Each year come tax time, couples sit down and itemize each aspect of their financial picture. In fact, it is not uncommon for people to analyze and review their financial picture monthly or quarterly even; taking proactive measures for improvement every chance they get. Your employer does the same thing with you each year when you get your review. Even your children’s school sets aside frequent times throughout the year for you to monitor progress so that you can deal with any issues before they become problems. Actually, human beings spend a lot of time in review mode for things as simple as their landscaping to as complex as their retirement. Yet few, engage or even think about having an annual marriage review to logically dissect the good and bad of the marriage or to formulate a plan of action for making it better. Sadly, marriage reviews don’t happen until you are sitting across from one another in a lawyer’s office waiting to divide assets and children. It makes you wonder, why don’t we spend more time reviewing one of the most important relationships in our lives?
In order for a marriage review to work, both partners would have to promise to set aside their feelings and resentments so that issues could actually be discussed with level heads. In other words, each couple could write a few bullet points under “needs improvement” and just because ‘sex life’ is listed, doesn’t mean anyone can get their feelings hurt or cast blame. It would have to be done with a business sense, which in many ways a marriage is. It would also be important for there to be some clear-cut order and direction to the review process, just like there is in any other. Perhaps coming up with a form that contained a question and answer series, true and false questions and some essay responses would be a good way to conduct the review. It may even be necessary and a good idea to find a mutual party to act as the mediator for the event in case either partner starts allowing emotions to come into play.
The point would be to come up with a plan for your marriage that would make each forthcoming year better than the past year. One of the chief complaints in marriages is that each person no longer feels they can communicate to their partner. The marriage review would help to bridge that gap. And in fairness, each couple would be able to give reviews over things that they feel are important to them. For instance, if the husband is a bit put out that his wife gained a few pounds and perhaps spends a bit too much money; he can bring it up in the review. And she on the other hand can explain how his beer belly and lack of foreplay in the bedroom are issues with her. The point of this review would be like any other review. To bring forth the issues and come up with plans for resolution. You could even include a rating system, listing in order the things of importance to each of you and give it a score of 1–10. For instance, categories could be things like financial stability, division of housework, childcare, sex life, communication, general happiness, and others.
Another aspect of the marriage review would be to put forth a plan for change in the coming years. Considering that people and relationships change as time goes on, it only makes sense that your goals will change with them. What you used to want and what may have been important to your marriage 5 years ago isn’t always relevant now. By holding a marriage review, both halves of the whole would be able to reinvent the relationship and discuss goals to keep it moving forward. Just like in a job review, your boss may give you a raise and add some new responsibilities; a marital review could raise the bars of success in your marriage.
The most beneficial aspect of a marriage review is that it gives you a chance not just to critique, but to compliment as well. Each of you could have an open forum to affirm the areas of your marriage that you feel are working perfectly. You would be able to praise your partner and receive praise, as well as take moments of feeling eternally grateful that you have the partner you have. This focusing on the positive should actually be part of the marital review. Listing the areas for improvement should be done with a very solution like mentality, rather than one that is nagging. After all, if you can succeed at a team at many things, then you can use that same energy directed toward the same goals to succeed at anything the two of you put your mind too.
Obviously, it would be difficult to avoid hurting your partner’s feelings or having your hurt in the process of the marriage review. But grow up! You aren’t going to like everything you hear – but as long as the spirit of the review is to make things better, than realize it is better to hear it honestly, than to not hear it all. And, problems are easier to solve when they haven’t been underlying your marriage for a decade or more. So doing the review annually would help to ensure your marriage isn’t suffering from pent up emotions and soiled resentment.
Most people spend more time planning a wedding than they do thinking about making a marriage work. But, the truth is hosting an annual honest, open marriage review could be one of the best things you do for your family situation. Marriage takes work. Often, two people become so tangled in responsibilities and feelings that they just don’t take the time or effort to assess the good, the bad, and the ugly of their marriage until it is far too late. Sure, it would be a hard review to sit through. But rather than think of it as something you pass or fail, think of it as a way to strengthen your marital bonds and help avoid divorce. After all, that is what you meant when you took your vows.