My wife and I just returned from an overnight together. (Don’t get jealous, OK? It’s been two years.)
The whole time we were away on our overnight, I just kept thinking about how fortunate I am. After nearly 18 years of marriage, Sharon is still my best friend. Really. It’s not perfect, obviously, but we connect on the deepest levels and have a ton of fun doing it.
How in the world did that happen?
With Valentine’s Day in the rear-view mirror, today seems like a good time to ask what will make a marriage last for the long haul. Guys, is it buying her chocolates and a dozen roses? Ladies, is it wearing just the right thing for him?
If you’re reading this blog, you know that’s not where I’m coming from. And neither are you.
A Small Piece Of The Bigger Puzzle
I’m not going to solve world hunger in this post. Instead, I’d like to give you a piece of bread.
And even if I could give you a bulletproof marriage (I can’t), a blog post isn’t really the place for that. No, I’m going to attempt something much more modest. I’m going to share something that’s essential, but usually neglected, in the lives of busy marriages.
[Cue drum roll, Beethoven’s ninth and the dancing bears.]
OK, now that I’ve got you all lathered up, here’s what married couples – and especially those with younger kids – need more of.
Quality, uninterrupted time together.
You may be thinking, ‘Seriously, that’s it? I already know that. Thanks, Captain Obvious’.
But before you switch tabs and go back to your cat video, hear me out.
I know you already know this. You ‘know’ you need solid, undistracted time with your spouse. But you’re not doing it. Or not enough, anyway. In fact, 45% of married couples rarely get out for date nights. And 18% said they squeeze in just one night out a month.
I’m not saying that ‘date nights’ are the only way to get good, uninterrupted time together. But they’re probably the easiest way to start.
In any event, if you’re not dating your spouse, you’re in danger of inching toward a stale, boring marriage. Or worse.
Why We Stop Dating After The Wedding
Early on in our relationships, when we were dating our spouses, it was fun. We couldn’t wait to see them. To hear how their day went. To surprise them.
So what happened? How did this relationship that used to thrill us become so commonplace, so uninspiring?
This list isn’t exhaustive – help me out in the comments below – but it should help us get the juices flowing so we can reflect on our own marriages.
- we get busy. Diapers need changing. Careers become demanding. And my kids need to play an instrument, star on the local soccer team, and get perfect grades.
- we don’t plan. When we live without margin, one of the first things to go is planning. (We’re struggling with that right now, actually.) Put another way, instead of living in light of our priorities, we allow life to come at us, which means (practically) that others prioritize our lives for us. And the unseen, yet critical parts of life – like time with our spouses – start to quietly fade away.
- we think it’s too much work. Sitters go off to college and it’s a pain to find new ones. Finding something worth doing on the date can feel like a chore. And, truly connecting with our spouse can actually take a lot of effort when we’re already exhausted.
- we feel like we don’t have enough money. The date itself can be really expensive, but hiring a decent sitter can double the cost.
When you add it all up, it just feels like it takes too much effort. And so we stop dating our spouses.
Further Down The Rabbit Hole
Although most of us could cite ‘all of the above’ as reasons we don’t date our spouses, I believe the real problem goes much deeper. Sure, resources are limited. And it can take a lot of work to find a good sitter.
But if we look at the other areas of our lives, aren’t there at least some where we’re willing to expend a decent amount of effort?
For example, I put a lot of energy into mentoring healthcare students we serve through our ministry, and I’m on my way to becoming a certified healthcare life coach.
You could argue, of course, that I have to work hard at my job. If I don’t, I’ll leave our kids destitute, be homeless, and so on. True enough.
We don’t ‘have’ to work hard at our marriages in exactly the same way. No one’s going to fire us – or perhaps even question us – if we’re not intentional with our spouse. (They probably should, but that’s another post for another day.)
But all this misses the point. Ultimately, I work hard at my job because I want to. My ministry is a way I can make a profound difference in the lives of real people who will, in turn, impact others. I put the effort into my work because God has made it valuable and called me to it.
And because God has given me valuable work, I don’t just flop down and give up every time I hit an obstacle.
So why do we give up so easily when it comes to our marriages? To spending that quality, uninterrupted time with our spouses?
After all, aren’t they more important than our careers? In fact, God says that our marriages are supposed to be a living, breathing picture of the gospel. Of his marriage to us. (See Ephesians 5:21-33)
The bottom line is that, if we’re not investing some significant effort into our marriages, we may practically not think they’re all that important. We might not say that, but we put our effort into the things we value most.
Of course, our marriages often slowly drift into a place of distance over time, without us even realizing it. This is why we need to check in on them more intentionally every now and then.
On a scale of 1 to 5 (best), how are you doing with getting the time you need (alone) with your spouse?Does your life practically show that your spouse is second only to the Lord in importance?
PS Don’t get depressed! In my next post, we’ll talk about the hope we have for moving forward.