Marriages are not static, but dynamic. They are not like rocks that never change and don’t need tending to, but they are like trees that change with each coming season and need lots of water, sunshine, and good soil. Therefore, marriages are never going to stay the same, but will vary in their vitality, health, and fruitfulness with each coming year. Given this reality, I encourage you to think about this one question, “What is the current state of my marriage?”
Now that question is painfully vague and probably won’t yield to much helpful discussion and evaluation. We need to be much more specific and pointed in reflecting upon our marriages if we want them to be ever growing for the better. To help in this, I have found these questions from Rob Lister to be immensely helpful in accessing the state of the union (ha, see what I did there?).
Here are Rob Lister’s 15 questions for spouses to ask one another.
1) On a scale of 1-10, give your overall assessment of our marriage in the past six months. To be sure, this is a very broad and subjective item, but I have found it helpful to open the conversation with an item of this kind of breadth, because it helps to prime the pump. Obviously, you won’t hit on a ton of specifics with this one—that’s what the rest of the questions are for—but I have been truly amazed at just how much discussion this assessment alone can generate, as various issues come to mind. From there, we’re off and running. Follow-up questions in the event that the conversation fails to gain traction initially:
2) What have been the strengths of the past six months? What would make your assessment higher?
3) How has the husband’s leadership been over the past six months? The wife’s support? Follow-up: How can I improve in fulfilling my respective role?
4) How is your walk with God, both personally and as a couple?
Where do you see ungodliness in my life?
5) Do I have any unconfessed sin that needs to be shared with my spouse?
6) Are we guarding meaningful time together? Prayer? Conversation? Date Night?
7) How is our sex life?
8) What could I do to make you feel more loved/secure/respected?
9) How can I serve you better?
10) What are the issues that we need to anticipate in the upcoming six months?
11) What’s your greatest personal disappointment and your greatest satisfaction in the last six months?
12) How can I best pray for you?
13) What are our major upcoming mutual prayer concerns?
14) Spend a few moments, in an encouraging fashion, sharing several of the things that each of you loves and appreciates about the other.
15) Then close, by spending some concerted time in prayer for those prayer concerns you just shared, as well as thanking God for his faithfulness to you as a couple over the past six months.
If you are like me, thinking about hearing the answers to some of these questions is scary. But, I believe these questions, if husbands took the initiative to work through them with their wives, would provide very important truths that would, if listened to, lead to stronger and more healthy marriages.
Before you go off and try to nail this puppy down in one date night, make sure you take a look at Lister’s very helpful guidelines for the conversation.
(1) Obviously, both husband and wife should take a turn answering each question. So, when it’s your turn to listen, listen. One reason this practice can be especially helpful is because it gives clear license to the other person to say what’s on his/her mind—especially when he/ she knows that the other person is really going to listen. Do not rush to debate or self-defense. Start by listening. Your spouse loves you and knows you very well. There is likely to be quite a bit of truth in what he/she says about you. You would be wise not to scorn their counsel or reproof (Prov 12:1; 15:31–32).
(2) When it’s your turn to talk, say it with love, but speak honestly. Your spouse certainly cannot heed your concerns if he or she does not know your concerns.
(3) Share criticisms, if need be, but share encouragement too. No one is going to look forward to doing this regularly, if he always and only gets beat up by it. To this end, I suggest trying to open and close the conversation with statements of several things that the husband and wife love and appreciate about the other. But, the individual questions should also be looked at as opportunities to share encouragement and thankfulness as well as critique.
(4) Be quick to confess sin and quick to forgive. If you do, the whole conversation will be enhanced all the more as it becomes clearly centered on the cross.
(5) Come with a notepad handy. I always jot down our responses, areas for growth, and new issues or questions to factor into consideration in subsequent evaluations. Don’t waste the opportunity for growth that can come from this conversation by neglecting to make note of those things that need some attention.
(6) Because you’re both sinners, don’t expect that you will ever achieve perfection, and don’t become discouraged, over time, when such perfection inevitably does not come. Instead, approach this spiritual discipline with the mindset that you will seek to use it, by God’s grace, to promote a progression in growth over time.
I highly recommend you read the entire article here for other very good wisdom and counsel about accessing the state of your union.