joy to your marriage this year (Ecc. 9:9). That’s our prayer for you.
Joshua Straub, Ph.D. serves as Marriage and Family Strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources and is the President and Cofounder of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower families to live, love, and lead well. He is author/coauthor of four books including Safe House: How Emotional Safety is the Key to Raising Kids Who Live, Love, and Lead Well. Josh and his Canadian bride, Christi, reside in Nashville with their son, Landon, and daughter, Kennedy. You can watch Dr. Josh + Christi live each week on Facebook Live talking about marriage and parenting in the 21st century.
Christi Straub, M.A., M.B.A. is a native Canadian, wife to an American, and momma to two feisty preschoolers. She and her husband Josh are the cofounders of The Connextion Group, a company designed to empower marriages and families. Passionate about families in her generation, Christi writes and speaks on helping moms discover their identity and have marriages they’d wish on their children. Her honesty, wittiness, and transparency are contagious. She is also the producer and co-author of the video curriculum The Screen-Balanced Family: Six Secrets to a More Connected Family in the 21st Century. When she and Josh aren’t working together, they’re playing trains or having tea parties. (And trying really hard to put the phones away.)