Monday, October 15, 2012

What Temperature is Your Marriage?

What temperature is your marriage? Is there something simmering beneath the surface waiting to boil over at an inopportune moment? Or has it cooled off completely, from constantly being put on the back burner? 

The secret to a good marriage is good communication. But where do you start? It seems many marriage conversations revolve around who is picking up which kid from what event, and what's for dinner. Real communicate involves sharing from the heart. And it doesn't have to take huge chunks of time, that today's couple doesn't have. So where do you start?  With the daily temperature reading.

The daily temperature reading is an exercise my husband and I recently learned at "How to Coach Your Own Marriage" seminar, presented by Jeff and Jill Williams, authors, marriage coaches, and Jeff Williams is a Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor. The daily temperature reading involves sharing five (5) different things:

1. Appreciation
2. New Information
3. Puzzles
4. Complaints with a Request for Change
5. Wishes, Hopes and Dreams

How does it work? Each category is shared back and forth like a tennis match. First the wife might share something she appreciates, then the husband. They each moves on to New Information. Puzzles are next, sharing something that is concerning you. 

But wait! This isn't a time for problem solving! After you share your puzzle, your spouse shares theirs.  This is all about communicating what is going on inside your heart, mind and life. This is not a time for long discussions in any of the categories.  Because if you had time for long discussions, you'd be having them right? This is about taking 15 minutes and sharing with one another about your life, your day, your dreams, and keeping an open line of communication.

Next comes complaints with a request for change.  What this doesn't look like is "You never take out the trash!"  That is a complaint and an attack. What it could look like is, "I notice because you're not in the kitchen as often as I am, you don't see when the trash is full. Would you be willing to check the trash can every evening before bed so you get into the routine of taking it out before it's overflowing and I'm complaining?" 

Finally comes Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams. This is just a fun way to share something you're thinking about that you'd like to do. Keep is simple, but not necessarily small. It's totally fine to say, "I'd love to travel through Europe when the kids are grown." It could be a new mom stating, "I want to sleep through the night!" Or for me, "I want to publish a book." Speak from the heart. Nothing is too big or too small.

This daily exercise can keep you and your spouse having an open line of communication, keep the temperature of the marriage from getting too hot or too cold, and give you a better understanding of what is going on in your partner's world. Then when you have more time together without interruption, like date night, you can explore the things you've been talking about in depth. If scheduling a date night seems tough, try to schedule lunch together while the kids are at school.  Kids too young for school? Try a babysitting co-op, where you keep a friends children one Friday, and she keeps yours the next.

It's too easy to get into a rut, where your spouse becomes more like a room mate than a partner. These daily temperature checks can keep you close, even when the world is pulling you apart. Then hopefully your marriage's temperature will be just right, and no one will end up burned. 
Kelly Combs is a Christian wife, mom, writer and speaker. You can learn about Kelly by visiting her website at

Chatty Kelly


Jeff & Jill Williams said...

A great exercise that we use often! Virginia Satir, renowned family therapist came up with this and the Pairs Foundation has broadly disseminated it, We also share it in appendix to the book, "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship."

Kathryn Hughey said...

Great post! To be honest...I think number four is a little intimidating. Often, I ask myself if something is worth a potential argument, and if it is not, I do not bring it up. However, if it is I will say something...but that is hard too!

mark and jennifer dougan said...

Hi Kelly,

Your line about when a spouse can become more like a roommate is so true. Mark and I talk about that too, and race out to have a date, or spend time snuggling o the couch when we realize we haven't really bonded recently. Thanks for focusing on this too.

Have a great week.

Jennifer Dougan

Kelly Combs said...

I know what you mean Kathryn, but if you share it with a solution in a non-confrontation way, it's better than stuffing it now, and having it explode later. Hope it helps!

Kari Scare said...

Love this idea! My husband has periods where he travels quite a bit, and we always seem to become disconnected during these times. I see this tool as a way for us to keep that from happening. We are just now entering a busy travel time for him, so it's quite timely too.