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Thanks to Jiffy Lube, most of us know the
drill by now: either do it yourself, or take your car
in for a regular tune-up and oil change every three
months or three thousand miles. Fail to maintain
your vehicle in this fashion, and you run the risk of
your engine locking up and stranding you on the
side of the road somewhere in the middle of rush
hour traffic.
How odd, then, that many of us would be
so committed to the routine maintenance of our
vehicles, and yet so often overlook the necessity of
giving similar routine attention to our marriages.
Clearly, one of the main purposes of marriage is to
function as a means of grace in the sanctification
of Christian couples. But, in order for marriage to
function this way, we must be strategic, pro-active,
and intentional. If husbands, in particular, are fun-
damentally passive, we should expect that our mar-
riages will dissipate, much as we would expect our
car engines to wear down and eventually lock up in
the absence of routine maintenance.
With that in mind, I offer the following as
one practical suggestion of something that Chris-
tian husbands may wish to consider as a tool to
use in a more routine and intentional effort to lead
their marriages for the glory of God.
The Tool: A Spiritual Discipline, of Sorts,
for Marriage

In the simplest terms, this “tool” is a man-
ageable list of questions that I have attempted to
consolidate over the years for regular use in our
marriage.1 The goal of using this tool, in the context
of a covenantal marriage relationship, is simply that
we would routinely revisit these questions together
with honesty, love, and encouragement, so that,
over time, this marital spiritual discipline might
serve as a means of grace in enabling us to become
more and more like the husband and wife that God
desires for us to be. As a tool, this list of questions is
certainly not definitive, but I do believe that it can
be useful. If you, as the reader, find it helpful, then I
recommend adapting it for the best possible usage
in your marriage.
The Mechanics: How to Put this Process in
Motion and Avoid Viewing it as a Drudgery

As far as putting this procedure in motion,
I recommend setting aside two occasions a year to
do this sort of review and assessment of how things
are going in your marriage. In our case, we alter-
nate four times a year between doing this review
of our marriage and a similar kind of assessment
of shepherding our children. In any case, when it
comes to this marriage “tune-up,” one gets paired
with our anniversary celebration, and the other gets
scheduled six months later. I suggest scheduling
all the dates in advance, planning for babysitters
if needed, and committing to these times, so that
there’s no last minute scrambling about when, or
even, whether to do this.
At the same time that committing to these
regular “tune-ups” can be valuable, we also want
to avoid viewing them as a routine, but unpleasant
necessity like going to the dentist. So here’s a sug-
gestion to that end: try to plan these occasions in
such a way that they involve an outing that is, per-
haps, a little nicer than usual, so that you will have
additional reasons to look forward to these times
with a sense of anticipation.
When coinciding with our anniversary,
for example, we have often tried to make spe-
cial arrangements for a getaway that extends over
a couple of days. With advanced planning and a
willingness to swap childcare services with other
couples (if grandparents aren’t nearby), this is not
terribly difficult to accomplish.2 Nor does it have
to be ultra-expensive. There have been years when
all we could afford was a night at the local Holi-
day Inn because gas money for a road-trip in addi-
tion to a hotel would have been too expensive. We
still benefited from changing the scenery, going to
dinner, and having a bit more of an extended time
to be relieved of our parenting responsibilities and
focus in on our marital tune-up. One nice thing
about having a more extended time is that the con-
versation can flow more easily without feeling the
pressure of the clock to get home.3
On the non-anniversary occasions, I still plan
for an enjoyable evening, by going for dinner at
a place that may be a little nicer than we would
ordinarily consider. Again, these kinds of periodic
“extras” are meaningful occasions for a husband to
demonstrate his on-going courtship of his wife. In
this kind of setting, the occasion now becomes a
romantic dinner and evening of conversation and
not merely a chore to complete one night after the
kids have gone to bed.
Then, over the course of dinner, we use the
time to take a serious look at how we are doing in
our roles as husband and wife, by conversing our
way through the questions below (as well as any
other items that come up.) We have found this to be
a helpful time, both in the way that it exposes and
helps root out sin, and in the way that it reminds
us of the many things each of us appreciates about
the other. Both of those dimensions give us many
reasons to be thankful to God. Inevitably, there are
moments of laughter, shared joy, fond recollections,
words of encouragement, apologies, and exchanges
of forgiveness. And when the date is done, we leave
realistically aware that there are many things yet to
work on. But we also leave these occasions with a
sense of refreshment and renewed intimacy, as well
as a deep gratitude to God that he has sustained us
in his grace for another six months.
Some More Context

Permit me to offer a few more big-picture
suggestions before attending to the conversation
and questions specifically.
(1) Lest there be any confusion, I want to state
explicitly that I am not commending only talking
to your spouse about things that matter twice a
year. The point is that these two occasions become
fixtures on the annual calendar, where we may
more formally and deeply get into matters that we
discuss on more of an ad hoc basis from week to
week. I firmly believe in the importance of a more
regularly recurring date night as well—an occasion,
which in my view, should be designed mainly to
enhance communication and personal engagement.
So, while going to the movies can be an enjoyable
leisurely activity together from time to time, if
that’s all we ever do, we should stop to consider
whether that really serves to enhance our commu-
nication with one another. Might it not be better to
exchange dinner and a movie for dinner and a walk
on some of those occasions?
Here, again, finances need not be a major
obstacle. At a stage in life with young children,
we have neither the time nor the budget to pay
for a babysitter so that we can go for an evening
out every week. But our house does have a balcony.
So a couple times a month, instead of going out,
we have a “balcony date” in our own home after
the kids have gone to bed. No T.V. No DVDs. No
answering the phone. Just a candle-lit evening of
coffee and conversation right there on our own bal-
cony after the kids are asleep.
(2) In the time leading up to the conversation,
be in prayer—both together and individually—that
God would use this time in significant ways. These
questions are just a tool. There’s nothing magical
about them. The grace comes from God, and we
should be sure to place our hope for our marriages
in him.
(3) A succinct list of questions is a usable list
of questions. In using a tool like this, there are many
ways to go. I have seen some lists of questions that
run on for pages. The advantage of a longer list, of
course, would be in the attention to detail. My fear,
however, would be that such lists could be daunting
in their length, either discouraging the attempt to
use them in the first place, or leaving one feeling
rushed to get through the list in the allotted time.
(4) Husbands, it is your responsibility to bless
your wife by taking this kind of initiative. If you
make this type of marital spiritual discipline a pri-
ority and listen well to your wife’s answers, she will
be blessed by it. I believe that most wives would
rejoice for their husbands to lead them in this fash-
ion. Just think of the gifts of security and love your
bride will receive from you if you take this kind of
godly initiative. It is hard to imagine that many
wives would cringe at the prospect of receiving
those gifts.
Guidelines for the Conversation

Here are a few suggestions to remember dur-
ing the conversation itself: (1) Obviously, both hus-
band and wife should take a turn answering each
question. So, when it’s your turn to listen, listen.
One reason this practice can be especially helpful
is because it gives clear license to the other person
to say what’s on his/her mind—especially when he/
she knows that the other person is really going to
listen. Do not rush to debate or self-defense. Start
by listening. Your spouse loves you and knows you
very well. There is likely to be quite a bit of truth
in what he/she says about you. You would be wise
not to scorn their counsel or reproof (Prov 12:1;
15:31–32).
(2) When it’s your turn to talk, say it with
love, but speak honestly. Your spouse certainly can-
not heed your concerns if he or she does not know
your concerns.
(3) Share criticisms, if need be, but share
encouragement too. No one is going to look for-
ward to doing this regularly, if he always and only
gets beat up by it. To this end, I suggest trying to
open and close the conversation with statements
of several things that the husband and wife love
and appreciate about the other. But, the individual
questions should also be looked at as opportunities
to share encouragement and thankfulness as well
as critique.
(4) Be quick to confess sin and quick to for-
give. If you do, the whole conversation will be
enhanced all the more as it becomes clearly cen-
tered on the cross.
(5) Come with a notepad handy. I always jot
down our responses, areas for growth, and new
issues or questions to factor into consideration in
subsequent evaluations. Don’t waste the opportu-
nity for growth that can come from this conver-
sation by neglecting to make note of those things
that need some attention.
(6) Because you’re both sinners, don’t expect
that you will ever achieve perfection, and don’t
become discouraged, over time, when such perfec-
tion inevitably does not come. Instead, approach
this spiritual discipline with the mindset that you
will seek to use it, by God’s grace, to promote a
progression in growth over time.
The Questions for Discussion

After praying and seeking God’s blessing on
our time, we turn our attention to the following
questions:
(1) On a scale of 1-10, give your overall assess-
ment of our marriage in the past six months. To be
sure, this is a very broad and subjective item, but I
have found it helpful to open the conversation with
an item of this kind of breadth, because it helps to
prime the pump. Obviously, you won’t hit on a ton
of specifics with this one—that’s what the rest of
the questions are for—but I have been truly amazed
at just how much discussion this assessment alone
can generate, as various issues come to mind. From
there, we’re off and running. Follow-up questions
in the event that the conversation fails to gain
traction initially: What have been the strengths
of the past six months? What would make your
assessment higher?
(2) How has the husband’s leadership been
over the past six months? The wife’s support? Fol-
low-up: How can I improve in fulfilling my respec-
tive role?
(3) How is your walk with God, both person-
ally and as a couple?
(4) Where do you see ungodliness in my life?
(5) Do I have any unconfessed sin that needs
to be shared with my spouse?
(6) Are we guarding meaningful time together?
Prayer? Conversation? Date Night?
(7) How is our sex life?
(8) What could I do to make you feel more
loved/secure/respected?
(9) How can I serve you better?
(10) What are the issues that we need to
anticipate in the upcoming six months?
(11) What’s your greatest personal disap-
pointment and your greatest satisfaction in the last
six months?
(12) How can I best pray for you?
(13) What are our major upcoming mutual
prayer concerns?
(14) Spend a few moments, in an encouraging
fashion, sharing several of the things that each of
you loves and appreciates about the other.
(15) Then close, by spending some concerted
time in prayer for those prayer concerns you just
shared, as well as thanking God for his faithfulness
to you as a couple over the past six months.
The Resultant Day-to-Day Benefits of this
Practice

Not surprisingly, when this practice becomes
incorporated routinely into your relationship, there
are potential day-to-day benefits as well as the more
periodic ones. Here are several that come to mind.
First, these periodic conversations can stimu-
late reminders of the daily ways that you can min-
ister to your spouse’s needs. Second, the regular
interaction offers one means of accountability to
you, in that it can help highlight areas of sin in
your own life that might otherwise go unnoticed
without the benefit of someone else shining the
spotlight. Third, these discussions can also help to
increase intimacy within marriage. After all, you’re
not just business partners. And conversations about
balancing the checkbook, while necessary, are not
the most important component of your marriage.
To the degree that God uses these kinds of discus-
sions to help you lift your gaze from the daily grind,
they can help you recalibrate your marital priori-
ties, so that you feel and live more like what you
are, namely, covenant companions modeling, albeit
imperfectly, the relationship between Christ and
his church. Fourth, these conversations can provide
a context for issues to be discussed as they come up
on a more ad hoc basis. That way, when your wife
reiterates one of her concerns in the middle of the
week, it doesn’t appear to be coming out of the blue
with the result of making you defensive. Instead,
that concern now comes with a context.
In the end, my hope is that God will enable
you to use this or some other similar tool to the end
of more faithfully honoring him in your marriage.
May God grant us all the needed grace.
Endnotes
1 These questions are not all unique and original to me. Since I origi-nally developed this tool for personal use some years ago, I do not remember the “historical origins” of all of these questions. Some
have been picked up along the way from other sources or conversa-
tions with other people. Some have been adapted to suit our pur-
poses. And I have arrived at some of them independently. But, as
the questions themselves are rather simple, I’m certain that other
couples have asked all of them before, even if they’ve not put them
in print. One of the most thought-provoking and helpful resources
that I can commend for more fruitful reflection along these lines is
C. J. Mahaney, Sex, Romance, and the Glory of God: What Every
Christian Husband Needs to Know (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004).
2 Understandably, overnight getaways are harder to come by when
there is an infant in the home.
3 Here’s a suggestion to older, more financially stable couples (and
even to grandparents): if there’s a young family in your church that
you love and mentor, find out when their anniversary is and bless
them, either by giving them $100 for such a getaway, or by offering
to keep the kids for an overnight retreat. That’s a very practical way to bless younger couples. Speaking from experience as a recipient, I can say that the value of such a gift is truly inestimable.
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