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Intentional Marriage

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As Boomers, we are entering the autumn of our lives. 


Things are changing in our families, relationships and marriages just as sure as the leaves are turning gold and yellow all around us.  This can be a glorious time in our marriages or a time of increasing darkness and cold.  It all depends on how intentional we are about our relationships. 
Are you and your spouse in an “intentional” relationship?  Or will the two of you end up going wherever the autumn winds take you?                 

     Have you sat down and talked about those issues that can make or break a Boomer marriage?  Issues such as retirement, empty nest, down-sizing, changing health-care needs, elder care, income changes, money management, changing roles and so forth represent major changes in the dynamics of a marriage.  Are you and your spouse being intentional about these changes?  And what do we mean by “intentional”?   

  Wikipedia defines the “intentional lifestyle” as follows:  “Any lifestyle based on a conscious attempt to live according to agreed upon values and beliefs including those based on religion and ethics.” 
     Another way of looking at it is not being reactive or not letting inertia carry us through decisions, changes and passages. 

 The Research  

     There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently called “Decisive Marriage” written by University of Denver researcher Tara Parker-Pope. 

       Based on a five-year study of 1,294 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, researchers found that, among other things, planning and having a big wedding was related to a stronger marriage…an outcome that surprised them..    

     It turns out that planning and discussing the details of the wedding was indicative of intentionality in the relationship. On the other side of the spectrum, couples who “hooked up”, moved in together and then married without much planning had less successful marriages.  

The Talk    

According to one researcher, sliding through life-altering transitions without having “the talk” leads to a poor marital outcome. “The talk” is when the couple takes time to discuss their mutual goals and define the relationship.  This is particularly important at a point of change.   

Researchers further found that “the talk” is important because when the couple makes an intentional decision regarding a change or transition in the relationship, they are much more likely to follow through on the commitment they have made to one another.   

     The major lesson taken from the study was that any couple wanting to work toward a successful marriage should make active, intentional decisions about their relationship and life-changing events rather than avoiding decision making and falling into circumstances.  In other words, we may fall in love, but that’s where the falling should end.   

       Have you had “the talk” lately? 

     Relationships are like personalities.  They grow and change with time and circumstances.  

     As our circumstances change, such as when the eldest child leaves home or one or both spouses retire, it’s important to check in with each other again…to have “the talk”.    

     If you and your spouse find yourself sliding through transitions such as we have mentioned, you may find yourself puzzled, unhappy or dissatisfied.  What may have worked all along in your marriage may now not be working at all.  You may find yourself spending more time together and not knowing how to handle it or disagreeing about financial decisions, downsizing plans, time spent with grandchildren and even household chores.   

     The hard fact is, your assumptions about what the empty nest and retirement is supposed to entail may be utterly opposite of what your spouse assumes.  If you haven’t talked about it, now is the time for “the talk.”  

   Unfortunately, for many of us, hearing, “We need to have a talk.” sounds confrontational.  It is helpful to have some guidelines…a reference point on which you can focus together rather confronting each other.  To that end, we have found a couple of good resources for you.   


A Starting Point for "The Talk"


     Most of us are familiar with Pastor Rick Warren’s best-seller, The Purpose Driven Life.  "Purpose-driven" is yet another way of saying "decisive" or "intentional".  To be purpose-driven is to have a goal, and in marriage it is a“common goal toward which the couple should be working together.  Warren gives the following five tips for marriage, which we have expanded for the Boomer couple facing change. 


1.     We were planned for God’s pleasure. (How can we as a couple offer worship to God?  What can we do together to glorify Him? How can we show his glory through our marriage?)  


2.      We were formed for God’s family. (How can we as a couple enjoy fellowship with God?  How can we fellowship with other believers?  What is our role as Boomers in God’s family of believers?)  

3.      We were created to become like Christ.  (How can we be more Christ-like?  How can we help each other to be more Christ-like? How can we learn discipleship together?  How can we disciple each other?  How can we disciple others as a Boomer couple?)

4.      We were shaped to serve God.  (How can we as a couple serve God?   How can we serve each other as God requires?  How can we use our unique skills and gifts as Boomers to serve God?)     

5.      We were made for a mission.  (What is our mission field as a couple?  How can we support each other in our efforts to live out our evangelism?)   

Another resource we discovered is theIntentionalLife.com hosted by Dr. Randy Carlson.  Carlson has created what he calls inTENtional lists…lists of ten ways to be intentional in life…or in other words, decisive or purpose-driven.  Here is his list of ten ways to be intentional in marriage.  This is also a good starting point for “the talk”.   


  1.       Listen without interruption.   



  2.      Husbands serve your wives in a way that makes them feel loved.  If you don’t know how…ask!


  3.      Wives serve your husbands in a way that makes them feel respected.  If you don’t know how…ask!


  4.      Study the Bible together.


  5.      Speak words of encouragement.


  6.      Help without being asked.


  7.      Get on the same page regarding your children and grandchildren.


  8.      Schedule regular date nights.


  9.      Together, solve a problem that you have been putting off.


  10.   Pray together every day.



      Discussing these ten points one by one should open you up to each other enough to have “the talk.”   


      Marriage is tough because it is always changing.  And it is always changing because WE are always changing.  That’s the nature of marriage, of life and of nature.  We can’t expect to enjoy the glorious colors of autumn without first experiencing cold nights and shorter days.  In the same vein, we can’t expect to enjoy a happy Boomer marriage without going through some tough times and some changes. 

        The key to staying happy with each other is to expect the changes and to have “the talk” every time a new life passage comes around.  Then, together, we can look forward to enjoying the bright colors and fresh blue skies of the autumn of our lives.


By Jene Hedden


Edited by Paula Hurtt