Marital Espresso: Wake up to an Intentional Marriage.

Relationship Design

Editor’s Note: Originally posted January 31, 2008.
As much as possible, I strive to be very intentional in my marriage. To be aware of what is just below the surface between us and try to bring it up to the light. To be more conscious about my choices in my marriage and my life rather than simply react.
Do you ever have times where you feel like you are on relationship autopilot? Coasting along with no real agreed upon destination. Only a general idea of where you both don’t want to go.

If you don’t know where you want to go, any route will do.

I don’t want to live my life this way. Life’s too short and we only get one shot at it, I want to enjoy the journey.
Anyway, marriage is a journey, not a destination.
Deciding to have an intentional marriage starts with you, and could be the single most important decision you make.
If you’re drifting in marriage, then you are most likely drifting in other areas of your life as well. As humans we have tremendous difficulty living compartmentalized lives. When one area of our life is unfulfilled, others are affected. This helps explain how we begin to drift and wander aimlessly through the years. Yet it also gives us a way to change what befalls us. Life happens ultimately as the result of our own doing.
How conscious is your relationship?
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does your job fit into a larger story of life or is it simply a means to an end? A paycheck?
  2. Do you find it hard to be present with those around you or are you preoccupied with other things in your life?
  3. Do you spend your time doing busy-work rather than focusing on completing the things that are very important?
  4. Could a month go by and your marriage interactions were unnoticed by you or your spouse?
  5. Is sex infrequent and/or routine?
  6. Do you live paycheck to paycheck without a real idea as to where your money goes?

If you can answer no to most or all of these questions then you are already living an intentional marriage, if not, read on.
How to have an intentional marriage.
An intentional marriage is an art, a lifestyle, a choice. But this is not something that is created overnight. It is also not a one time experience. Rather, it is developed over time. And can be created by one or both members of the relationship. Obviously if both are on board, the development time is faster. Either way this is an art form that can be part of the rest of your life.
Surprisingly, an intentional marriage is easy. All it requires is that you be conscious of everything you do. That’s it. Make intentional choices. Notice the underlying drives associated with your interactions.
There are vast numbers of marriages on autopilot. Marriages and families coasting along with the norm. It’s not easy to break out of routine. It takes willful effort and drive to make intentional choices in all areas of our life.
Here are a few key ideas that have helped me:

  1. Ask yourself if you would want to be married to you. Be honest. Would you really want you as a spouse? A father/mother? Employee? Friend? This question alone has brought about tremendous drive for change in myself.
  2. Be the change you want to see in the relationship. Far too often I would wait for the other person to change before I would be willing to. Take the risk and take care of yourself. You really don’t have any control over the other person anyway. It’s time to give up trying.
  3. Regularly reflect on your marriage relationship. Not your family life, your marriage. When your marriage is the focus, your children reap the benefits. Spend some regular time with your spouse, just the two of you. Talk. Walk outside. Cuddle. Dance.
  4. Speak up in the midst of sex. This may sound a bit odd, but when you and your spouse are not engaged in the sexual experience, what are you having sex for? The only way to increase the connection is to be more present during the experience. This requires all of you. If you would like something different, to slow down, switch, go outside on the roof, whatever; speak up. This is the most intimate time between you and your spouse yet can be the loneliest.
  5. Explore your communication patterns. There are many times when it seems there is a communication problem. Is that really what is going on? Or do you just not like the message? Most often, everything we do, say, display communicates. Are you speaking clearly? Are you saying what you intend? Or not saying what you intend? Be clear and concise with your spouse.
Photo courtesy Scott Beale / Laughing Squid