My husband and I have just returned from a blissful 10 day holiday. Our youngest child is 21 and our eldest 28 and we worked out that this was the first holiday we had had in 28 years that was:
"¢ Child free, and
"¢ Work commitment free, and
"¢ Visiting friends and family free!
We had fun together, and even after the 10 days were still enjoying talking with each other. Whilst this length of time together alone was a luxury, throughout our marriage we have tried to adhere to a maxim of making sure we have "couple time" regularly, including the odd weekend away without the children. This has been part of our commitment to maintaining our relationship.
Not surprisingly, one of the characteristics I see in marriages that are in trouble is a lack of shared time and activities, and sometimes little commitment, or even resistance, to making that a priority.
Relationships, like our cars, need time, attention and expenditure of some sort to keep them running in peak condition. Sometimes when people complain about the cost of counselling, I challenge them by asking would they expect their car to keep on running year after year without being serviced or having the oil changed. I ask them to reflect on how much they spend each year on that. Surely maintaining one's marriage is just as important.
Here are some suggestions for marriage maintenance: please feel free to share your own ideas as well:
1. Sharing in each other's spiritual lives if this is something you both share. Praying and reading scripture together is a great privilege and intimacy.
2. Prioritise "couple time", not trying to cram talking with your partner into the last moments of the day when one or both of you are tired. Steve Biddulph in "The Making of Love" talks of the importance of spending time talking and laughing together in strengthening your marriage, which in turn, is essential for good parenting.
3. Regular "couple time" may mean teaching the children that Mum and Dad need 15 minutes together each night when they come home from work, sitting having a cup of tea or coffee and talking together.
4. Going on regular date nights.
5. If money for babysitters is short, having a date night once a month at home where the children can watch a favourite DVD, go to bed on time, and parents sit down to a simple but special meal together and talk together instead of sitting in front of the TV for the evening.
6. Taking turns with another family to have each other's children for a weekend once a year. Yes the weekend when your house is full is hard work, but then you get a weekend away with your partner by yourselves!
7. Occasionally doing together those activities you enjoyed when you were first going out with each other. One day you will be a couple once again and will value having kept up some joint interests.
8. Being committed to sorting out differences as respectfully as you can and not allowing them to linger unacknowledged.
9. Keeping up everyday loving physical contact, even when you don't have enough energy or are not well enough for regular sexual connection.
10. Be prepared to review how your relationship is going regularly.
11. Attending a marriage enrichment weekend, or going to see a counsellor to have a general marriage tune-up.
It sounds simple, but in the busyness of life today it can be hard to implement. Being aware of the positive things that you are doing, is there anything else you need to add in? How is your relationship maintenance going?