May 082013 3 Responses

A Marriage Question from Ronald Reagan

Is your marriage better off today than it was four years ago?

That’s how Ronald Reagan would ask the question. I like the question, but I don’t like the time frame. I would ask, “Is your marriage better off today than it was one year ago?”

Often, when diagnosing the condition of a marriage we think in absolute terms of good or bad. We draw a line in the sand and assume it has to be one or the other.

While the good/bad dichotomy can be useful to those who easily describe their marriage as bad, it can be misleading to those who would label their marriage as good.

The problem with thinking in the terms of good or bad is it can mask problems and give the illusion that everything is ok. If our marriage is either good or bad, we don’t need to do anything until we define it as bad. As long as we think we are good, no work is required. This misunderstanding can be fatal.

Problems are best fixed, lessons are best learned, and solutions are most easily found before a marriage becomes bad. By the time a couple labels their marriage as bad, too many negative experiences have occurred, too much trust has been lost, and hearts have been broken too many times for a solution to easily be found. While even a bad marriage can become good, it takes a whole lot more work. Just as it’s a whole lot easier to stay out of trouble than get out of trouble, it’s a whole lot easier to solve a small problem than to solve a big one.

A Different Diagnostic Tool for Marriage

Instead of thinking in terms of good or bad, I like to think of marriage in terms of direction.

  • Is your marriage getting better or worse?
  • Are you growing closer together or further apart?
  • Are you becoming more skilled at handling conflict or less skilled?
  • Over the past 6 months has there been more tension in your conversations or less?
  • Are you more satisfied or less satisfied with the state of your marriage compared to 5 years ago?

By asking these questions, we end up thinking in terms of direction. Which way are we headed?

Direction is a far better diagnostic tool for marriages than current location. A bad marriage headed in a good direction might be better than a good marriage headed in a bad direction. When it comes to marriage, direction trumps location.

Of course every marriage has bad seasons. I often tell couples during the wedding ceremony that there will be bad days, bad months, and even bad years. These moments should not surprise us. Bad moments in marriage can be a tremendous blessing because they can remind us of what marriage is about and motivate us to change. While we must expect imperfection, we must be quick to act when we feel our marriages are headed in the wrong direction. Better to seek help and not need it then to wait until it is too late. Better to act in hopes of changing our destination than to shrivel in apathy.

If you feel your marriage is headed in the wrong direction, here are several possible action steps to get on the right course:

  • Take a vacation together.
  • Plan a date night and talk about your marriage.
  • Call a pastor or mentor couple to discuss your feelings.
  • Make an appointment with a counselor for a check-up.
  • Attend a marriage retreat.

The key thought is to just do something. If you are afraid you are headed in the wrong direction, take action.


Set aside a time in which you and your spouse will discuss two questions:

1. What direction are we headed?

2. If we are going the wrong direction, what are we going to do about it?





3 Responses to A Marriage Question from Ronald Reagan
  1. […] requires time. To the extent we choose to spend time with our spouses, we will likely feel love for ...
  2. […] 1: Do you worry your marriage is headed in the wrong direction? A Marriage Question from Ronald Reag...
  3. […] requires time. To the extent we choose to spend time with our spouses, we will likely feel love for ...

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