“Working on Projects Together Strengthens a Marriage” is step 3 in my series “7 Steps To a Healthy Marriage.” Yes, you read the title correctly. Working on projects together is a very good way to build a healthy marriage. Just to review, in part 1, I suggested that becoming lasting best friends is the foundation of a healthy marriage. Further, the 7 elements of being a best friend are synonymous with those of a strong marriage. Next, we looked at “talking together often” and “sharing secrets” as being the 1st 2 of those 7 steps. That brings us to the idea of working together on projects.
“Then I realized that I needed to pay attention.”
One autumn day, my very good friend – soon to be my best friend – then my fiancé – then my wife invited me over to her house. We wound up alone in the basement – it’s not what you might think – making scarecrow centerpieces for a banquet she was planning to attend. It stands out so clearly to me because I had never seen someone volunteer for such a project. I wondered why someone would take their time doing such a thing. Plus, who cared about scarecrow centerpieces? In my mind, the reason for the banquet was to eat. Then I realized that I needed to pay attention. She had no siblings near her age and her social life revolved around church, school (her family didn’t attend), and her participation in Job’s Daughters.
“I began to appreciate that she had a different view and approach to relationships than I did.”
Something started to shift in my understanding of who she was that day. I understood that for her, belonging and friendship were a priority. They were for me too. My family had attended the same church as her for most of my life. Plus, my best guy friend and his 3 brothers just lived a few doors down. However, the difference was that, as a fledgling writer/singer, I was okay with being alone; something she was not as comfortable with. I began to appreciate that she had a different view and approach to relationships than I did. I liked that about her.
“She goes too slow and I go too fast, it’s as simple as that.”
Over the following two years, our friendship grew and we realized we were in love. Looking back, we both believe that love had been planted in our hearts much earlier and we were watching it bloom. Fast forward to a wedding and 50 years of married life and ministry, and we’ve worked together on countless projects. Sometimes, the differences in approaching certain projects drove us both a little crazy. Things like decorating for various holidays and seasons, planting flowers and vegetables, painting, and wallpapering (ugh!), require planning and teamwork. She is better at both. I am a plunge right in and do it alone kind of guy. She goes too slow and I go too fast, it’s as simple as that. I am very aware that her way makes for better outcomes and sweeter memories. Beyond a doubt, she is the heartbeat of our family.
We have this in common though, we both are spontaneous and sentimental. That means we might decide on a whim to buy a Christmas tree and put it up – that night. Like the year of our 1st daughter’s 1st Christmas, 1976. We lived in an apartment across the hall from our good friends Don and Cecilia. The ladies sent the guys out to buy Christmas trees while they went shopping. I put the tree in the stand and it immediately fell over. Closer inspection revealed that the middle of the tree’s trunk was cooked but it wasn’t visible unless you looked. When the girls returned, they were impressed that the trees were up. Then Kitty saw the fishing line that I’d used to tie the tree to the curtain rod. “Cover it with tinsel. Nobody’ll notice.” Now, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Something we learned by working together on projects.
“Projects build a successful relationship.”
While researching ” Working on Projects Together Strengthens a Marriage,” I came across the religion website Aleteia.org. Mathilde De Robien, a contributor, wrote the following: “Projects build a successful relationship. Taking on projects together helps the couple to be fully and concretely engaged: having children, buying a house, or organizing a trip are the types of objectives that anchor the spouses on a concrete foundation rather than just an emotional, pleasurable one. This makes the couple more secure and stable. According to (Dr.) Bosvet, projects are born when the couple is full of life when we pay attention to the desires of the other and while we share our own desires.” De Robien, Mathilde. “How joint projects can strengthen your marriage.” Aleteia.org. 12/08/18. https://aleteia.org/2018/12/08/how-joint-projects-can-strengthen-your-marriage/.
“If the woman is better at finances, then she’s in charge of the budget.”
Taking this a step further to its practical application, Focus on the Family’s website published an article titled, “Developing Teamwork in Marriage.” It says, “The most successful marriages are those where a husband and wife learn how to function as a team and lean on one another’s strengths. If the woman is better at finances, then she’s in charge of the budget. If the man is better at planning, he maps out family outings, vacations, and family devotions. As on a football squad, each player uses his talents and works with the others for the good of the whole team,” (Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family Book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright ¬© 2006, Focus on the Family).
Most every couple experiences some level of frustration or irritation when having to work on projects together. As a relationship matures, most people are willing to suppress the frustration or set the task aside for another time. Some couples, however, have a spotty record when they have to do anything together. Some won’t even consider it because of the history they have of fighting when they attempt to work together. My wife and I have worked with couples and families for 5 decades. In addition, I’ve had close working relationships with marriage counselors and therapists. As a result, I’ve compiled a list of 10 things that contribute to couples fighting when they work on projects together. Surprisingly, they are also some of the root causes of couples fighting in general. They are self-explanatory, so I won’t expound on them very much. However, I will add that when there are unresolved and deeply-seated issues in personal experience or shared history, a couple will see the ugly head of anger rise at the most inopportune times.
Ten Reasons Couples Fight
- Too much to do – Feeling overwhelmed, as though it will never be finished.
- Too little time – Unrealistic deadlines, poor scheduling, and other time demands
- Too much baggage – a history of marital problems, unresolved issues, unhealed personal wounds from childhood, substance abuse.
- Too much distraction – rowdy children, loud music, TV, phone calls, etc.
- Too little communication – A root cause of most marital trouble, immaturity
- Too little sex – Perhaps more accurately different sex-pectations.
- Too little money – Another root cause of most marital trouble
- Too many differences in priority – work, children, social activities,
- Too much pain – physical ailments, mental illness, unresolved emotional struggles, feelings of grief over death, a lost friendship, a child getting married
- Too much disappointment – Unrealized dreams, loss of employment, marital unfaithfulness, loss of interest in each other
You might be able to add to these 10 causes of fighting in marriage. If so, please let me know in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.