It's Valetine's Day. Among all of the hearts and flowers, cupids and bonbons there must be some married couples who suspect the honeymoon is over . . . This is for them.
You are married. Things are okay. You suppose.
There has been a cooling down. Perhaps a mutual impatience. Disagreements about sex. And money. You are not considering divorce or separation. Yet. But you do sometimes wonder what happened to what you used to have. You wish you could get it back.
You can. This martial checkup can help you get started. It will pinpoint the weak areas in your marriage, so that the two of you can work together to reinforce them.
I advise every couple, no matter how long they have been married, to have an annual marital checkup. It can be the single most important thing you do for your marriage. It does not cost a penny; you do not need a marriage counselor or a therapist. Your own common sense and interest in a good marriage are sufficient, along with two pens and some paper. And an unterrupted three hours. Part One
This involves answering six questions and making three lists, designed to clarify your thinking on the state of your marriage today.
1 -- What single thing delights me most about my wife/husband?
2 -- What was the best thing that happened to me in the last 12 months?
3 -- What was the worst thing that happened to me?
4 -- What was the best thing that happened to use as a couple?
5 -- What was the worst thing that happened to use as a couple?
6 --If my wife/husband had the power to change one thing about me, what do I think she/he would change?
1 -- Write down 10 things you like to do.
2 -- Write down 10 things your husband/wife likes to do.
3 -- Write down 10 things you like to do together. Part Two
When you finish, exchange papers and read what your spouse has written. Then ask yourself the questions that follow. Do not talk to each other during this part of the checkup.
1 -- Am I surprised by anything my wife/husband has written?
2 -- How do I feel about her/his answer to the first question?
3 -- How do I feel about his/her answers to questions 2 and 3?
4 -- Were my answers to questions 4 and 5 the same as hers/his? If not, do I understand why she/he felt that way about those episodes?
5 -- What about the answer to question 6? Am I surprised? Or does it make me nod and smile? Does it make me angry? Why? Do I think I can make that change? Will I try?
Now go on to the lists:
1 -- Did I know she/he liked to do all those things on her/his first list?
2 -- Was she/he right about what I like to do?
3 -- How close were our third lists? Do I disagree with anything on her/his list? Part Three
After you have read your wife's or husband's answers and list and though about them, the two of you should discuss what you have found out. Are you as close as you thought? Closer? Not as close? Are there unsuspected differences in your desires/values? are there items on your third lists that you have not done together in the last 12 months?
When you have finished, there is another topic to discus. And that is how you feel about each other now. What was the mood of your discussion? Did you chuckle at one or some of her/his entries? Did you start reminiscing? Did you say things like "Honestly, I don't know why we haven't gone picknicking (or to the museum, or for a long walk) lately. Let's do it this weekend." Or "It's been ages since we had anyone over for dinner and bridge. wLet's make some plans."
If your answers were roughly similar, showing that you were pretty well tuned into your spouse, if you laughed a little and rather enjoyed thinking back over the last year, you have a pretty good relationship.
Or did your discussion turn into a series of complaints? Or regrets that you had done so few things together this past year? Did you get angry?
If you did, this means that the checkup has spotted weak areas in the mariage, just as a physical checkup might reveal that your blood pressure is slightly elevated. The fact that you got angry or complained does not mean that your marriage is on the rocks. It is a healthy sign showing you care enough to respond honestly to each other. The next step is to discuss just how you think your marriage can be made more satifying.
Make some time tomorrow or the next day when you will have had a chance to do some thinking, to talk about changes. Don't plan anything dastic. Just agree on one area that could stand improvement.
And now that you have completed this first marital checkup, plan to take it again every year. It makes the checkup even more meaningful if you schedule it for a day that is important in your lives -- the anniversary of the day you met, perhaps, or of your wedding, or of the night you think you conceived your first child: any day taht the two of you remember happily. And romatically.