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As we approach the end of the year, many of us will take time to reflect on different areas in our lives. There is nothing magical about the turn of the calendar page. Yet if the flip from December to January causes us to think about what’s really important, I’m all for this little bit of common grace.

Some of us will put together new exercise goals. Some of us will find the right Bible reading plan for next year. Some of us will zero in on a new schedule for Bible memorization. All of these are important (especially the last two). Let me suggest one other plan for the end of the year: check in on your marriage.

As a pastor, I’ve seen too many marriages flounder (or fall apart) over the years. The church usually is good about rallying around a couple for sympathy, counsel, and comfort in the midst of marital trials. What we may not be as good at is helping each other before the problems become acute. We need a place for marital triage in the church, but we also need regular check-ups.

Here are 15 questions to help you and your spouse take the relational temperature of your marriage:

1. How often do we laugh together?

2. When is last time we had a meaningful conversation about something other than our schedules or the kids?

3. Do we ever turn on music and sing and dance and act silly?

4. How many times in the last month have we prayed together or read the Bible together?

5. Do we ever hold hands?

6. Has our physical intimacy grown cold, infrequent, or a source of too much pressure and stress?

7. When is the last time we said “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you”?

8. When is the last time we said “Thank you” for regular, ordinary task like making dinner, doing the dishes, paying the bills, fixing the car, or folding the laundry?

9. When is the last time we (cheerfully!) said, “How can I help you this week” (and meant it)?

10. When is the last time we surprised each other with a gift, a note, or a night out?

11. Have we raised our voices at one another in the last month?

12. Are we more eager to spend time with someone at work, at church, or at the gym than we are with each other?

13. When we have time together at home, just the two of us, is the television always on in the background?

14. Are there hurts or sins or fears that we need to disclose to one another?

15. How might the love of God the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit shape our life together in this season of marriage?

Not a perfect list of questions, certainly not an exhaustive list. But perhaps it’s a start. God’s grace flows best in marriage when we are talking together.

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7 thoughts on “An End-of-Year Marriage Check-Up”

  1. doug sayers says:

    Good questions, a couple have stung a bit but hopefully they will get the proper remedy. Thanks Doc.

  2. doug sayers says:

    Previous comment disappeared (not sure why) but thanks Kevin. This is a good diagnostic list that has made me identify some weak spots in my 38 year old marriage. Never too old to be more like Jesus.

  3. neville briggs says:

    Mr De Young wrote ” What we may not be as good at is helping each other before the problems become acute. We need a place for marital triage in the church, but we also need regular check-ups. ”

    I think that this is an important observation.
    I have also seen relationships and peoples lives fall apart in the church and people fail, and I think it is a fault of the church ( myself included ) that there was no early “intervention” to help prevent disasters.

    I think the answer for what Mr De Young calls marital triage is the effective and biblical role of the elders and overseers.
    From a careful reading of the apostolic epistles it seems that these people were not privileged office holders but older and experienced Christians who took on the role of watching over the church and taking action to ” nip in the bud ” any signs of brothers or sisters going astray in any way.
    These days in my experience it appears that elders more often just operate as a sort of panel set up to deal with offenders in a legalistic way after the deed, rather than to daily mentor and encourage their fellows to walk in the path of Christ.

    The apostle Paul chastised the Corinthian Christians ( 1 Cor. ) for various misbehaviours including gross immorality , and all his remarks were directed to the community as a whole not to a select leadership.

    I think Mr De Young is right that ” prevention is better than cure ” but to do this maybe the churches need to have a careful look at reforming the so-called eldership.

  4. doug sayers says:

    My TGC comment mystery? Now you see ‘em now you don’t. Maybe this is why my kids make fun of their neanderthal Dad and His BlackBerry.

  5. Patrice says:

    What do you do when I, as a wife am concerned about a lot of these questions in my marriage but my husband doesn’t want to talk about it. He just sees it as another stressful thing he has to deal with in his life. Sigh:(

  6. Laura says:

    Patrice, that’s a tough one. My suggestions, and perhaps someone else will add to them.

    1 – Set an example of the behavior you want to see. Say “please” and “thank you”, slip your hand into his when you are walking together, that kind of thing.

    2 – Ask for specific things you want, just one thing at a time. I like it when my husband praises my cooking, probably because of my mother’s and grandmother’s more traditional household roles and the fact that in the back of my mind I wonder if I am measuring up. So when I prepare a meal and he is silently eating it, I ask him out loud how it is and if he is enjoying it. And he’s always enthusiastic about it when I ask. If I were to tell him “I wish you would be more forthcoming about telling me my cooking is good” I bet it would come across to him as a burden and an implied complaint.

  7. Grace says:

    I know our marriage is in need of help. Problems are not acute but there is a loss of pleasure and joy. This list mostly identifies symptoms, but what suggestions do you have for moving forward?

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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