10 Questions to Evaluate and Improve Your Marriage
Marriage is work, and good marriages don’t just happen, you need to make it a priority every day. I find that even with the best effort, sometimes my marriage can get into a rut. So I want to give you ten questions to help you evaluate your marriage and get out of the rut you and your spouse may find yourself in. Even if your marriage is doing well, I think it is helpful to take a step back and look at it with a fresh perspective.
I want to encourage you to take some time to answer each of these questions thoughtfully and as objectively as you can. Ask your spouse to do the same, you can do it together, or each of you do it separately and then come together to talk about it with each other. So here we go!
1. Do you still date each other? Every Friday night is date night for my wife and I. We may move it to another day or time once in a while, but normally we use Friday night for going out on a date. It gives us something to look forward to, and builds a foundation for shared, enjoyable experiences. When was the last time you went on a date and how can you build this into your schedule?
2. Is your spouse your best friend? Studies demonstrate that happily married couples of all ages and stages all report the same number one reason why they are happily married: my spouse is my best friend. So how about for you and your spouse, are you best friends? If not, what is getting in the way of it? Again, marriage takes work and effort, just like any important friendship.
3. When is the last time you said, “Thank you”? I’m not talking about politeness when passing the salt. I’m talking about a specific expression of gratitude for doing the dishes, for letting you sleep in, for working hard to provide for the family, for watching the kids all day, or for making your favorite meal. Expressing appreciation for who your spouse is and what they do is an important component to any good marriage.
4. Do you still hold hands? In the movies? On the couch? Walking around the block? During prayer at church? In the car? We all love to see old couples holding hands. And children love to see it when mommy and daddy are doing this. The power of touch is one of the important glues that keep a couple close.
5. When is the last time you embarrassed the kids together? Children should roll their eyes from time to time because of how silly mom and dad can get. They should see you dancing, see you kissing, see you acting utterly goofy. The kids will hate it, but deep down love it too. Children need to see their parents having a great time together. So go ahead, make out in the kitchen and see how long it takes them to notice!
6. When is the last time you said “I’m sorry”? Not as an excuse. Not with a snarl. But a sincere, tender, broken-hearted apology when you have done something wrong. One of the worse attitudes you can have in any relationship I have heard expressed this way, “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.” This is pathetically prideful and wrong in so many ways. When you say your sorry, you are expressing humility, being vulnerable and open toward your spouse, all of which are important building blocks for greater intimacy.
7. When is the last time you planned a surprise? A few weeks ago I got my wife flowers for no particular reason. It just felt like it had been too long since I had gone out of my way to give her something nice. Do you still surprise each other with gifts, with special outings, with a kiss out of the blue, with coming home early (or staying up late)? So write your spouse a love note or leave a card for him or her, or find a way to surprise them!
8. When is the last time you went out and talked about something other than the kids? You don’t have to spend money. You can go on a walk, go on a bike ride, have a picnic in the park, go to a cheap diner, or do a fun activity you enjoy together with this rule, we can only talk about us, not the kids! Just get away from the kids and try not fixate on them when they’re not there.
9. How do you talk about your spouse? And there are two sub-questions to this. What would others think about your spouse just by listening to you speak about him or her? We all have occasions where we talk about our spouse to others–in a small group, at a prayer meeting, to another friend, to a family member, to the pastor. If someone could overhear everything you said about your husband or wife in a month, and then they met your spouse for the first time, would they be surprised by the person they found? From your conversation, would others guess that your spouse is a prince of a guy or a really special wife?
A second sub-question is this, do you talk about your marriage with terms like us, we and our, or I, me, you, he, or she? A recent study out of Oxford in England compared how happily married couples talk about their marriage compared to unhappily married couples. The study found that couples who are not happy in their marriage used terms like “I, me, he, she, and you.” Happily married couples talked about their relationship using inclusive terms like “us, we, and our.” There was a sense of togetherness, of being a team, that was being conveyed. So how do you talk about your spouse and your marriage?
10. This one is the hard, and I have saved it for last: Do you pray together? I’m not simply talking about saying grace at dinner. I’m talking about a husband and wife taking time on regular basis to pray for and with each other. In my three decades of marriage counseling, I can safely say that while I do know of good marriages where the husband and wife don’t pray together nearly as much as they would like, I don’t know any bad marriages where the husband and wife pray together all the time. While this expression isn’t as popular today as it once was, and can sound a little trite, it is still true: The family that prays together stays together! Pray us such a powerfully binding force in any marriage. It helps the couple stay humble, vulnerable, and like forgiveness, can help move the couple to greater levels of intimacy.
I hope that you will find these questions helpful to taking a fresh look at your relationship and to promote greater closeness. Before you finish, talk about one or two things you do to make your marriage better based on your answers. Marriage is work, so get working on it!