Many engaged couples I meet have only vague goals for their marriage:
We want to be happy. We want to have a family. We want to be best friends.
That’s all well and good but how in the Hell do you measure goals that airy?
Likewise, I’ve met with many married couples who describe their marriage as ‘stagnant’ or ‘stuck.’
And you know why?
Because they have no idea where they’re trying to go.
You only put your car in Drive to head towards a destination. Otherwise you leave it in Park. Or Neutral.
And if you’re not headed to any particular, specific destination, it’s not long before you’re wondering why you’re wasting your time sitting in a car that’s not moving.
And it’s not long before you get annoyed with all the commotion the kids are making in the back seat.
Theologians use the term ‘telos’ to describe human life. It’s Greek for ‘end.’ By it they mean that, having been made in God’s image, a life well-lived is one with a trajectory that points to and proceeds towards Christ and his Kingdom. Sin is literally something that gets our lives off track.
Just as our individual lives should have a specific trajectory so too should our marriages.
Husbands and wives should have specific, concrete goals for their marriage. Not only should couples have micro goals for each stage of their marriage, they should have macro goals for their marriage as a whole.
It’s just common sense. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can end up anywhere but there. And if you don’t know where you’re trying to get to, it’s very easy to get hung up on things that don’t matter and to compromise on things that do.
I tell engaged couples to imagine their married life as a story or memoir. As a book.
What do you want the dust jacket to say?
What do you want the summary of your story together to be?
And I tell them to be damn specific. I tell them I don’t want to hear something like ‘Dick and Jane were just so happy together because they loved each other so much.’ That’s usually what their first drafts will say.
I tell them they should choose, together, 3-5 things they want to accomplish in their marriage and weave that into dust jacket summary:
Dick and Jane built their dream house at X.
Dick and Jane traveled to Y.
Dick and Jane worked to make sure their relationship was always characterized by Z, that nothing ever changed blank about them.
And, sure, those 3-5 things can change as life happens and things change, but you’ve got to be intentional about identifying what the new 3-5 things are when that happens. You’ve got to be intentional about what the rewrite on the dust jacket says now.
This isn’t about married people having a bucket list.
It’s about married people having a compass to steer by.
You have to have an agreed upon basis by which you’ll make decisions and set priorities as a couple. You have to be able to say as a married couple: ‘These are the 3-5 things we compromise on in our marriage.’
Because, the truth is, if you have those goals in your marriage upon which you won’t compromise, it’s less likely that other things will compromise your marriage.
So that’s it. That’s number the 1 thing I’ve learned about marriage.
You’ve got to know what you Dust Jacket says.
For a marriage to be successful, you’ve got to know what you’re marriage is about.