It has often been said that the best thing you can do for your children is to love your spouse. At times, this means putting your spouse’s needs before your children’s. Many children who grew up in a home where the parents had a child-focused marriage say they have a difficult time knowing what a good marriage looks like exactly. In other words, your greatest family investment may be your marriage.
Over time, every couple’s relationship can become predictable. Romance, sex, and even conversation can become routine or nonexistent. If “routine” or “predictable” sums up your situation, then it’s time to refocus energy on your spouse. If your relationship is suffering due to lack of attention, here are some questions to help you evaluate what needs to happen to light the spark again:
1. When you and your spouse were dating, what did you do to make him or her feel special?
2. What are you currently doing to make your mate feel special?
3. What was the last fun activity you and your spouse did together?
4. How often do you participate together in activities you both enjoy?
5. If you asked your spouse to list your top five priorities based on where you devote the most time and effort, what would those priorities be?
6. Where does your spouse rank on that list?
These questions might be a good start to get the dialogue moving in the right direction and fan the flames so that they burn brighter than ever.
Most couples I know tell me that they love each other but that they’re just too busy with their work, kids, and all the activities they’re juggling. Most of their time is focused on good things, but in their busyness they have neglected their marriage. They hope to make some changes in the near future, but now is the time to make the important decisions to invest in their spouses.
To find time to replenish your relationship, you might need to cut something out of your busy schedule. Can I let you in on a secret? Kids would rather have parents who like each other than learn how to play one more musical instrument or score another goal in soccer. I’m not suggesting that you back off completely, but find a rhythm for your family that works for everyone, including you and your spouse, and that is healthy for your marriage.
Here are some areas of your marriage that need intentional investment in order to keep the spark of your relationship alive:
It is normal that there is a significant drop in satisfaction in a couple’s romance and sex lives when children arrive on the scene. However, couples with the most healthy families make sex and romance a priority. Don’t let kids, money, busyness, or anything else rob you of romance. When our kids were growing up and I’d kiss Cathy in front of them, they acted like they’re grossed out, but really they liked it. It gave them security. For many, the only way to make romance a priority is to schedule it on the calendar. Sure, a scheduled date night is not as spontaneous as your romantic activities before you had children; but if you don’t schedule regular times together, they probably won’t happen often enough.
Here’s an interesting observation. Never in all of my years of ministering to youth and families and counseling couples have I ever encountered a couple that regularly prayed together and still experienced serious marriage difficulties. Nor have I ever known a couple that, once they had agreed to pray together and stuck to it, ended up getting a divorce. Praying together restores balance and priorities in a marriage because it recognizes that God loves both partners equally. Research shows that the happiest couples are those that pray together. Couples that pray together are twice as likely as those that don’t to describe their marriage as being highly romantic. Prayer draws couples and families closer together. What’s the point here? One of the best ways to keep the spark of your marriage alive is to develop and grow spiritual intimacy with your spouse – and perhaps the best way to do this – is to pray together regularly!
Cathy and I do not feel that as we were growing up, we had excellent role models when it came to communicating. We inherited some of the same poor communication habits of our parents and even our grandparents. We’ve used to laugh that if my father and Cathy’s mother were to have gotten married, it would have been the beginning of World War III. And then we’d pause for a moment and realize that in many ways, when it comes to communication styles, they did get married–in us!
Good communication between couples requires working at it–everyday! As you work on your communication skills, not only are you assuring your marriage’s success, but you are also modeling for your children how to communicate, so their future relationships will have a better chance as well.
Here are two communication rules that work for us:
“After 10:30 p.m.” Rule
I get up early. Cathy is a night owl. By default, Cathy always has the advantage in conflicts occurring after 10:30 p.m., and I automatically win the battles waged before 8:00 a.m. We have learned that for good communication or for conflict resolution to take place, we do better before 10:30 p.m. When our kids were growing up, we also avoided these conversations during the middle of the busy evening hours where preparation for dinner, homework, bedtime for the kids, and all the other things were going on in our home. We also know it’s almost worthless to communicate early in the morning. These boundaries and expectations help us find times when we can focus on each other and are in a better place and frame of reference.
“It’s More Difficult in Bed” Rule
In my opinion, the marriage bed is sacred; it’s for sleeping and, uh, you know. If Cathy and I need to talk about family issues or a potential conflict, we have not found the bed to be the place most conducive to communication.