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I have been privileged to participate in numerous marriage-enrichment programs. One of my personal favorites is “Intimate Encounters,” or as I have termed it “More Than Just Married.” There are many components of this program that help equip couples to enjoy their relationship. One I find particularly helpful is their concept of weekly marriage staff meetings. Terri Snead of the Center for Relational Leadership wrote today’s column in which she details this practical, but often overlooked, ingredient of a thriving marriage. The Center for Relational Leadership is an organization dedicated to developing resources and providing training to help individuals, homes, communities, businesses and other organizations equip leaders and teams to address 21st Century challenges.

I’m confident that some will read this column and object that marriage should not be run like a business. It should be more romantic, spontaneous and loving, they will say. There is certainly some validity to that position, but there is also a case to be made for the marriage with intention. Too many divorced people made the mistake of putting their marriage on auto-pilot and believed love would carry them through. Please don’t make that same mistake.

Conducting marriage “staff meetings”

Just as any successful business cannot be run without scheduled times for feedback and organization, a successful marriage requires the same commitment to communication. Here are some characteristics of a successful marriage staff meeting.

Schedule a time. Don’t leave it to chance.

Preferably, the staff meeting will be a “standing appointment,” occurring at the same time, same place each week. Perhaps your staff meeting might be over lunch on Thursday, Tuesday night after the children are asleep or during Saturday morning breakfast. Some couples’ schedules are such that the time has to change each week. If so, at least have a standard day and time when you schedule the staff meeting for the coming week, perhaps each Sunday evening.

Prioritize the time. As much as possible, protect it.

Once the time is scheduled, protect it. Treat the appointment like it’s the most important item on their schedule — because it is. Prioritizing the marriage staff meeting will produce a renewed sense of closeness (one wife cried with joy when her husband remembered their staff meeting and turned down a golf date).

Protect the time from Interruptions and distractions

Find a quiet place at home, or if necessary, meet away from the home and office. Avoid phone calls or visitors if possible. You might ask yourself, “What in the world would we talk about?” A productive staff meeting might have this agenda:

Consider calendar coordination for the coming week.

What’s planned? What’s the children’s schedule for the week? Who’s working late? What social activities are scheduled? Operate from a principle of agreeing on time commitments that affect the entire family before making these commitments. Plan your next couple “date” and your next family outing. You’ll even find that there’s often great value in calendaring some of your lovemaking times.

Listen to one another. One spouse or the other may just need to talk.

When listening, establish eye contact and give undivided attention. Be quick to offer comfort, encouragement, and support.Avoid advice-giving, arguing, belittling, teaching, or lecturing. Be open to share hopes and dreams, feelings and insights about recent moodiness, and concerns and fears about the marriage, kids, money, and the future. The power of giving undivided attention allows you to enter into another person’s “world” and really get to know them.

Conversation starters

Here are some interesting questions you can use to enliven any conversation. Use them during family nights or marriage staff meetings.

  • What is one event in the future that you would like to know the outcome of now?
  • If you were offered two front-row tickets to see any singer or musical group, whose concert would you choose to attend?
  • Which of the four seasons do you most anticipate?
  • If you could be any age again for one week, what age would you be?
  • If you could go back in time to witness the invention or discovery of anything in history, what would you choose to see?
  • Suppose you had the professional ability to compete in an Olympic event. In what event would you want to compete?
  • If you were in charge of changing the traditional food of Thanksgiving from turkey to something else, what would you choose?
  • What specific subject do you feel you know better than any other subject?

This week, spend some time with your loved ones, and ask everyone to answer the conversation starter questions. Don’t accept short answers, instead, encourage everyone to explain why they answer as they do. Everyone appreciates being asked their opinion and their personal preferences.

Marriage and family goal setting

Using the exploratory questions below, discuss each item and begin to identify specific goals you’d like to see accomplished:

  • In what two key ways would you like to see me grow personally in the next year?
  • How would you like me to pray for you in the next few months?
  • What is a recurring concern you may have about each of our children?
  • What is an important item you’d like to see emphasized in our romance?
  • What do you see as two of the most important challenges we face this year?
  • What improvements or changes would you most like to see around our home?

This type of vulnerable sharing, followed by mutual support that leads to joint accomplishment, allows a couple or a family to experience the joy of saying, “We did it!”

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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