Q: I heard a speaker say recently that we should set goals for our relationships. I understand setting objectives for your career, health, finances, etc. But I'm not really tracking with how this could improve my marriage. What are your thoughts?
Jim: My wife, Jean, and I often talk to our sons about their goals. They usually mention things like grades or what they hope to achieve in sports. Those are great. But we like to encourage them to think outside the box. Like, what can they do to develop their character as well?
And that prompted Jean and me to do some thinking: setting goals for our marriage is a great idea, too.
We tend to discuss our relationship in terms of a theme. It could be "forgiveness" or "grace" or maybe "patience." Then we try to weave that theme into every part of our marriage. So not only will we actually try to be more patient with each other, but we also make it part of our conversation with each other for that season of life. And we talk regularly about how we see each other improving in that area. We cheer each other on, which brings us even closer together.
Of course, for a happy relationship you need something a little more inspiring than "staying together." So find ways to keep your interest in each other alive. Read books or watch movies you can discuss afterward. Have a common goal, like saving for that dream vacation. Even better, intentionally build character into your marriage. Be more considerate, more patient or more forgiving with each other. And share positive feedback as you each see the other grow.
Your marriage doesn't have to be an endless string of mundane days. Set some basic goals and work them into your relationship.
Q: I've come to dread Valentine's Day, and I think my wife feels the same. It's gotten so commercial. And don't get either of us started on the implied pressure to match other people's Instagram-perfect romantic gestures! What's your take?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: A growing number of couples feel the commercialism surrounding Valentine's Day has reduced romance to a sack full of trinkets purchased at the last minute. It's almost as if, on Feb. 14, love isn't legitimately expressed if it doesn't take the form of stuffed teddy bears or decorative red boxes of chocolate or enormous bouquets of picture-perfect roses.
I think the key is trying to recapture the substance of the holiday. Start by giving careful thought to what makes your spouse feel loved. Maybe the traditional store-bought ideas really are the way to their heart. Or maybe they'd prefer a cozy night by the fireplace sipping hot chocolate. Valentine's Day is an opportunity to show your sweetheart how much he or she enriches your life -- and it's never wrong to celebrate that.
But it's also important that we make an effort to inject that same passion into our marriage on a regular basis. Husbands and wives have the opportunity to create romance every day of the year. We all have busy lives, so I know it's not easy. But if we're intentional about it, there are countless ways we can express our devotion. Maybe it's a date night, or a nice card, or just a quick email during the day to say, "I love you and I'm thinking about you." I can almost guarantee that something along those lines will mean more to your spouse in July or September than it does on Feb. 14!
Whatever you do, the important thing is to be intentional, thoughtful and heartfelt. Keeping the spark alive requires effort every day -- and it's worth it.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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