Relationship MOT (Updated for 2017)

Today we met with couples who have booked a wedding at Christ Church in 2017. 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.

What follows is a revised version of the Relationship MOT I shared last year. It arises out of the conversations we’ve shared today as we’ve helped our engaged couples think about building healthy relationships.

***But this is not just for married or engaged couples***

I hope it will be helpful for anyone involved in a committed, long term relationship: Married, civil-partnered, or living together; gay or straight; newly committed or celebrating milestone anniversaries.

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 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 (we’ve tried).

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The Questions: Relationship MOT

Communication
How are our differences in personality affecting the way we communicate with one another?
How is our work and home life affecting the way we communicate with one another?
Are we making time and space for meaningful conversation?
Are we finding 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?
Are both of us feeling 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?

Commitment
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?
(If you’re married, civil-partnered, or have celebrated some sort of commitment ceremony):
Which of our vows or promises of commitment are we finding easiest to live with at the moment?
Which are we finding hardest?

Conflict
Are we arguing well? (A good argument involves listening, seeing one another’s points of view, and finding resolution).
Are we aware of the differences in our approaches to everyday 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 the wrong times? Do we need to make space and time to talk properly?
When we argue, are we staying on topic or are we resorting 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?

End thought: 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.

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. It’s more common than you think. 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, Suzie 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.

If you want to do some reading on relationships, The Five Love Languages is a good place to start.

And if you are at all worried that you are trapped in an abusive relationship, you need to tell someone you trust or contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline or the Men’s Advice Line.

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In quietness and trust: Tell stories

This is the third in a series of posts on nurturing the inner life alongside young children. You may like to read this brief introduction to the series before continuing.

Tell stories!

Stories can start anywhere.

“Mummy – what does that sign say on that bench?”
“It says it’s there to remember someone who died”
“Who died?”
“I don’t know – just somebody who liked this place”
“Do we know somebody who died?”
“Yes. Grandma died, just before you were born…”

And so I tell Ben the story of his Grandma. I tell him what she was like, and how much she would have loved him. About how I promised to tell him all about her. I show him photos. We talk about Heaven and Jesus and how many cats Daddy and Grandma had when Daddy was a little boy. And what their names were. And are there cats in Heaven? (My answer is yes). And can Ben have a cat at home? (My answer is no).

Stories tell us who we are.
They tell us where we have come from.
They might hint at where we’re going.

Kids love stories. So do adults – we just forget that we like them so much.

Stories make great prayers for kids. Not just reading the Bible together, or retelling faith stories. We find God in all sorts of stories. God is there in Stick Man and Dear Zoo. God is found in Sarah and Duck, and Peppa Pig. Everywhere we hear stories of love and laughter, of loyalty and trust, of hope and generosity – there God is to be found.

Just as we know ourselves by our stories, so we know God by his stories. The stories we tell to make sense of the world, and to process life. These stories all tell us a little bit more about who God is, and why he is, and how and where and what he is. This stuff – identity, security, revelation, thanksgiving, hope – is the stuff of prayer.

I try to tell stories to my kids. We read picture books; watch films; make things up. I tell them where they have come from – and what is important and why?

And I try to listen. I listen to their own fantasies and dreams and anecdotes. We explore and adventure together through story, and offer it all to God as prayer.

When we lose our stories, we lose our lives. But wherever there are stories, there is God.

(And while we’re on it, check out the brilliant Storytime Service website!)

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