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I’ve known about today’s guest columnist for several years. He was often a workshop presenter at the annual Smart Marriage conferences I attended from 2001 to 2010. Unfortunately, I was never able to sit in on one of his workshops. In my defense, I must tell you there were eight workshops sessions at each conference and 20 possible choices for each session. Choosing the best workshop for me at that time was excruciating as there were always several great ones from which to choose.

Hal Runkel is a renowned expert on helping families face conflict and create great relationships. He is the founder and president of the Scream Free Institute, an international training organization dedicated to calming the world, one relationship at a time. Hal is the author of "Scream Free Parenting" and "Scream Free Marriage." I think you’ll appreciate his thoughts on making your marriage your number one priority above all other human relationships.

You can hear more from Hal on this week’s edition of "TWOgether as ONE," a weekly radio program I host from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Mondays on KLJH 107.1FM.

Prioritizing your relationship

When your marriage is right, every other problem in life feels a lot less difficult. You feel stronger, more capable of handling whatever life throws at you. Why? Because waiting for you in your romance lies a respite from the storms, a refuge from the chaos and a resource for handling almost anything.

When your romantic relationship is wrong, however, every other problem in life gets magnified. Nothing tastes as good, and everything feels heavier. This is because every event, every occurrence carries with it a reminder that your most significant relationship, what matters most to you, is at the core of your discouragement.

So what makes the difference? What tips the scales towards your romantic relationship being either the right that makes everything easier, or the wrong that makes everything more difficult? In one word, priority.

You ever notice those moments that are so significant that they bring into clarity all other moments?

  • Your baby’s being born, and there are some complications, and suddenly you don’t care about money — at all. Whatever it costs, doc, do it.
  • You finally get away for that anniversary trip, and the beauty and serenity of nature makes clear that you have been chasing after all the wrong things.
  • You connect with your spouse in such a sexually-charged way that it really does feel as if you’re the only two people in the universe, even though your kids are asleep in the next room.

All these moments carry weight because they refocus our priority; we experience an authentic connection with what matter the most.

Well, what are we supposed to do when those moments don’t seem to be happening enough? We’re not having any more children, we’re not able to get away or our romance seems distant at best. What do we do if life is not re-prioritizing itself for us?

We do it ourselves. In the words of Cowboy Curly in the movie "City Slickers," all that matters in life is “one thing, just one thing. You stick to that, and all the rest don’t mean $&i#.” Now, Jack Palance doesn’t tell Billy Crystal what that one thing should be, but given what we know about the transcending power of our romantic connection (see above), I think we can figure it out.

As long as we are trying to squeeze in time, energy and effort toward keeping our most significant relationship alive and well, we will lose. The only way it happens is if it is our No. 1 relationship priority. No. 1 over our extended family relationships. No. 1 over our friendships. No. 1 over our work colleagues. And yes, even No. 1 over our kids.

I’ve been telling my teenagers their whole lives that I love their mother more than I love them (just a little bit). My relationship with them is so dependent on my relationship with her, that I owe it to them to pursue her above all others. My marriage is my No. 1 priority in all my human relationships because that is the only way I will “find” the time necessary to nurture that relationship into the passionate, transcendent, and lifelong connection I crave the most.

Here are some practical applications of putting your romantic relationship in first place:

  • Times for dinner dates, important decision-making conversations, trips together, and yes, sex sessions, get put on the calendar — just like doc appointments, kids’ soccer games, and business meetings.
  • Great couples, who put their relationship in first place, usually schedule one relationship enhancement event a year, be it a marriage retreat, a few sessions of couples’ counseling or at the very least a romantic getaway.

Most important — above all else — when your relationship is your greatest priority, you do not discuss problems in that relationship with anyone else first (unless you are working individually with a professional). This means you work hardest at authentically addressing your issues with each other, as uncomfortable as that may be, before you even think of complaining to your friends or family.

What’s your one thing, among all your human relationships? If it’s not your marriage, why not?

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870. 

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