Marriage can only accurately be described as the most glorious and grueling thing you’ll ever do with another human being. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Yet it’s so completely worth it.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case for all married couples. In fact, generally speaking, a couple who’s married for the first time has about a 50% chance of ending in divorce.
So how do we prevent that from happening to our marriage? Or, if it’s already happened to you, how do you prevent that from happening again?
Well, there are obviously lots of complicated factors that play into why couples divorce, but one of the most common sense approaches we can take to building stronger marriages is to simply get on the same page and communicate better. It doesn’t take a research scientist to tell you that miscommunication is at the root of almost all of our marriage problems, but here’s a study that shows that at the very least, effective communication and marriage satisfaction are linked.
Clear communication in a marriage is so vital because miscommunications become disagreements, disagreements turn into arguments, and arguments turn into a breakdown of trust. And once the trust is gone, the relationship is not far behind.
So what’s the antidote to communicating better and getting on the same page with our spouse? The answer starts with vision.
What is a vision?
A vision is simply a picture of the future, and vision is the one thing that human beings can unite around despite their differences. It’s no different in your marriage.
Think about it. The United States only exists because early on in the creation and formation of the union that is now the United States, a vision was drawn up. We know that vision today as the Declaration of Independence, and the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” will forever be in our hearts and minds as a result.
The Declaration of Independence and other early foundational U.S. documents were proclamations made by the men and women who started the United States as a declaration of a vision. That vision was what rallied disparate people and brought them together for a common cause.
If a vision can bring together a nation of relative strangers, then vision is critically important for the unity of your marriage and your family as a whole.
So here’s how you can start to cast vision in your family:
When it comes to casting vision, the most important part is listening to the needs and desires of your wife first and foremost and your kids, too, if they’re old enough. No one wants a vision handed down to them that they had no role in creating. After all, the vision for your marriage and your family should be one that aligns with what your family stands for and desires, not just what you stand for and desire.
So start by setting aside some time either over dinner or over a date night and talk to your wife about what she sees as issues that the two of you face and what she sees as winning going forward. I think you’ll be surprised by what you find once you simply asked with an open heart.
#2: Get to the heart of why
Once you’ve discussed with your wife the issues and wishes the two of you have, next it’s important to get down to why those things are problems and why those things are desired futures. Everything we desire in life is rooted in something deeper that we value. If I want to eat better and be physically fit, then Ivalu an energetic and well stewarded physical life. Or it could be that I value adventure and I want to be physically capable of going on such adventures.
Whatever it is that the two of you want, there’s something beneath the surface that each of you value, and it’s of utmost importance that you discover the values each of you hold. And once you unearth those values, then simplify those as much as you can and let those be the core values of your marriage and your family and choose to let those be the guiding values going forward in decision-making.
#3: Get specific
Now that you’ve talked about the broad issues and desires both you and your wife, and potentially your kids, have, and you’ve gotten to the root of why those things are issues and desired futures so that you’ve unearthed your values, next it’s time to get specific.
The first two steps are about broad concepts and ideas, but in order for something to truly feel tangible and actionable, it must be specific. If you’ve determined that you both value generosity, for example, and you’ve both identified that poverty is something you both care deeply about resolving in the world, then what do the next 12 months, two years, five years, 10 years, and 30 years look like? This exercise doesn’t have to be rigid or overly complicated. Just think out loud about what the next steps look like moving towards the desired future you both have based on the values you’ve both identified.
Sometimes when we get too generalistic in our thinking, then really big goals get overwhelming quickly and. Getting specific help you bring your mind back to the plan when things get difficult, and, frankly, they help both you and your spouse keep one another in check whenever each of you tries to go your own way.
Which leads to the next point…
#4: Write it down
Spending time talking about the desired future you both would like, the values that drive those desires, and the plan it will get you there is all well and good, but until it’s written down, it isn’t real.
Again, don’t over complicate this. Just write down what you talk about. You don’t have to worry about over-structure realizing it or making it into a big ordeal. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm one another by adding yet another task to your to-do list.
Writing down the vision should be freeing and fun. You should be dreaming and scheming together. And in the midst of all your dreaming and vision casting, you’ll find that the two of you come together in unity like never before.
And when the moments come – and they will – when the vision doesn’t feel attainable and you don’t feel aligned on where you’re going, bring every conversation and every argument back to the vision and the plan that you both came in unity around to start with.
That communication and problem-solving is what develops unity, and it’s that unity that will keep your marriage strong.