Even before a man and woman get married, they begin to set goals. Where will they live? What places will they visit together? How many kids will they have? How can they make a meaningful contribution to their community? Setting goals begins with lots of discussion, dreaming, researching, and more discussion. Then real life gets in the way. For most couples, marriage tends to get complicated; it’s dynamic, ever changing and evolving. Over time, individual preferences and dreams can change. But the desire to set goals doesn’t go away.
Goal setting in marriage requires many conversations and adjustments.
This is further complicated by the various stages of life and seasons of marriage.
Stages of Life and Seasons of Marriage
Most marriages live through the following stages of life.
Stages Of Life
- Newly married – eager to do things together, planning a future and building a life together. Enjoying Life!
- Married with young kids – experiencing the many joys and challenges that come with having children. Learning to be responsible.
- Married with older kids – feeling the frustrations and hope that comes with teenagers and young adults. Requires patience, persistence, and continual encouragement.
- Empty nesters – experiencing a renewed joy on life that comes with new-found freedom. Setting a new vision and learning to work together (again), just the two of you.
- Grandparents – experiencing the many joys and concerns that come with having grandchildren. Creating a legacy.
- Sunset – witnessing the joys and pain that comes with the closing chapters of life. Leaving a legacy, while bringing closure.
In addition to the stages of life, married couples also live through various seasons. Author Dr. Gary Chapman outlines a wonderful 4-stage model of marriage in his book The Four Seasons of Marriage. These seasons occur over and over throughout the lifetime of a marriage, even as couples live through the various stages of life.
Seasons of Marriage
- Spring – where most marriages begin. There’s excitement and anticipation of good things to come. Even though a marriage doesn’t remain in spring, it is possible to come back to optimism, enthusiasm, and the joy of spring over and over again.
- Summer – where life is fun and beautiful. Everything may not be perfect, but there’s a feeling of happiness, satisfaction, accomplishment, and connection. It’s a time to reap the benefits of the hard efforts to understand each other and to work together as a team to fulfill the dreams of spring.
- Fall – where the marriage might look fine on the outside, but inside the marriage is changing. When the chilling winds begin to blow, the deterioration of the marriage becomes evident, just as leaves on trees turn color and fall away.
- Winter – where coldness, harshness, and bitterness prevails. Often, it’s “rigidity” that brings a couple to the winter season. It’s the unwillingness to consider the other person’s perspective and to work towards a meaningful compromise.
When considering the various seasons of marriage, the good news is that every couple experiencing fall or winter can return to spring and summer. It’s a deliberate choice and one where goal setting can play an important role.
5 Ways to Help You Choose Better Goals
No matter what stage of life or season of marriage you find yourself in, the following will help you choose better goals for this time in life.
1) Ask better questions.
A great quote from Tony Robbins is “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” This also applies to marriage. So instead of asking your spouse basic questions such as “where do you want to go for vacation?” or “what kind of house should we look for”, try asking deeper questions that probe how your spouse thinks and feels about the topic.
These might include:
- If we could improve the life of just one person, who would you choose, and why?
- What would you list as the #1 most fun thing we’ve done together so far, and why?
- And more! Check out the Pinterest board with 45 lists of questions to ask. Click HERE
2) Change your view of failure.
While you might hope that your shared goals would come into being exactly as planned, rarely does that occur. Most goals are achieved in some altered form. And sometimes they fail to materialize at all.
The key to a happy marriage is changing your view of failure.
Life happens. Lots of unpredictable things can crop up that impact your decisions and plans. When this happens, you have a choice.
You can dwell on the failure OR change your view of it.
What can you and your spouse learn from this? What would you do differently next time? Who else might benefit from your learning? With this approach, you might even adopt the idea of experimenting with goal setting with the express purpose of learning something new vs. achieving it.
3) Leverage your past and celebrate key milestones.
You know you are making progress towards a specific goal if you track it. We do this on a long journey (e.g. miles travelled or important land marks). We measure scores and wins in sports.
And while measuring years married is important, there is so much more. How many trips have you planned and made together? How many people have you served together? How many projects (e.g. repairs or remodeling of your home) have you worked on together?
Use your past to help your present.
If you’re experiencing a challenging issue right now, how did you resolve major issues on previous ventures? And along the journey to achieving a goal, don’t forget to celebrate accomplishments and milestones. They are signs of success and building blocks to setting new and even better goals.
4) Learn from others.
Observing the behavior and pursuits of others can provide useful insight and stimulate creative ideas in your own goal setting. You might see how a husband and wife team effectively handles difficult children; yet they might be poor money managers. Or you might see a couple making a meaningful contribution in their community; yet communicate poorly with each other.
So unbundle your observations. Discuss the useful insights with your spouse, and avoid replicating the problem areas. Using this method, you might be surprised at what you can glean from even the most challenged marriages.
5) Prepare for the unknown.
A successful and healthy marriage includes facing new and unknown challenges. We all experience them.
The benefit of a strong marriage is having someone you know and trust to tackle these challenges together. If teamwork makes the dream work, then a married couple united in purpose and filled with passion can overcome just about any obstacle and achieve just about any goal.
Learning to be flexible and adaptive, while remaining focused on your goals together, sets the stage to handle any unknown.
If you and your spouse approach goal setting with the right attitude, you might be surprised at the type and significance of the goals you set. You’ll also more likely enjoy the journey, as you go through the various stages of life. What other ways have you found work in your marriage when setting goals?
Leave a comment and win a copy of this book!
The Barney’s will be sending a copy of their 48 Hour Relationship Retreat to one of the readers of Encourage Your Spouse who leaves a comment! You can enter more than once by leaving a comment on any of the posts in this series on goalsetting! At the end of of Feburary, Lori will use Random.org to draw a name from all the comments and the Barneys will mail a signed copy to the winner!