Transforming Ordinary into Extraordinary Marriages
Summer 2008

Marriage as a Transformational Experience - Part II

To read Part I, click here

This newsletter is the second in a two part series for couples wishing to transform their ordinary marriages into Extraordinary Marriages. While most marriage books and articles urge you to solve problems and reduce symptoms of marital distress, we invite you to move beyond a problem focus to a possibility focus. By broadening and building on what is right and good in your relationship, you will call each to greatness.

In the first part we covered three practices for deepening your influence with one another: communication, connection, and creative contentiousness. In this issue, we will add three more practices: strengths, strategic planning, and sit-downs. Adopting these six practices will help both newlyweds establish good lifelong habits and other couples rise above the dailyness of married life to new levels of intimacy and satisfaction.


Using your strengths both individually and as a couple can deepen and enrich your life. Studies by positive psychology researchers have found that the more you use your strengths in vocation and avocations, the better your overall happiness. One of those researchers, University of Michigan psychologist Chris Peterson has developed a strengths tool called the Virtues in Action (VIA) which measures 24 self-rated strengths. Using a method of matching similarities of the virtues or values from the literature of the world religions and philosophical systems, he and his colleagues boiled them down to six categories of four strengths each. To measure your own 24 Virtues In Action, go to and take the VIA. It will give you your top five strengths. Putting these strengths in the forefront of your life will make you a happier individual – more likely to enjoy life - and bring a good energy to your marriage.

While the VIA has not been validated for couple use, we suggest that after you get your individual scores, you retake it together noting how you might answer those same questions collectively, namely, “Is this true of us as a couple?” Once you have a VIA profile as a couple, discuss the ways you use or could increase the use of your individual and couple strengths vocationally and maritally. As a result, you will begin to deepen your connection by emphasizing your collective strengths. For example, maybe your spirituality is a strength that you can draw on during the difficult times. Or maybe you can deepen your shared love of learning by taking a course together.

Strategic Planning

Use the results of your VIA (individual and couple) to write individual and couple mission statements to give focus to the use of your values and strengths.

To write your mission statements, use this quick formula developed by Laura Beth Jones in her book, “The Path.” Pick three verbs that describe your strengths as a couple, for example, “we entertain, teach, and support.” Then pick 2-3 groups for whom you do those verbs, for example, our friends, our family, and our church. Then list 3-8 virtues that you believe to be important to you such as faith, hope, love, truth, justice, beauty, etc. Here is the formula:

Our mission is to _________, _________, and ________(verbs),
For our _____________, _____________, __________ (groups),
Who want (or need) ___________, ____________, _______ (values).

Once written, your mission statements will give focus for how to spend your time, talent and treasures. To project a future vision of the results from livingyour mission(s), ask yourself:

Remember to adopt an attitude of openness when you bring up suggestions for your individual growth and your couple growth. Throwing cold water on your partner’s ideas will discourage s/he from bringing up other new ideas. Instead, encourage creativity at this stage by holding off on the practical details about time and expenses.


Once you have articulated mission statements and visions, it is time to get practical. What are the steps towards the realization of those dreams? How will you know if you are on track?

The marital sit-down is an excellent practice for creating and tracking transformational change. Its simple format can serve many functions – brainstorming, problem solving, or tracking individual and couple goals. Here are the guidelines for a good marital sit-down:

Experimenting with these practices requires trust and a non-defensive openness to feedback. Implemen-ting them will take you past the everyday challenge of living with your mate to a realm of intriguing possibilities.

Email us if you would like a ½ hour complementary coaching session to:

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