I have been seeing several friends of mine traveling with their spouses and they always comment how having the alone time traveling leaves them feeling refreshed and renewed in their marriages. I totally get what they are saying because when Justin and I travel it is always so nice to just have that one on one time. However with three kids and busy schedules and one spouse not working traveling alone for a weekend or longer isn’t always an option for us. Also, at this time in our lives any extra money we have for traveling we want to bring the kids with us so the couples trips are on the back burner for now.
Justin and I have a very intentional marriage. Meaning that we put a lot of emphasis on the couple first and our family second. We both strongly believe that this is a key to a successful marriage for us and while our marriage is far from perfect we do believe it has kept us both feeling satisfied in the midst of being in the trenches. I was thinking over the weekend how connected I feel to him and how I do feel a sense of renewal in our relationship even though we don’t get to go away together as often as we would like. It’s very easy to let the business of life and especially with having kids get in the way of putting each other first. How do you keep that connection in the midst of the chaos?
Date Nights… ok, so I know that this is always a go to piece of advice that people give but the truth is that date nights are not always an option because of timing or budget so these are a few creative ideas. This past year we have hired a weekly babysitter for the first time since we have had kids. She is young so we have her come early. She does dinner and gets the kids dressed for bed and we are home by 7:00. It’s an easy job for her since she is saving for a car and it’s great for us because we get two to three hours of alone time, dinner and usually a trip to Target together. It has been nice to count on and look forward to the time together each week. Now a weekly date night may not be able to work for you but start with getting out once a month. Plan a sitter way in advance and then get it on the books. You don’t have to spend a lot either. Think about things that you can do free or even cheap like making a picnic and eating in a park or going to the book store together. Another thought if you can’t get away from the house at all is get the kids interested in something like a new movie or playing in the yard and just eat dinner the two of you while they play. You are still getting that quality time without having to leave the house.
Talking… This is something that seems so silly but in reality you need to be intentional about it. I noticed several years ago that Justin and I would go days without talking. I don’t mean that I was giving him the silent treatment I just mean that after the day was done I was telling him about things that happened with the kids or something that needed to be done around the house but I wasn’t telling him anything about my day. More importantly I wasn’t asking him about his. Talking about things that happened or how you felt or an idea you had are important. There are a lot of times I don’t want to bother him with silly details like what I want us to wear for Christmas pictures or he doesn’t want to worry me about things that happen at work so we just don’t tell each other. In reality it should be important to your spouse to hear those “silly” details because they are important to them. When I started getting interested in his work he started asking me more questions too.
Movies and Books… The kids go to sleep at some point each night. Finding a movie or a show or a book that you can both get into is fun. Also, things like watching sports with him if that is what he is into. Just sitting next to one another is nice some nights. Especially the days I am just talked and touched out.
Projects… It’s not just fun to do a project together it’s also fun to plan a project together. Justin and I are always sketching out our dream backyard, pool or an addition that we would like to add one day. We also love doing a project together. The other day I mentioned to him that I thought I may want to move some of the furniture around in the living room. We looked at it and ended up doing it that night. We often pick project weekends where together we tackle a bunch of things at once.
Marriage isn’t always easy and we have had years when it seems like we argue more than we get a long but that is just life. The truth is that all your years aren’t going to be good years but it’s how you deal with the slopes that makes the rises great. Intentionally choosing to honor one another is what makes marriages not only work but fun to be in. It’s not just about him either. You have to be willing to step up and make the first step too. I always think about how if I want Justin to do something or make something a priority than I have to be willing to take the first step and do it for him. I’m the one who started the idea of our weekly date nights but now he is the one who remembers the money for the babysitter each week and picks out a new place to go.
One day we will travel again but for now it is possible to feel connected and refreshed just simply making small efforts.