A blog by Josh Humbert
Recently, our church concluded a Sunday night study focused on strengthening marriages. As part of the last session, my wife and I were on a panel for an hour-long Q&A session. During that session, we mentioned one practice that has been helpful to us and that is: marriage meetings.
Now…just hang on a sec…I know that may not sound like the most exciting thing ever – but I assure you, we have seen positive results in our marriage by doing it. And here’s a good lesson to learn: anything that HELPS your marriage is worth repeating and implementing.
After the Q&A, a few people asked me for the structure and flow of how Jessica and I run our marriage meetings. So my aim here is to give you some ideas, categories, and our flow so you can try it as well.
Disclaimer: My wife and I DO NOT claim to be marriage experts in ANY WAY at all. We have our struggles and challenges just like anyone else. By no means do we “have it all figured out.” We have been married since June 2003 and by God’s grace, we will continue on as long as He allows. We desire, as best we can, for our marriage to be a reflection of the Gospel. The practice of these marriage meetings has helped us along in that and so our hope is it will do the same for you.
Disclaimer 2: This is not something we came up with on our own. You can find plenty of variations floating around on the internet. Take what works and use it. The point isn’t a rigid, cold, boring meeting (“yah! We followed a format!”) – it’s a way to connect and stay on the same page as teammates as you go through the day to day issues of life (“yah! We got this!”).
What Is It?
A Marriage Meeting; generally around 45 minutes to an hour to sit down together and plan/list/discuss/assign/etc your way through various issues you face.
Why Do It?
Participating in regular marriage meetings can:
-Help build unity as you partner together in the challenges you face
-Bring clarity and erase bitterness as tasks are clearly discussed and assigned
-Free up more time together down the road as things are accomplished in an efficient manner
-Cultivate better communication as both spouses contribute their thoughts and insights
-Elevate anticipation as you clear the way and plan for good times as a couple or family
How To Do It?
Set a time (45min to an hour) when you can sit down with no interruptions. If you have young kids, then almost certainly this needs to be after they are down for the night. No TV, no distractions. Phones and laptops are helpful as you can make notes, etc but it is imperative to stay off social media/any other internet distractions during this time.
When To Do It?
As often as you need. We have found doing them quarterly helps but maybe you can start with once a month and see how it goes.
Tool You Can Use
I enjoy Evernote (free app!) for many uses. I’ve written about how I incorporate it in other spiritual disciplines which you can read here . I do the same for marriage meetings; I keep a “notebook” in Evernote for our marriage meetings where I collect my thoughts in the days leading up to the meeting. Additionally, I keep the Flow of the meeting listed in that Evernote notebook so we can stay on track. Also, it’s good to look back at previous meetings and see what we have accomplished since then.
Prep Work That Matters
I’ll list out the Categories and Flow down below but I would highly encourage both spouses to make notes AHEAD of time. If you know you’ll be discussing house issues or schedules or appreciation, then it will be much easier if you have some things already in mind/down on paper before you begin. Not mandatory but I think it greatly helps.
Categories And Flow
I will list the Categories that we use with a brief description for each. This list is the Flow (order) we use when going through our meetings. We like to have appreciation right up front (start it off right!) and we like to close with Plans For Good Times (end it right!). Again, adjust and change whatever works best for you here. This is just our approach.
Start the meeting off by taking turns naming things you appreciate about your spouse and things they’ve done lately. You will get better payoff here with some time to think/remember BEFORE the meeting begins (prep work!). I will put my appreciation notes in my Evernote file in the days leading up to a marriage meeting. Be specific, be grateful, be encouraging.
This section of the meeting is to address the errands and tasks that are approaching.
Is there an oil change or scheduled car maintenance that needs to get taken care of – who’s going to take care of it and when? Are you changing cable/internet providers and need to get it all setup – who is assigned this and when does it need to be accomplished? Are you hosting the family for Christmas and there’s a few extra housecleaning issues that need to be addressed?
Additionally, you may want to occasionally talk through the day-to-day housework and how it’s divided. Has one spouse been doing the dishes for years and needs to shift to something else for a change? Stuff like that.
This category is for the house/apartment itself. Is there a pesky leak that needs fixing – if so, how will it be handled and when? Is there a room that needs repainting? Maybe a bigger project like flooring or lighting? How will this get done? If bringing in outside help, who’s responsible to get bids and find best pricing?
Get the calendars out and get synchronized. Does someone have a doctor’s appointment coming up? Exercise classes or workout times? What about the kids: school play, drop offs, pick ups, games, etc? Where can you carve out some spouse time? Put it on the calendar.
**Author’s note** Some may push back here – “schedule time with my wife? Put our time on the calendar? That seems so stale and lacking in spontaneity.” Two quick replies. First, there are seasons of life that get very busy (newborns, holidays, etc). So if you DON’T schedule it, guess what… it WON’T happen. Put your spouse on your schedule and make it happen. Secondly, you know when Christmas is coming every year, right? Or if you have vacation time coming up that’s on the schedule too, right? Do you look forward to that or do you dread it because it’s “not spontaneous”? Surprisingly, you may find that putting time together on the calendar enhances the anticipation instead of diminishing it. BONUS third reply!! You can have both! Schedule the date nights on the calendar…and..I know this sounds crazy but listen….you can STILL be spontaneous and find other time together too. What a time to be alive.
Finance Quick Look
Note the words “quick look.” For us this is a quick check of all the accounts together. Are we on time with our tithe? Payments? Is there a larger purchase upcoming we need to know about? Any minor adjustments we need to make?
There can and should be lengthier discussions on the family finances at other times but for sake of keeping a marriage meeting flowing it’s best to keep it to a “quick look” here.
Problems And Challenges
**Author’s Note** This category and the Appreciation category will highly benefit from you collecting your thoughts and perhaps even writing them down ahead of time. One of my goals when I write sermons is: “Write yourself clear.” That thought (from a great man named HB Charles!) is so helpful when it comes to the problems and challenges category. Don’t keep it bottled up in your head till you explode on your spouse.The point is to be constructive and work through issues as a team so if writing it down beforehand helps, then do it. In quiet moments beforehand, write yourself clear so you and your spouse can use this conversation to your benefit and not detriment.**
This category is for one or two (max) issues that need to be addressed. The limit again is to keep the meeting moving – if there are other things that need to be addressed in a separate conversation then do so. Both spouses should have the freedom to name the issue or two that are causing problems. This also means both spouses should be part of the problem-solving too! My dad said for many years: don’t be a problem-stater, be a problem-solver. I do think sometimes it helps to identify and clearly describe a problem, but I for sure agree that everyone should be part of the solution.
Plan For Good Times
End the meeting right! This is my favorite part. This is where you work together and do exactly what the category is named: plan for good times. It may be something as simple as a dinner at home while the kids are away. It may be a trip together to a new place. Maybe a concert, maybe a movie, maybe a night of board games together (“it me”). Whatever it is – brainstorm and get those good times on the calendar.
That’s it, that’s how the meeting goes for us. This is what we do several times a year. Again, we aren’t perfect, and we don’t have marriage all figured out. However, this has been a beneficial thing we have implemented, and we hope it can do the same for you.
Give it a go and let us know what worked!
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.