When is the best time to work on your marriage? Today. Everyday. My guy and I spend a lot of our time with couples who are in crisis. We wade through discussions about household chores, parenting and sex with people we don’t know well. We hear accusations, doubts and even pleadings for one to do more around the house, or to step it up in the bedroom. Rarely is the argument truly about those kinds of details, but it’s the place where we land because these are tangible characteristics – behaviors, that show how much someone is invested. It is then our job to try to get to the root of the problem, sometimes that root is years old and something that hasn’t been discussed ever between the two of them.
How do we avoid getting to this place? This past weekend we were at a Couples Retreat, and heard a great quote by John F Kennedy: The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining. Brilliant. I doubt Kennedy was talking about his marriage when he said this, but I think it pertains to this confusing, mysterious relationship best. So, what does roof repair look like in a marriage? Here are some of the common topics discussed when we are talking with couples in crisis, and potential ways to work on them while the sun is still shining:
Feeling like the roles and responsibilities in your marriage are out of balance? Bring it up while out running errands together. Tell the other how you feel without picking a fight. Praise your spouse for what they do well already. Ask for what you need.
Have differences in your views on parenting? Go for a walk, probably a long walk, and talk it through, being open to compromise. Talk about how you were parented and listen to their stories, as well. Tell the other what you long for without accusing.
Stressed about your finances? Don’t wait until you’re paying bills to mention it, sit down and iron out details over coffee. This seems to be an area that can carry a lot of shame, so tread lightly. Paint a picture of your future together without debt, inviting your spouse into the details.
Communication is difficult even in the strongest relationships; it can be awkward to talk about your hopes for your sex life while the lights are on, but you are both less likely to get hurt or defensive if you discuss it in a non-threatening setting. In our marriages, we must make the effort to talk about the little things early and often, before they get too big. This small step can help you avoid one day sitting across from a couple like us, desperately trying to cover over the hole in your roof.