Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marriage Fitness in 2010

(Article submitted to Xenia-Gazette)

Many people start the New Year with ambitious resolutions. "I'm going to lose 40 pounds this year." "I'm going to watch less television." "I'm going to save for a Caribbean cruise." There is nothing like starting with a fresh pad of time and a bit of optimism to envision a more positive year than the one just ended.

A pastor friend, Grant Edwards, has observed that many well-intentioned resolutions are external in nature. They focus on that which is visible to others and that brings a sense of outer fulfillment. But what about the inside? Is it possible to look good on the outside but to have an embarrassing mess on the inside?

Jesus observed this flaw in the Pharisees when he said: "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23: 25-26)

Through the mechanism of appearance management we can present a positive front--that which looks good, but with a bit of probing and looking deeper, there is no continuity between inner and outer.

We observe this with many marriage relationships. Couples who appear to have it together surprise us with statements like, "If you only knew what we were like when no one is looking." Sounds like the script for a Dateline murder mystery!

As Valentine's Day and National Marriage Week approach this February, how about taking a truthful and realistic look at the inner workings of your marriage or relationship? This is possible through an online tool, The Couple Checkup. For $29.95 (the cost of an oil change) you can select and complete one of three versions at dating, engaged or married. Much like a thorough physical exam, you will receive a detailed report that highlights your strengths and growth edges in a dozen or so categories.

How about a resolution that addresses marriage fitness in 2010? Start with The Couple Checkup and then commit to developing habits that remedy relational growth edges. Work on inner virtues like love, respect, patience, gentleness, listening and serving. If your Couple Checkup reveals serious deficits, seek out resources such as marriage classes, workshops, retreats, mentoring, coaching or counseling.

So your marriage is already healthy? What can you commit to in order to sustain and increase marriage health? Each year Ronda and I set objectives and goals that help us experience marriage health and vibrancy. We have learned that marriage fitness--like physical fitness--doesn't just happen. We have to work at it and hold each other accountable, even after 31 years.

Would you like for your marriage or relationship to be healthier by this time next year? Include a reasonable resolution that will enrich and deepen your marriage--from the inside out.