Every Monday I answer the question of “how do you do it.” It’s a question I get asked often. When you have five kids folks just assume you have your act together. Clearly, I have everyone fooled.
When it comes to marriage, Scott and I have always tried to approach it with the wine analogy: it just gets better with time. At least, that’s our goal. We’ve had our moments, our frustrations, our doubts and our stumbling blocks. It happens when you marry your best friend, especially when two “oldest children” meet and marry. It’s pretty much our way or the highway. With five children, however, making time for US is hard. Not impossible, but almost. Here’s how we do it.
1. Connect at the beginning of the day and reconnect at the end. It’s rare that Scott travels out of town, so I feel extremely blessed that I kiss him as he walks out the door and back in every evening. When we went through marriage counseling a few years back after our youngest arrived prematurely, the counselor gave us some marriage-changing advice. Take time to reconnect. What we found is that when Scott was coming home from work, I was finishing dinner, passing the baton and heading to the office to work while he was trying to unwind from a long day. We were both doing the same thing, but we weren’t doing it together. We now take a few minutes every day to share our days, hug one another and slow down before we speed back up for kids’ activities. It’s been a game changer.
2. Bust out the iPhones. Those little smartphones are always with us. We schedule in our dates. To some that may sound a little business-like, but I’m telling you now if it isn’t written down it isn’t happening. It works for us, but your brains may work better than ours.
3. Be smart. Our college-aged babysitter was home from college over the Christmas holidays. You can bet we put her on retainer. I actually texted her a few weeks before the term ended and my text went something like, “This is our dream list of babysitting dates, let us know.” Thanks be to God she responded, “YES!” We had five dates (unprecedented!) during that two-week period. Woo to the hoo. We also have family in town and my parents are a huge help. If you don’t have family around, consider a co-op with friends or neighbors. Either way, get yourself some time together.
4. You don’t have to go out, to go out. While I would love to go on swanky date every week with the Mr. the credit card doesn’t have that kind of reserve. A few years ago we started the AFI’s Top 100 movies. We’re still plowing our way through the best (and skipping some, oh my, there are bad ones on that list) and we love it. It’s cheap, via our Netflix subscription, and we don’t have to pay a sitter.
5. Put down the iPhones. Yes, I know I told you about their awesomeness in #2, but when you’re trying to spend time together they sorta defeat the purpose. Put them away. We’ve been known to text one another from a room away and while we laugh about it, it’s a really horrible thing to get in the habit of doing. I smell a Lenten sacrifice coming on…
6. Compliment one another. Scott often walks in the door on Mondays, takes a glance at all the laundry piles, plants a kiss on my cheek and says “thank you for all you do for our family.” I cannot begin to tell you how much I look forward to him saying that.
7. Know your spouse’s love language. Gary Chapman wrote a book, “The Five Love Languages,” and it may just be the best book you’ll ever read for your marriage. In it, Chapman describes how every person feels loved in a different way: acts of service, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation and gifts. Scott and I know each other’s language and when we speak it, it’s awesome.
You can have a horrible marriage, a good one or a great one. And, I believe every marriage experiences them all. May this year be a great one!