On our 1st wedding anniversary, my husband Brian and I were so broke that we spent our special day playing frisbee on the beach (a free activity!), followed by a classy dinner at Pizza Hut ($15 is practically free!).
No need to pity us. We loved it.
Last week we celebrated our 2nd anniversary. A little less broke, we decided to step it up a notch — from Pizza Hut to T.G.I. Friday’s. (We’re really climbing the ladder now, people! And in matching outfits too.) Then we came home and finished watching the entire series of our favorite cartoon.
Couples celebrate their anniversaries in ways that are considered special, fun, and affordable by their standards. There’s no wrong way to do it.
There is, however, an activity that I think every couple should do on their anniversary.
[Insert sexy thought here.]
No, I mean aside from that.
I’m talking about a modified version of the “Annual Review”. If you don’t remember from this post, an Annual Review is a highly organized way of reflecting on the past, assessing the results of your actions, and planning for an improved future.
During our celebratory dinner, Brian and I performed one that was tailored to improving our marriage. I call it an M.A.R.– Marriage Annual Review. (Because yes, there’s a limit to my creativity.)
How To Conduct Your M.A.R.
It’s simple. Each person answers the following two questions:
What went well in our marriage this year?
What could have gone better in our marriage this year?
Next, each person should ask his or her partner:
What can I do to improve our relationship?
Hopefully, this exercise opens up valuable conversation. Here are two bonus tips:
- Lovingly listen to your partner’s answers without getting defensive. Remember, his or her feelings must be honored even when your feelings differ. In return, it is fair to expect that your answers and feelings are listened to without judgment.
- Record your answers for future reference. On your next anniversary, look over the previous year’s M.A.R. and notice any patterns, changes, and progress (or lack thereof).
A Peek Into Our M.A.R.
I won’t be sharing all the details of what happened during my M.A.R. with Brian, you nosy little thing you. But I will share something that surprised us.
When asked, “What can I do to improve our marriage,” our answers had to do with some aspect of the other person’s emotional growth and well-being. Which makes sense. Because while “Can you please put your damn socks in the hamper instead of on the floor?” is a fair request, what makes a relationship or marriage feel whole is when the two individuals that comprise it are actively working toward wholeness in their own lives.
For example, I’ve noticed a huge shift in our marriage ever since Brian left his soul-crushing job. Once he felt emotionally healthy, his actions were healthy, and thus, our marriage became healthier. Similarly, the more I healed from my depression in 2005, the better and stronger our relationship became. (It’s not easy loving a nut job. I don’t know how Brian did it for so long.)
Performing an M.A.R. can be uncomfortable. It holds both people accountable for the success or failure of a relationship. It asks you to look inward and acknowledge your own shortcomings. It holds up a mirror to who you are in a relationship.
But the discomfort that can come along with Truth is coupled with a great reward. Push through, and you will discover what Love feels like on a practical, day-to-day level.
Good luck with your M.A.R., friends. I hope it does for you what it’s done for us.