Helping Married Couples Get Back to the Basics
Do you ever feel like the pace of life keeps ramping up? Like life just moves by faster and faster and you’re wondering how you’ll ever get to all the things on your to-do list?
When I feel this pressure of all those lists I create in my head (play Uno with my daughter, have a spiritual talk with my son, take care of the yard, spend time with my wife other than watching Netflix, etc.), I find myself trying to find hacks to get stuff done quicker.
- Can I play a speed round of Uno and let my daughter feel like she has my full attention?
- Can I Snapchat my son a PowerPoint of the deep spiritual truths he needs to know?
- Should I buy a bigger chainsaw for the yard?
- How do I watch Netflix at 2x speed? Oh wait, we’re not supposed to be watching Netflix.
The Problem With Shortcuts
Here’s the problem: every time I try to find shortcut answers for relationship issues, I end up with shortcut solutions that don’t stick. Or ones that make the situation even worse.
People aren’t problems that need to be solved. They’re people who need to be loved. And people deserve time. They deserve attention. They deserve more than being flippant.
I’ve learned that slowing down and getting back to the basics is always the best bet—especially when it comes to loving the important people in my life well.
The basics sound easy to act upon, but often they’re not. One thing that has helped me, however, is simply focusing on these three things:
- Listen well.
- Don’t be selfish.
- Love like Jesus.
Most of us have heard stories of basketball coaching legend John Wooden, who was famous for making his players get back to basics. He reinforced the simple things such as putting socks on correctly and tying shoes tightly.
Focusing on the basics was the foundations that helped his UCLA teams win a consecutive 10 national championships. For his accomplishments, Wooden is known as one of collegiate sports’ greatest coaches ever.
We probably all have an intuitive sense of what these basics are in our marriage and family relationships. The basics are simple, but they’re rarely easy.
What is Holding Us Back?
All too often, we experience pain in our own life that keeps us from being readily able (or willing) to do the basics well in our closest relationships.
Maybe you thought for a long time you’d been practicing the basics well in your marriage, but your spouse thought otherwise. His or her comments back to you about your shortcomings in this area probably hurt.
When we experience hurt long enough, it makes us want to protect ourselves. In protecting ourselves, we often stop doing those loving basics that worked so well for us at one point.
How Counseling Helps
I’m a believer in counseling, therapy, coaching, mentoring, spiritual direction, and all the various forms of help that get us outside ourselves. These things allow us to take a more unbiased look at what’s going on in our life and relationships.
In doing so, these forms of help are always at their best when they bring us back to the basics—not when they come up with the next new wave of whatever seems hip. Keep that in mind if you’re counseling a couple, or seeking advice for your own marriage.
What I’ve found in counseling others and experiencing quality counseling myself is that it’s best to take a deep dive into understanding what’s blocking a relationship with a spouse, others and especially God.
A Program That Can Help
That’s one reason why we’re introducing a five-night personal growth intensive at WinShape Retreat called Prodigal Love. It’s led by experienced mental health professionals who have fine-tuned a process that’s proven to help people take their relationships to the next level.
The experience is grounded in an experiential group therapy process. It fosters change through action and helping individuals learn more about themselves. I’ve experienced the programming myself and it changed how I get back to the basics in my own life.
It’s always good to take a step back and ask ourselves, “What are the basics we are doing well in our marriage?” If we’re not doing them well, then it might be time to figure out why.
Matt is the director of Winshape Marriage, which hosts marriage programming through intensives and retreats held in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. (They also connect couples with adventure experiences all over the world.) Matt holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and has been married to his wife Nicole for 22 years and they have four kids.