Talk to any engaged couple about their dreams for marriage. You’ll get a pretty vivid description of life-long love, friendship, passion, joy, and excitement. In their minds they may be in a good place in life right now, but things are only going to get better once they are wed.
I believe that’s the way it should be. People should be excited at the onset of any new adventure (and marriage is an adventure like none other) and dream of the possibilities of what could be. I’ve heard it said that you can’t out-achieve your dreams. So setting a big vision for the relationship is a very promising thing to do.
The problem I see in many marriages is that the tactical planning toward the vision stops at the wedding ceremony itself. Months upon months will be spent in planning a ceremony and a reception. But little time is spent in planning actual life beyond that special day. For many, the days/months after the wedding (and honeymoon) are about “getting back to normal”; resuming careers and establishing routines. The pressures of life quickly find their way in and the individual spouses find themselves focused on their own lives as opposed to the union.
While some will regain a sense of balance (in terms of time and attention) many others find this to be their new normal. The relationship itself becomes neglected in lieu of other priorities. After awhile, complacency then boredom sets in. Once in this state, many couples will choose to divorce to pursue “greener pastures”. Of those that stay together, many do so in a loveless, co-existing state. They find it’s easier to just stay married rather than go through the time and expense of separating and dividing their lives. Couples living this way find that their original vision diminishes over time to the point they’re simply hanging on.
So how do you avoid this? You put goals and plans in place to pursue the original vision. Lifelong love and excitement don’t happen on their own. But they will happen with intentional effort. Couples need to set relationship goals early on and revisit them on a regular basis to see how they are progressing. Want to have lifelong excitement? That won’t happen if you never try anything new. Set a goal that as a couple you will try something different at least once a quarter. That could be as simple as eating at a new restaurant or as involved as taking up a new hobby together. The point is, set the goal and pursue it. Want to have life-long passion? Set goals to keep the spark alive. Date nights, get-aways, nooners and role-playing are all examples in this vein. Lifelong friendship? Call your spouse everyday from work. Eat dinner together at the table as opposed to eating in front of the television. Make time to take a walk together or set aside time just to talk without distractions. What you do is far less important than setting a goal and doing something. Couples that live this way have a Shocking Marriage and find that their vision actually expands over time.
Casting a vision for your marriage is a great exercise. Putting intentional steps in place to pursue that vision will take you to levels that you can’t even imagine. Do nothing, and you will see your vision diminish to the point of non-existence.