So, married couples: What are your Valentine’s Day plans? For most of you, probably some sort of romantic dinner, possibly a movie, maybe even a couple of presents and then, well, we’ll just see where things go? For a few of you, maybe something a little more muted—a night in or some sort of creative, lowkey date. And, in all likelihood, a few of you were just reminded by this post that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and you don’t have any plans.
Whichever category you fall into, there is one thing that should unite you all. We may all have different ideas of romance, love and the perfect Valentine’s Day experience, but there’s one thing that should unite you all. Valentine’s Day is a great day to talk about your goals as a couple.
Wait, stop! Come back! It’s more romantic than it sounds!
If you’ve been married for any amount of time, you know the sense of inevitability that starts creeping into your married life. You ease into first gear, taking life as it comes one day at a time. Maybe you’ve got kids. Maybe one or both of you is in school or has a job. Regardless, you’re probably mostly going with the flow.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Your marriage isn’t a marathon, and you shouldn’t feel a constant pressure to be upgrading it to something bigger and flashier. But your marriage is your life together—the only one you’ve got—and since Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, it’s as good a time as any to check in and see just how that life is going. And, just maybe, set a new course.
Sounds like a tall order? It is, but it’s not as difficult as it sounds. There are lots of ways you can choose to go about this, and if you plan it right, this Valentine’s Day could be the one that sets your marriage on a path to being better than it’s ever been. Here are a few places to start.
The cornerstone of a good marriage is a spiritual foundation, and many couples sort of assume that they’re sharing one or, at least, that they’re close enough. But this Valentine’s Day, have an honest conversation about your spiritual lives. How are you feeling about your church life? Your prayer life? What has God been teaching you lately, and how does it affect your life together? Is it time to shake something up by praying more together or getting involved in a Bible study? Are you happy with the church you’re at, or is it time to look around a little?
OK, we’re all adults here, so we can be honest about the fact that a physical relationship is a huge part of married life. It can be difficult to have honest, vulnerable conversations about sex, even when for married couples, but that just makes them all the more vital. Evaluate your sexual satisfaction, see how close your current evaluations are to each other, and craft a plan to bring your goals more in line with each other.
But physical goals don’t have to be limited to sexuality. Married couples can also set new goals for exercise, eating habits and general health. Do you want to lose weight? Do some yoga? Learn how to box? Take up archery? There’s no wrong answer here, and sharing your physical goals with each other will be a huge step forward in making them a reality.
When was the last time you learned something? Not just a “lifehack” or a bit of trivia but actually learned a new skill, or compelling new interpretation of Scripture or—God forbid—something that actually changed your mind about a long-held belief? Do you have any underlying doubts about your worldview you’ve been sitting on, a little too nervous to process? This is a great time to voice them to your partner, and challenge each other to actually explore your own interior life together. Maybe that means reading a book together, auditing a class or just choosing a new subject to study. Whatever it is, you’re pushing your mind to new limits together and expanding your understanding of the world.
Not the most exciting topic on the list, but it has an awful lot of bearing on the rest of them. As you may have heard, financial issues are the most frequently cited source of conflict for married couples. There are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is that married couples rarely discuss finances, meaning they only ever come up in stressful conversations, when conflict is much more difficult to avoid.
There are a lot of reasons to get on the same page financially, not the least of which being that many of your goals will probably depend at least a little bit on your being able to afford them. Talk about your future goals and be willing to have a real discussion about their financial feasibility. If you’ve got a major, shared goal—like, say, living overseas or living debt free—you’re going to have to get practical. Figure out a budget. Come back to it frequently to make sure you’re still meeting your goals, and re-adjust as necessary. Here’s a tool you can use to help you do just that.
How’s your friend group? The older you get, the harder it is to make new friends—and that goes double for married couples, who tend to get used to staying in; and triple for parents, who find the hassle of hiring a sitter understandably stressful.
But nobody can live on a relationship with their spouse alone, give or take a few watercooler chats, alone. On Valentine’s Day, think of a few people you’d like to form newer, deeper relationships with. Commit to asking these people out and actually tell them you’d like to become closer friends, instead of just hoping they pick up on the contextual clues. Put together a plan for your new relational goals and commit to making deeper, more lasting relationships that will push you forward as a couple.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.