After 17 years of marriage, 5 kids, 1 miscarriage and a slew of “learning opportunities,” I’d say the Mr. and I have learned one critical lesson: we have SO much more to learn. A few weeks ago, we were asked to speak to a group of engaged couples about “keeping the romance alive with children.” Of course, we turned to St. Facebook. She had some nuggets of tips. Combining those with our own experience, here’s how we do it!
Photo courtesy of Shannon Cunningham Photography
Over the course of our marriage, our definitions of “busy” and “romance” have changed. But, there are some universal truths. Here are our best ten.
Connect with one another. At the beginning of every morning, Scott makes it a point to pause, give me a hug and a lovely kiss before he heads out of the door for school dropoff. On the days he forgets, I run into the driveway in my pjs because it’s just that important. At the end of the day, he does the same thing. Couples, I’m here to tell you that it’s the little things that break a marriage. Just as Casting Crowns so eloquently says, “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” Be present to your spouse and make an effort to connect, in a tangible way, every day. In the midst of sports practices, homework, cooking dinner, refereeing fights and picking up the house, I need to feel loved and so does Scott. Don’t let the monotony of life creep its way into your marriage.
Get thyself a calendar and use it. For us, it’s our smartphones. We schedule our dates, yes it’s a little business-like, but that also means it’s happening. Because let’s be honest, if its written down I’m actually going to do it. My brain no longer functions well on its own. Sad, but true.
Hire a babysitter. When our college-aged babysitter comes home from college over the holidays, you can bet I have her on instant text message. Right, Emily Frances? There are babysitting co-ops you can create, free (or discounted) nights of childcare at your church or the YMCA. Is family in town? Ask them to do the honors while you sneak out and enjoy some alone time. Trust me, as a mom of a preemie, I know how hard it is to walk away from your kids and trust that they’ll be okay in someone else’s hands. But, girlfriend, if you neglect your marriage now, there won’t be anything to save later. In a stroke of “thank you, Jesus,” we were able to take a four-day getaway to Charleston this spring. First one in four years. Wow, did we need it.
You don’t have to go out, to go out. We don’t have unlimited funds around here, so we often stay in, to go out. We’ll put the kids to bed early, cook a late dinner, light the candles and use the good china for a lovely date at home. Maybe you’re a movie watcher and you can dive into Netflix and a bowl of popcorn. Perhaps sitting on the back porch with a cocktail and a big starry night is your reprieve. Plant some flowers together. Take a quick walk around the block. Get creative and make a spot in your home a new oasis.
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 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.
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. On the flip side, I know how hard he works to pay the bills and just how good he is at his job. And I tell him so. As he’s often known for saying, “A grateful heart silences a complaining voice.” Think of how many arguments you could avert by reciting that little phrase. I could stand to say it more!
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.
Build community and volunteer in the church community. Stewardship of any gift is important. In marriage, we’ve learned to surround ourselves with good and holy marriages. For us and for our kids. Not only does it model healthy families for our children, but it gives Scott and I a much-needed community of people to support us in our vocation as a married couple. We’ve also found it’s a good thing to volunteer for something, together. Scott has his own interests, as do I. However, we participate in the Sponsor Couple ministry at our parish, counseling engaged couples. It is the single best ministry we do.
Pray together. How you pray together will change, but find a way that works for you. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long prayer vigil, either. I will say this is the one we struggle with the most. Sometimes we have our acts together, but for every new season of parenting comes a new challenge in making time to pray together. What can I say? It’s a work in progress.
Have sex. No really. Contrary to what the mainstream media says, the Catholic church has always been pro-sex, pro-marriage and pro-life. Doing it in the context of Natural Family Planning (NFP), can be a beautiful thing. For many years, I thought the whole contraception teaching of the church was WAY off base. Now, I see its beauty. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, there are lots of days I want to throw in the towel. Yes, somedays it feels like a cross, not a blessing. But there is one universal fact I cannot deny: the wisdom of this teaching has transformed our marriage. There is shared responsibility in the size of our family and I feel like a woman who is respected by God and her husband. If you’d like to know more, email me or you can read this post I wrote about NFP.