This weekend we met with couples who have booked a wedding at Christ Church in 2016. We helped them think through some of their preparations for the day, but a significant part of the morning was spent helping them to think about how to strengthen their relationships.
It wasn’t a particularly romantic morning. I don’t believe in soulmates. I don’t believe that the person we choose to spend our life with is “the one”. But I do think that the couples we are marrying in Timperley this year will have amazing relationships, because they are all committed to loving one another.
Love is not just about feelings. Love is a choice that we go on making throughout a relationship. Sometimes it’s an easy choice to make. Sometimes, not so much. The relationships that are strongest are those where two people choose to continue loving, even through the rocky times.
It’s not easy to love someone else. I recently came across this quote:
To choose to love is to open a wound from which we never recover.
Brother Roger of Taize.
One of the things that can be helpful in a relationship is to take a step back, now and again, and ask how things really are. What I’ve given below are some questions based on the material we used with our couples this weekend.
This list isn’t exhaustive. There may be other things that are more important for a couple to think through. And some things here may be irrelevant or unhelpful.
If you’ve got a partner, then grab a bottle of wine one night or a coffee one afternoon (and either way, chocolate would help) and look at some of these questions together. Make sure your time is uninterrupted, and that there is enough privacy to do this well. Ten minutes before bed probably isn’t going to cut it. Nor is Saturday morning on the Metrolink.
How do our differences in personality affect the way we communicate with one another?
How is our work and home life affecting the way we communicate with one another?
Do we make time and space for meaningful conversation?
Do we find it easy to talk to one another about our innermost thoughts and feelings?
If not, why?
Does each of us create a safe space for the other to be heard?
Are either of us holding onto past hurts and unforgiveness? What needs to happen to work this through?
Do both of us feel understood by the other?
Are we both aware of one another’s love language?
Are we both investing energy in listening properly to one another?
What would make each of us feel more heard in the relationship?
Is there a recent example of us communicating well?
Which of our wedding vows are we finding easiest to live with at the moment?
Which are we finding hardest?
Have we had fun together recently?
Do we both feel safe and secure in this relationship?
How are we making time for one another on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?
Are we getting enough time apart?
Have we planned fun things together to look forward to?
Are we making time for sex and intimacy?
Are we arguing well at the moment? (A good argument involves listening, seeing one another’s points of view, and finding a resolution).
Are we aware of the differences in our approaches to life?
Are we managing these differences well?
Is either of us intent on changing the other, or are we enabling one another to flourish as we are?
Are we arguing at bad times? Do we need to make space and time to talk properly?
When we argue, do we stay on topic or do we resort to personal attack?
Does each of us have times when we back down and accept the other’s opinion?
Are we having the same argument over and over?
When and where to get help?
Talking through some of these things may raise relationship problems that you either are or are not already aware of. No one has a perfect relationship, and every couple will go through bad times. If you need it, get help early and don’t be afraid to ask. Many problems can be easily solved with some careful listening to one another, and a fresh perspective from outside.
Relate do wonderful work and seem to be accessible in a number of ways.
Your local parish clergy (that’s Jim or I if you’re in Timperley) are usually really happy to sit with you and listen, and to offer pointers or suggestions for further support. If you live elsewhere, you can find your local parish church here.