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Prepare / Enrich Exercises from 2022 Marriage Retreat

By January 29, 2022February 1st, 2022Marriage Retreat


Several years ago our staff was trained to use a marriage health tool called Prepare-Enrich – Prepare-Enrich has two components: one component is pre-marital counseling and other component is marriage enrichment – Prepare-Enrich utilizes exercises to help address some of core areas of marriage health

So, in last bit of time this morning our goal is to give you some exercises to take with you to address growth areas in your marriage – So, I’m going to just briefly tell you what those seven core areas are and explain exercise associated with each area – So, as you are listening, I want you to be thinking about which of these areas you feel is the greatest need for growth in your marriage right now

Then, when I’m done, you’ll have opportunity to go pick up exercise associated with that growth area and take it with you and work through it with your spouse – You and your spouse may have different ideas about what your growth area is, so you’ll each have opportunity to grab an exercise – Hopefully, it’ll give you a practical tool to lean into a couple of those areas in your marriage that need some attention

1) Managing Stress

We all have stressors, personally, in our marriage, and in our family – Often, they all bleed together and rear their head most distinctively in our relationship with our spouse – Some of those stressors are within our control – Some are outside our control – Some are truly important – Some are not so important, but they’ve mistakenly become our focal point

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “Identifying Most Critical Issues” that will help you, as a couple, identify biggest stressors in your life and marriage right now, how important each one of them is, how much control you have over them, how you can work together to resolve them, or how you can simply learn to cope with them in healthy ways if they are unresolvable – “Identifying Most Critical Issues”

2) Conflict Resolution

All human relationships at some point will experience conflict, including healthiest marriage – Studies show that having conflict does not decrease marital happiness – It’s having conflict in an unhealthy way that decreases marital happiness – Happy couples do not avoid disagreements; they resolve them while remaining respectful of each other

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “Ten Steps for Resolving Conflict” that will help you, as a couple, work

through an ongoing issue in your relationship as a team rather than as opponents – So, if you have an unresolved conflict in your marriage or if you are having trouble getting to common ground on some matter in your marriage or family, this will be a helpful tool for you – “Ten Steps for Resolving Conflict”

3) Financial Management

It is said that couples argue more about finances than any other topic – Often spouses have personal expectations about money that are either not know, not reasonable, or not communicated – Therefore, financial management to become a big game of tug of war for couples

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “Importance of Financial Goals” that will help you, as a couple, set common financial goals and, hopefully, create trust, teamwork and collaboration rather than reinforcing the tug-of-war – “Importance of Financial Goals”

4) Leisure Activities

For many couples, dating and early years of marriage are times of greatest emotional connection and the time when they simply enjoy being together the most – As we get

further into marriage, especially when we start having kids, it becomes increasingly difficult to find time to connect emotionally and just enjoy being friends – We forget the “fun” – This is about a couple’s satisfaction with the amount and quality of leisure time spent together and apart

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “The Dating Exercise” that will help you, as a couple, plan out a handful of dates that you’ll both enjoy and get them scheduled on the calendar – Hopefully, it will help you build back the habit of enjoying one another – “The Dating Exercise”

5) Sexual Intimacy

Emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are correlating factors – When emotional connection goes, sexual intimacy almost certainly follows – So, giving and receiving affection is an important part of healthy marriages – Affection is not just sexual intimacy – Affection is a broad range of actions that nurture both emotional and physical intimacy – Some may be more naturally inclined to show affection, but giving and receiving affection is largely learned, and probably mostly from our parents – So, when you put two people together in marriage, they may have very different ideas about giving and receiving affection, as well as sexual intimacy

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “The Expression of Intimacy” that will help you, as a couple, discuss not just the sexual component of your marriage, but the giving and receiving of affection – “The Expression of Intimacy”

6) Marriage Expectations

Expectations are not “bad” by nature – Expectations can be good things when we understand them, they are reasonable, and they are communicated – Many of us, though, enter into marriage with unhealthy or unrealistic expectations about love and marriage that we have adopted from culture around us – When those unrealistic or unhealthy expectations cannot be met by our spouse, it creates a source of pain in relationship

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “Managing Your Expectations” that will help you, as a couple, identify and discuss any unhealthy expectations you might have for your spouse or your manage, and discuss healthier expectations – “Managing Your Expectations”

7) Clarifying and Communicating Goals

One of obstacles to healthy marriage is simply “the whirlwind” of daily life that sucks up your time, energy,

resources, and vision and begins to dictate the course of your family and marriage – Rather than being in the driver’s seat when it comes to the goals and objectives for your marriage and family, “the whirlwind” puts you in passenger’s seat

Prepare-Enrich has an exercise called “Achieving Your Goals…Together” that is designed to help you get back in driver’s seat in your marriage and family and start to steer it in the direction you want to go – This exercise will help you clarifying and defining realistic personal, couple, and family goals for the next few years and sharing them with your partner – “Achieving Your Goals…Together”

These seven exercises are all valuable exercises – I hope that one of them stuck out to each of you, that you’ll grab that particular exercise when we are through here and work through it with your spouse

But, before you do that, I want to assign all of you the foundational exercise on which all of these other exercises will be built – It is possible that, if there is already a sore spot in your marriage and you both know about it, it will be difficult to talk about, especially if you have build bad habits for talking about difficult things – If that is case, a worksheet

will not resolve your issue – It might just make things boil over again

So, before you do any other worksheet, I want you all to go read through sheet on communication called “Assertiveness and Active Listening” together – And then I want you to practice assertiveness and active listening by using the worksheet called “Creating a Wish List” – The goal is to help you get used to communicating in a clear, helpful, and healthy way before you move into a tough topic – If you can’t communicate with your spouse in a respectful, responsible, self-aware way, it’s going to be hard to have a conversation about anything important

So, here’s overview of Assertiveness and Active Listening:

“Assertiveness is the ability to express your feelings and ask for what you want in the relationship.” – Some people are not very good about expressing what they want or need – They feel selfish or needy or are afraid of how their spouse might respond – But what often happens to those people is that they consistently have unmet expectations and they harbor that bitterness inside rather than communicating with their spouse – So, we have to have assertiveness to communicate what we think and feel

Here are characteristics of assertive speaking: -Take responsibility by using “I” statements -Avoid statements beginning with “you” -Make constructive requests

-Include your feelings as well as the facts Examples:

Don’t say: “The way you handled that situation with Tommy at the dinner table was terrible.” – You statements, not constructive

Say: “I’m confused and frustrated by what happened at the dinner table tonight. Can we talk about that after the kids go to bed?” – I statement, constructive request

And then, on the other side of communication is active listening:

“Active listening is the ability to let your partner know you understand them by restating their message.” – Often, if you are like me, as soon as you realize your spouse is making a request or offering constructive feedback, you start formulating your self-defense in your head – You don’t even hear them out, you start looking for a rebuttal – That’s not

active listening – We have to set aside our pride and our selfishness and hear them out

Here are characteristics of active listening:
-Do your best to listen without interrupting or beginning to formulate your response
-Before you respond, acknowledge content and the feelings of the speaker by speaking it back to them


Don’t say: “Tommy was being disrespectful.” – While you may be right, you are not acknowledging that you hear your spouse – Instead, you are justifying your own behavior and, in so doing, blowing off your spouses frustration and confusion

Say: “I hear you saying you are confused and frustrated by what happened at the dinner table and you’d like to talk about it after the kids go to bed. Let’s talk about it then.”

These are basics of assertiveness and active listening – You can’t communicate like this all time – That’s unrealistic – The goal is to grow your self-awareness of when you need to switch gears to this form of communication with your spouse

And I love this quote – I want to leave it with you as you head off to communicate with your spouse – David Augsburger, professor of pastoral care and counseling at Fuller Seminary says, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” – Be a good listener!

So, from here you all can go get your “Assertiveness and Active Listening” and “Wish List” worksheet, then each of you can pick up one of the other exercises to take with you to work on

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