Oct 092018 2 Responses

A Simple Step that Improved Our Marriage

When Jenny and I were dating, we stumbled on a simple act which continues to pay dividends years later. We started dating in October of our senior year (although she probably didn’t admit that we were together for a year). After graduating from college, she spent the summer in Montana and I was in Arizona. We went our separate ways not sure of where the relationship was headed, but just a few weeks of being apart convinced us that we wanted to be together.

We knew when the summer was over, I was headed to Alabama for graduate school. What was unknown was where she would be. As we began to look toward the future and discuss the possibility of her joining me in Alabama, we did something. I bought a book about marriage and read it. Then I sent it to her. She read it. Then I bought another book. The process repeated itself several times that summer and continued when she decided to move to the south.

Benefits of Reading

The benefits were many:

Separated by distance, it gave us a shared experience. Friendship is based on shared experience. Even though we were separated by space, doing the same activity connected us.

When our relationship was based on phone calls, it gave us something to talk about. In those days, the only time we spent together was on the phone. Sometimes conversation comes easily, but sometimes it doesn’t. By reading the books, we always had things to talk about.

It got us acquainted to thinking critically about our relationship. Oftentimes, couples do not think about their relationship as its own entity. They never think about “us.” By reading these books, it created the habit of Jenny and I thinking about who we are as a couple. (See: What You Are Doing Wrong in Marriage)

It forced us to consider aspects of our marriage we would have ignored. We all have pet topics. We have things we want to discuss or feel comfortable discussing. Left to ourselves, we will continue to come back to those topics. By reading the work of someone else, it forced us to confront topics and ideas we wouldn’t have discussed on our own.

It empowered us to build a strong foundation. By doing this habit before we were engaged, Jenny and I built a strong foundation. It didn’t guarantee a great marriage, but it did make it much more likely. From the beginning, we were talking through our relationship, considering what we needed to work on, and learning from others who were further down the road than we were. (See: Step One in Marriage–The Creation of Us)

Do What We Did

This habit of reading wasn’t just a good idea for a young, dating couple. It’s a great idea for every couple. We still will share books. After reading something which I think would interest Jenny, I’ll bring the book from my office and put it on her nightstand. As she reads, we will discuss things that we both found interesting. We no longer just read books about relationships. We have broadened our topics to business, faith, and personal growth.

It’s amazing the benefits this process brings to us as a couple and to each of us individually. Reading is powerful. Reading together multiplies the benefits. Every couple could benefit by making a plan, regularly reading, and discussing what you read.

Three Places to Start

One of my favorite aspects following the publication of Friends, Partners & Lovers was hearing stories from couples who read the book together and used the study questions at the end of each chapter to discuss what they read. Marriages, where one or both spouses traveled, told me about how much the process brought them together even when they were in different states. Some found it interesting to see what sentences their husband or wife would underline. Others used a sheet of paper as a bookmark and wrote notes to each other on the paper.

Obviously, FPL would be a good place to start if you want to try this new habit. But there are two other options:

The simplest way to start is to get a copy of the new 31-day devotional I have created as a companion to my new book, Happily. Each day’s devotional is based on a Proverb and has a short reading which reflects on that passage through the lens of marriage. If you’ve never read together with your spouse, start here. Pre-order Happily and then go HERE to download your free devotional.

When you’ve finished the devotional, dive into the content of Happily. Each week, both spouses can read a chapter. Then you can use the questions at the end of each chapter as a discussion starter regarding what you’ve read.

In twenty years of being together, Jenny and I have never regretted taking an intentional step toward one another. Every time we do something to help our marriage, we are grateful we did. Reading together is one of the cheapest yet most effective decisions you can make.

Start today by forwarding this message to your spouse. Order the book, get the devotional, and invite them to join you in learning together.

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