While serving as a missionary for 18 months or 2 years, LDS missionaries are instructed in Preach My Gospel to have companionship inventory once a week. During this time, missionaries talk with their assigned companion about their goals, their relationship, and ways they can improve. The process helps missionaries resolve conflicts and work more harmoniously together. Did you know that companionship inventory can also be an invaluable way to strengthen your marriage?
My husband and I both served as full-time missionaries (we were actually missionaries when we met and became friends), so when we first started dating, evaluating our relationship on a weekly basis came naturally. We may have sometimes dreaded those weekly conversations with our missionary companions, but as a romantic couple, companionship inventory became something we looked forward to doing every Sunday night. We're still newlyweds, but continuing this practice has helped our young marriage stay strong and overcome every conflict that has come up.
Here's how we apply the principles from Preach My Gospel to our weekly companionship inventory.
1. Share with your companion appropriate goals, and ask for his or her help to accomplish them.
Setting goals for yourself every week to help you improve is a great habit, and involving your spouse in the process can help you grow together. No matter what aspect of life you wish to work on—finances, physical health, spirituality, hygiene, talents, etc.—you and your spouse can support each other. For example, my husband has a goal this week of getting to bed by 11 p.m. every night. I get tired much sooner than he does, so I help remind him to put away electronic devices,
brush teeth, and get ready for bed on time.
2. Discuss the strength of your relationship with your companion.
If you've had a great week, talk about what made it great. If you weren't feeling as loved this week for whatever reason, it will benefit both of you to discuss it.
3. Discuss any challenges that may be keeping your companionship from working in unity or from being obedient.
My husband and I almost decided to leave this point out of our companionship inventory because it applied more to missionaries, but we've kept it in, and I'm glad. It's a good time to talk about ways we may be lacking in our spiritual habits, such as family home evening and family scripture study. We can make goals to improve so that we're unified in our ultimate goal of Christlike living. When we become parents in the future, I imagine that our discussion on unity will be even more important as we make decisions together about how to raise our children.
4. Resolve conflicts.
Some weeks, neither my husband nor I have any conflicts to bring up. However, if something in the week happened that bothered one of us, we have a safe and understanding space in which to discuss it. I am so grateful for companionship inventory for this reason. If my husband does something that irritates me, I don't have to sit around fuming or wait around awkwardly for a good time to bring it up. We have a mutual understanding that companionship inventory is a time to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. Sometimes, a heated conflict earlier in the week just can't wait to be addressed, but we'll often revisit what happened in companionship inventory to make sure we're both on the same page. We each get time to discuss our side of things and talk it over until we come to a mutual understanding. Companionship inventory make take much longer some weeks, but it's so worth it to us in order to make sure we never have any lingering resentment. We compromise on ways we need to change and move forward with love.
5. Share with your companion what you think his or her strengths are. Ask for suggestions on how you can improve.
My husband and I follow the sandwich method: compliment, improvement point, compliment. Begin by telling your spouse something you love about them or something you noticed that they did really well during the week.
Next, offer an improvement point. These suggestions on how to improve should be made with love and kindness. This is a good time to bring up issues that will make your marriage more harmonious, such as housekeeping. When we were first married, my husband kept leaving a crinkled hand towel out in the kitchen, and it drove me crazy for weeks! I finally brought it up during companionship inventory, and he'd had no idea that it had been bothering me. He agreed to change, and my silly frustration was fixed in a few minutes. However, some things may not be so easy. For example, in the past my husband has given me the improvement point to not speak so negatively about my body. [Link to body positive dialog article.] I'm still not perfect at it, but I work harder because he specifically asks me to.
Finally, end on a positive note by giving your spouse another compliment and pointing out one of their strengths. Never underestimate the power that compliments can have in strengthening your marriage.
6. If needed, set goals that will improve your relationship.
Sometimes, we bring this point up much earlier as needed when resolving conflicts or setting goals to be more obedient. If you both agree to be open and commit to improvement, you can have a productive and meaningful discussion. Be sure to follow up on past goals each week.
7. Conclude with prayer.
We typically have companionship inventory at night followed by our family prayer, but you can pray with your spouse any time. Involving God in your marriage can help strengthen your bond, your communication skills, and your love.
Have you ever tried holding companionship inventory with your boyfriend, fiancé, or husband? If not, see if he'd be willing to try it for a few weeks. I can guarantee you'll feel a difference in the openness of your communication and the harmony in your home!