- Weekend Effect
Small Steps – Big Gains
A Personal Plan for Growth
Dick & Sue Boyd
(Excerpted from 1980
January/February Worldwide Family Spirit magazine)
For a minute, picture a 12 or 13 month-old child, attempting those
first steps alone. What an adventure for him! His determination
- no matter how many times he falls - keeps him coning back for
more, and little by little, he begins to master the art of walking.
Those baby steps are paramount to his progress.
As we look at this "journey" of ours, we realize we're
still taking baby steps - and for sure those steps are significant,
too....at least they are for the two of us.
I can remember one very special April 7th and the excited determination
the two of us had as we drove away from a retreat house in Dallas.
We were incredulous at what we had experienced during that weekend.
On Friday night as we were taking the luggage out of the car, Dick
said under his breath to me, "It's like we're walking into
prison." And I was thinking the same thing, too. Those were
very reluctant baby steps that night!
Yet as Saturday and Sunday unfolded, more and more steps were gradually
taken with less and less resistance. By Sunday that old reluctance
had dissipated and around 7:00 p.m. we were heading down 1-35 "leading
our own parade." We were ecstatic with each other, and our
blissful determination to keep us #1 -no matter what - was foremost
on our minds for a long time after that weekend.
Dialogue...great! Sex...great!! Kids, house, job, life...great!
We were taking giant steps and were having a ball. But we all know
what follows romance, don't we?
So, here we are riding this crazy roller coaster ride, called "Peaks
& Pits." Interesting ride! Sometimes we cruise along in
deep flat valleys of disillusionment - silent gaps of time, small
hurts buried, lessening of gentle thoughtfulness toward each other...you
know the ride.
Then, we hit a peak - and WOW - the view is spectacular again and
how great our coupleness seems at those times. Then, darn it, a
few days or weeks down the track, we're facing downward again. We
don't know about you, but after awhile, it seemed we were spending
an awful lot of time in the trenches. Yet we were intrigued by this
relationship ride. (It sure was a lot better than the "Merry-Go-Round"
we lived on before our weekend!) Even so, we didn't seem to be able
to exercise much direction or speed. We knew we wanted more intimacy
and wanted the top - but the activities and schedules that we were
juggling were overwhelming at times.
Amazing though how things have a way of dropping in your lap. Our
ears perked up when, not long ago, we were offered a challenge by
a special couple and priest to make our own personal plan for growth
- WRITTEN OUT. Now, we've always been good at keeping our calendar
full of plans that we had coming up, and I think Sue and I have
the indoor record for the number of "lists of things to do
around the house." (Doubt if we ever finished even one list.)
But this was different. The idea was to make the plan for us -our
own relationship, and in order to make it successful, it was suggested
that we keep it specific, simple, and short-term.
They recommended that we begin by zeroing in on maybe 2 or 3 areas
of our life together that we wanted to work on or improve, i.e.,
sex, dialogue, atmosphere in the home, romance, asking for forgiveness,
compliments, prayer, schedules, etc., and also look at perhaps eliminating
some of the negative habits we've developed like harsh judgments
It's important that what we write down be SPECIFIC. If we say we're
going to "work on improving our dialogue"- that's too
general. We need to get to the heart of our dialogue and find out
where we've gotten casual about it. Some ideas we might consider
for our plan regarding dialogue might be:
...Since my letters have gotten rather "I" centered, "this
week, I'm going to concentrate on making my letters REAL LOVELETTERS
and work on making those descriptions of my feelings come to life."
...or, in selecting our questions, "we decided to dialogue
in the area of sex at least twice each week for this month."
...or, it seems we've gotten in a rut with late night dialogues,
so "we're going to try writing our letters in the evening and
getting up a half-hour early for our dialogue for two weeks."
These are just a couple of teasers-to give you the idea. One loophole
to keep in mind is not to make a plan that's contingent on someone
else - "If you'll do this, I'll do that" - type of thing.
Then, we'll fall into the 50-50 trap.
The old K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Sweetheart) technique applies
here too. Grandiose plans look great on paper, but seldom materialize.
(Remember those baby steps count!) We need to be realistic - can
we possibly follow through with what we're planning? If getting
up in the morning for dialogue sounds good, and yet if I'm the kind
of person, who doesn't have all cylinders operating till 10:00 a.m.,
probably I won't get past the 4th morning. So, it's important to
tailor-make a plan to our relationship and our lifestyle. And starting
out with a simple plan assures us of a good chance of some success.
Giving ourselves a time frame -short-term - also makes the plan
palatable a week or a month might be a good rule of thumb. We can
always adjust it, change it, or add to it after our "short-term"
is up. Maybe we'll find we're ready for bigger stakes. The idea
behind the plan is to give us a boost daily to strive to be alive
for each other. We don't have to be leaping hurdles - but for our
relationship to grow - we can't just be coasting. Getting our plan
on paper has its benefits too. Our intentions for each other become
tangible and are a gentle reminder. Another way to assure our success
is to bounce our plan off another couple - to see if they think
it's workable and easily attained. The buddy system works well!
Our experience with these plans has been pretty good. Our track
record isn't perfect - but then neither are we. We have seen some
real growth in our intimacy with each other and with our children,
so I guess we can say it's working well for us. Most of the time
we've tried our plan for a month - sometimes only for a week-just
depended on our mood.
On our first plan, we decided to work on our dialogue - and in
particular the selection of questions. We had fooled around with
a lot of surfacy questions and over a period of time, there weren't
too many bells going off. So, for a month, we selected ones that
made us look into areas we had been avoiding...like sex or how we
were spending our money or where were we feeling pressured by each
Another item on our first plan was to work on the atmosphere in
our home. Our early morning routine of getting everyone up and out
the door was becoming a nightmare of confusion and tension in our
house. Dick and I barely had a minute to say hello-goodbye - so
we decided to treat us and the children - at least once a week for
a month - to a 10 minute sit-down breakfast - all 6 of us - without
anybody saying, "Hurry up!'" It took some discipline -
maybe a half-hour less sleep to pull it off, but we did it! And
once a week wasn't that difficult when we saw how much it did for
our family - to say nothing of how great it was for the two of us,
messing around in the kitchen before the kids came down. We're really
trying to keep that one as a regular part of our routine.
On another plan, we included the area of Prayer. When we were first
married, Sue and I, just before we got into bed, used to kneel and
say night prayers together. Over the years we kind of let that go
by the wayside and decided to try it again. The first few nights
it worked well and brought us really close, but we quickly became
aware of how often we were going to bed at different times. Maybe
one of us would fall asleep on the couch or would want to stay up
and watch TV or read....so you guessed it....we made "going
to bed together" an item to be listed on our next plan....a
small step it seems....but really a big one - because it has affected
not only our closeness in talking with God, but our lovemaking as
well! (Here's a good one: HDIF when I'm/you're ready to go to bed
and you're/I'm not?)
To say the least, our plans for growth have been stimulating. Sure
we've slipped up here and there, but those peaks seem to be coming
more often these days, and we're confident that we're on the right
track. Nothing has been more reassuring - and freeing - that to
discover that our holiness comes from our TRYING - not from our
arriving. We're human! We haven't failed each other - we only fail
when we quit trying.
Our Father loves us so much and has such a stake in our relationship
that we can't forget those graces of elevation and healing. So when
we find ourselves going down for the 97th time, we can unleash that
power between us and discover we're hitting those peaks again and
With this new year of 1980, why not give yourselves a fresh start
AGAIN - make your own special and personal plan for growth. Our
hopes and dreams for you, lovers, are the same that we hope for
us - and that is to continue our "ride" and invite the
rest of the world to come join us. Happy Trails
here for a printable version (PDF, 26KB)