September 6, 2018

Relationship Fitness Coaching

By Dr. Matt Eschler

The year was 1972 in St. George, Utah. I was out of school for the summer. Second grade was behind me. I had all summer to get myself ready for the rigors of third grade! I remember riding my bicycle by myself to Ben Franklin, the store on Bluff Street where you could get a root beer and a comic book for under a dollar.

Do you remember when you thought summers were a magical time period, when you left the responsibilities of school, homework, and long structured days behind, and when you looked forward to staying up late playing night games and then sleeping in? What has changed besides graduating from high school and moving out of your childhood home? We may go on to receive additional education or training, get married, or start a career, yet I cannot think of any single pathway into the adult world that has a rule saying summer has to be less than magical! Like my summer of ‘72, we will need to create the magic. It won’t create itself.

As your relationship fitness coach, I suggest you plan five mandatory events in order to restore the magic you may have lost in your romance or juice up the relationships you have maintained. These five events are going to be the best investment in your family and your love life. If you do them correctly, you will deepen the connections you have, create the intimacy you crave, and forge the friendships you need. I promise that the resources spent will promote a deeper, more intimate connection between husband and wife and will benefit the entire family.

Five mandatory meetings and retreats

The first event is “family night.” Make time once a week for the family to get together and for electronics go off. This will ensure that your family can connect at a more intimate level. This is a time for a meal together, counseling together, and having fun together. If you do this weekly, the family will all get used to the idea that phones (mom & dad included) are tucked in a drawer, making it possible for the family to connect with each other without distractions.

The second event is a weekly date night for the parents. This is specifically for “relationship self-care.” We know that we need personal self-care, but our most intimate relationship needs relationship self-care just as much or more! Plan a five-hour date with no electronics or screens. This means movie theaters as well. See what you’ve missed. If you need an idea or two, email me, and I’ll send you a five-hour date plan that is budget-friendly and incredibly intimate (

The third event is a weekly couple’s council or what John Gottman calls “The State of Our Union.” Gottman suggests a three-step approach:

  1. Express to each other 5 positive things that happened during the previous week.
  2. Take time to problem solve anything from the prior week that didn’t get resolved.        You may discuss concerns that many couples have regarding how to implement these 5 events, including how to make time and how to save money to ensure these critical events happen.
  3. Gottman suggests that the way to close your State of Our Union meeting is to ask each other this simple question: What can I do this week to show my love for you? The answer to this might surprise you, and it is a great way to show your spouse you are listening to and responding to their needs.

The fourth event is often done during the summer: a yearly family vacation. Every family needs some time away from the hustle of homework, chores, outside friends, and stress. Load up the car and go camping. See the sights in your own city while using your home as a base camp. Plan far enough ahead that you can budget all year for the super family vacation. Get the kids involved in earning a portion and helping this be a family affair.

The fifth and final event is the yearly celebration of your anniversary. Go on a re-kindling honeymoon each and every year of your marriage. There are a few guidelines to consider when you go on your anniversary trip:

  1. Leave work and responsibilities home.
  2. Leave friends and other couples to their own vacations so you can be all alone with your spouse.
  3. Be sure you are ready to court each other.

Keeping the courtship alive all year requires a reset each year without the pressures of phones, work, and kids. Trade kid watching with another couple or hire a nanny. Do whatever it takes. The kids will be fine without you for a little while.

The first thing most couples say when I suggest any of these events as they participate in our relationship fitness camps or their individual couples coaching sessions is that they don’t have the money to do them. Intimate Spending Plans can solve this objection. If you begin planning now, you can manage all five of these events each year. You can do “staycations” for two years and a super vacation every third year. Whatever the financial and time driven rotation turns out to be, it is possible to take care of your family relationship fitness. Don’t wait to begin until you get your relationship in shape. Start right now.

Here are a few tips that I have taught couples in our relationship fitness camps.  

  • Tighten up your household budget and put the savings in a separate account marked for these five events. An example could be that each member in the family stop one bad habit and place the funds they save in the vacation account. Dad can stop drinking coffee and kids can stop eating candy Monday through Friday, putting the money they would have spent in an account for a family trip.
  • Plan in advance. Think how much fun you can have searching the web, reading books, and planning the vacations or date nights you’ll enjoy. Don’t worry if Costa Rica is a few years away; get saving a little bit each week.
  • Have a clear plan for saving and keep the funds separate for these 5 events. Get everyone involved in the planning.

Get excited and get moving. Commit right now to have the best 2019 ever. Finish this summer strong and start planning the magic for your experiences next year.


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