So what’s it going to be? Lose weight? Start a new career path? Get control of finances? Exercise more? Study your Bible and pray regularly? Be more helpful to others? It’s that time of year that many folks think about New Year’s resolutions; those things we can do to look better, act better, be better. Although our resolutions may have an effect on those we love, most New Year’s resolutions are individually motivated. But have you and your spouse ever considered setting some joint New Year’s resolutions? Not just individual actions that might directly or indirectly benefit your mate, but a conscientious decision to work together toward a united goal.
As husbands and wives set New Year resolutions together, remember that achieving your goal will take:
- Honest communication—You have to be willing to assess the growth areas of your relationship, and willing to be truthful (painfully truthful if necessary) about what you need to do to improve in those areas in the coming year. This is a joint endeavor, so don’t approach it as “a list of things my spouse needs to do differently to make our marriage better.” As you talk, remember to focus on your own responsibility in both creating and changing or improving whatever situation needs to be addressed, and avoid casting blame or playing the victim. Communication must be honest, open, and free flowing. Without communication, a relationship will die.
- Sacrifice—We easily understand that if you want to lose weight and get fit, sleeping through your workout time and excessively eating pie is not going to get you there. To get what you want, you must negotiate or eliminate the things that stand in your way. The same applies for a couple’s marriage resolutions. If needed, both spouses must be willing to give up things or rearrange schedules to achieve their goals. (More often than not, it is a matter of giving up our own self-centered desires for the good of a better, healthier marriage.) Certainly sacrifice is not easy, but those who endure it have greater results which leads to greater joy and connectedness between husband and wife.
- Patience—The greater the change the more time it will likely take. On an individual level, you don’t decide you want to lose 50 pounds and then expect the weight to be gone in a week. As you work toward your goal, now and again you will see the scale go up, but you don’t give up because overall the trend is moving in the right direction. The same applies to marriage resolutions. You have to give ample time to get to desired result, and you will have to have patience with your spouse as he/she also navigates the necessary sacrifices and changes.
- Encouragement—Remember you are one flesh, so to encourage your mate is to encourage yourself. Every wife needs to hear that the goals you’ve set together are worthy. Every husband needs to know he is never alone in pursuing those goals. Every couple needs to be proactive in lifting each other up and helping each other move forward in improving their marriage covenant relationship.
- Don’t try to take on too much—The fastest route to burnout is to try to do too much too quickly. But on the flip side, don’t make excuses not to make changes that need to be made. There’s always a reason to quit or to never begin at all. Don’t let the devil make you content with a marriage that is far below what God intends for husband and wife to share together.
I don’t know what you and your spouse need to do in 2013, but as you discuss your New Year’s resolutions as a couple don’t forget to pray together through the process. Ask God to lead you to make the changes most needed for your marriage. And, once you’re decided upon the changes you need to make, write it down and put it somewhere that you will see it on a regular basis. The problem with most resolutions is that they never get past being good intentions—nebulous ideas that seem like worthy goals, but are rarely implemented. When you write something down and keep it in front of you, it becomes a concrete goal. It puts you in a position of being responsible and being accountable to yourself and to your mate.
Most significantly, resolve to make your marriage mean something for the Kingdom of God in 2013! Find a joint ministry, a joint purpose, a way to serve together. Find something—anything—that allows your marriage to be Kingdom-focused. If you do that, you will make no greater resolution for 2013.