Betsy and I first met in Mexico on a volunteer trip. Though we didn’t start dating until almost a year later, we both got to know each other based on our similar passion to serve others. It has been the foundation of our relationship ever since. We had a lot of fights (and a break up) over the course of our relationship. Yet what we’ve always gone back to is our overlapping core values, though sometimes it’s taken awhile to get there. Our love for each other is anchored in our love for God and our love for people.
We believe and hope that if we have similar values and a vision that we remind each other of, we can plan a marriage that is lasting and impactful. Now I know you may feel pushback when you hear the word “plan.” Life is unpredictable, and relationships are organic. Yet the actions you take and how you react to external circumstances are decision that you make, whether they’re intentional or by default.
We don’t want our lives to just play out based on the habits we’ve developed or the emotions that come up in the moment. We want our marriage to have significance and to have a positive impact on the world around us. If you have that same desire in you, here’s how you can start.
Know Who You Want to Become Individually
Before you can start a life with another individual, you need to know who you want to be. No one else can decide that for you, and if they do, you’ll be fighting who you are and who they want you to be for the rest of your life. And that’s not fun.
You’d ideally do this when you’re single, but it can be done if you’re already in a relationship. Ask yourself the kind of person you want to be. How do you want other people to know you? What do you want to contribute in your life? What do you want to accomplish? What are the most important things to you?
When you enter into a relationship, the temptation is to conform to the other person. If you don’t have your character, your values, and your dreams defined when you’re single, they’ll be defined for you in a relationship, and they may be far away, even contradictory, to what’s most important to you.
Take some time alone to develop a personal mission statement. What do you want to do and become in life, and how do you want to get there? If you’re already in a relationship, do this activity individually and come back together to share it.
Know Who You Want to Become As a Couple
In a relationship, you don’t compromise all of who you are to match the other person’s will. Nor do both of you pursue your own agendas individually. It’s a team up – taking the similarities in your individual missions and forming a united mission.
Hopefully, there’s significant overlap in your personal goals. Similar interests and hobbies will only take you so far. But when you have similar goals, visions, and values in life, that’s powerful. Your impact as a couple isn’t only doubled, it’s multiplied.
Of course, you may have individual goals that you pursue apart from each other with support from each other. But the goals you have in common are what will drive your relationship and marriage forward. Figure out who you want to be together.
For Betsy and I, we talked a lot early on in our relationship about wanting to help others overseas and having a large-scale impact. Later on, we added on wanting to be a couple known for our hospitality. Our united goal and mission is clearly defined in our wedding vows to our community, and it’s what drives a lot of the decisions we make together.
Schedule in Intentional Planning & Checkup Meetings
As a couple, it’s important to have regular meetings to dream, brainstorm, plan, checkup and review. Yes, it sounds a lot like a business. But like a business and most things in life, success in intentionally designed, not stumbled upon.
Your relationship and marriage has little to do with what happens to you externally, but a lot to do with what you build into it. Your vision together will guide many of the big life decision you make. Your core values will determine how you react in struggles and crises. Your mission will fuel what you do with your time and resources.
As life goes on and gets busy, it’s easy to lose focus of what your goals are. Things that aren’t important slowly creep in and become prominent. That’s why it’s important to schedule in time to talk about these things.
Betsy and I used to do this sporadically, but we’ve committed and planned to do this more intentionally. Every Sunday afternoon, we take about half and hour to review our week – the ups and downs. Then we talk about next we – our hopes challenges. We remind each other of the couple we want to become, and how we’re getting there. We do this for a half day every month, for a full day every three months, and for a weekend once a year (being married less than a year at the time of writing this, we’ve done this once – a weekend retreat in January). I also have a similar plan for my personal development, as well as my business development.
With intentionality, you can design a marriage that is meaningful and purposeful. This doesn’t mean that every part of your relationship is planned, no by a long shot. Life and love are organic, and you will get curve balls thrown at you all along the way. Some are beautiful and some are painful.
But in the midst mundane and the chaos of life, you can decide who you will become – individually and together. You have complete control over that. Without thought, you’ll become a couple based on your default habits. With purposeful focus, you’ll become a couple defined by your highest aspirations.