Start, Stop, Keep

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Marriage is really, really fun and at the same time really, really hard. Aren’t a lot of the more worthwhile things in life that way? Over the course of the last several years, Trey and I have learned more about ourselves than we probably did in our whole lives before marriage.

But wait, if you are reading this and are single, please don’t tune out yet… I promise what I am about to share can be used in more than just the context of marriage.

I had a personal blog (that I posted on like four times) previously and I wrote about what I am about to share with you. When I shared it, the response was pretty overwhelming (mostly because I thought only my mom and husband were reading) so we thought that it might be worthwhile to share again.

Most of us have started the new year with such high aspirations and hopefully your aspirations haven’t already been crushed and you are still trucking through. (If you already feel like 2018 is a “fail”, don’t worry, we have a post coming for you!) Many of us have goals surrounding our relationships and wanting to better those relationships. What I am about to share with you would benefit ANY relationship, (with your boyfriend, your best friend, your co-worker, your roommate), I just happen to be sharing it from my experience utilizing these questions within the context of marriage.

Full disclosure: These questions are by NO MEANS the answer to all of your relationship problems, but for us, they have been a really good check-in for us each week. We, by no means, have this whole marriage thing figured out & are really glad that we have the rest of our lives to try to get our act together.

So, get to the point already… what are these questions? Well, we’re almost there...

We got this idea while Trey was reading A Dude’s Guide to Marriage (HIGHLY recommend). At the end of each chapter, they have discussion questions & they would continuously ask three questions in regards to a particular topic (communication, conflict, etc.). We have basically just stolen those three questions and applied them to our relationship as a whole. Each week we try to set aside time, usually on Sunday nights, to “do our questions”. When we sit down to talk through them, we both have to be in relatively good moods, eliminate distractions, (i.e. put our phones away), and be willing to have the conversation.

What are the questions? Glad you asked…

What do I need to stop doing?

This one is always the tough one, which is why we get it out of the way first! Essentially we are asking, “what is it that I’m doing that is hindering us from communicating well? From feeling connected? From you being able to feel valued and loved?” It’s not always easy to hear, especially when your husband has to tell you the SAME ONE every week because you’re STILL doing it, but it is unbelievably helpful. I’m not joking, guys… Trey has asked me to stop correcting him constantly (over ridiculous, meaningless things) for about a year and a half now, and I’m still doing it. BUT, by having these conversations, I am so much more aware of when I do it & how it affects him (it annoys him to no end), which has allowed me to start to catch myself more often. I even have started to ask him at the end of a social event if I did it or if anything I said or did came off in a condescending manner. I still do it, but it’s about progress not perfection, people! We haven’t always communicated well through our frustration and this allows us to address something that is really bothering us in a relaxed state where neither of us are angry or upset, which means both of us are more willing to be open to what the other person is saying. It’s not necessarily very fun to hear, and it can be very humbling, but it is so helpful… even when week after week you can’t get your act together. Sorry, Trey.

What do I need to start doing?

This one has been huge for us. One example that we have seen tremendous growth in is that Trey & I have very different love languages and the way that we “give” love is not necessarily the way that the other person “receives” it. You can probably guess how that turned out. We (read: I) either wouldn’t say anything and become frustrated that the other person couldn’t read our minds and know what we wanted OR we (read: I) would bring it up in a not so healthy way. This question allows us to give each other ideas on how to better serve and love each other. One of the ways I feel most loved is gifts. It doesn’t have to be anything big, at all. It can be just a little note or a gluten-free treat and it will make my WEEK. However, that is just not how Trey is wired. This question has allowed me to be honest with him in a way that doesn’t make me feel like a nag and doesn’t make him feel like he has failed.

What do I need to keep doing?

This question is the best. It allows for us to encourage each other in an area that we are totally rocking this whole marriage thing. It may be big or it may be small, but either way, it’s something that the other person is doing well. I don’t know about y’all, but I often get a little overwhelmed with all the areas that I feel like I need to improve in, especially in relationships. It is really hard being a really sinful, broken person who is married to another really sinful, broken person… Who knew? This question allows us to affirm and appreciate the effort that the other person is putting in and to feel that affirmation and appreciation. And, the very best part of this question is when something that was a “start doing” becomes a “keep doing”.

Setting aside the time each week isn’t always easy and at the beginning it did seem a little forced and maybe even a little bit cheesy, but over time it has become something that we both really look forward to.