February 7, 2010

Marriage Planning Weekend

My husband and I are involved in a wonderful Sunday school class that is led by some incredibly smart people. These folks are all a little farther along in their lives than we are. Where we have young kids and we are "newly" married, their kids are grown and their marriages more seasoned. These are the kind of people you want to learn from because they have already been there and done that.

More than once, the leaders have talked about their "planning weekends". They take a whole weekend and work through a goal setting questionnaire to map out their year. Many of them have been doing this for a while and said it really has helped them be purposeful in their decision making and direction. Being a Type A person (as is my hubbie) this sounded right up my alley. Plan out our lives (okay maybe only a year) in a weekend?? I'm in!

This weekend we had our planning retreat "away".  I use the term away loosely, because we swapped houses with my parents who are local. They came over to our house and took care of our kids; we went over to their house and worked. Since it wasn't our house (and the fourty seven items on our to-do list weren't beckoning from the other room), we were able to focus on the planning worksheets and goal setting. We did manage to eat  a few restaurant meals and watch a couple of movies at the house. Mom and Dad have a new Blue Ray player and you can download movies right to the hard drive for instant watching! You don't have to go to the video store or wait for a movie in the mail. The old folks are so high tech!

When we were not relaxing, we worked diligently on our worksheets as outlined by Ron Blue and Company, a Christian financial planning company. They give you a rough schedule for the weekend and tons of questions to answer in these areas: Marriage, Family, Spiritual, Physical, Social, Financial and Career. Here are some examples of the questions.

Should we go out more often or make more time for romance?
What rules do we want to establish for our children at home and in public?
Is there a proper balance between my time spent at home and away from home?
What can we do to improve our prayer life, individually and as a couple?
Do we show a healthy interest and support one another in our careers?

It took us the better part of Saturday morning to answer all the questions, but it was worth it.  You know the things that you mean to talk about and never seem to get around to discussing? These are those things. This was a weekend away from the distractions, the kids, jobs, house, stuff, to focus on how we want our life to go.  What is our purposeful direction?  It's hard to arrive at the right destination when you don't know where you are going.

I often feel like I'm "parenting-on-the-fly", which is a restaurant expression for "make it happen right now, I don't care what else is going on". Afterwards I wish I could have had more of a flow chart in my head for how things should have gone. Maybe a decision tree is a better description. (See all that time in corporate America has taught me a few things.) I think being consistent and clear is an atmosphere kids thrive in. They know what is expected and know the consequences when they don't do what is expected.

Parenting is only one part of this whole weekend. It really gave us a chance to evaluate our marriage and how we feel about it after seven short years. It gave us a chance to redirect in some areas and realize we are doing incredible in others. It also put us on the same page in other areas like finances and social events. Do you ever have the "honey... another night out" whine in your voice? I have and I don't like it when I sound like that. Here was a chance to talk about those nights out and understand why my husband needs to be out working some nights.

It was pretty incredible to see how we are thriving in our marriage and with our little family. It was also great to talk about and create a plan for improving in certain areas. I would highly recommend taking a planning weekend with your spouse if at all possible. We all know great marriages don't just happen. They must be nurtured. My parents have recently celebrated fourty years of marriage. They often say, it's because they are best friends. But even best friends have to make time for each other. Not just hanging out in front of the tv together or going to dinner, but really talking. That's the time that relationships are cemented. Think about why you are close to your friends...you talk about stuff. Sometimes this talking and sharing of feelings is harder for me. That's why the questions were so useful. They guided our time together so we weren't just sitting around gazing into each other's eyes with nothing to say.

We did our weekend on the cheap with my parents watching the kids, borrowing their house, using gift certificates for our meals out and only driving across town. You could go all out and rent a cabin or some other place away from it all, but keep the focus on the work and each other instead of a place with fun distractions. If you are interested in these worksheets, email me and I'll send 'em your way.

1 comment:

  1. Oh that sounds great! I'm from the Friends of Martha Network too!

    Best of luck!


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