We are wrapping up our five-part series on how to strengthen your marriage by looking at one of the most important things you can give your spouse – your time and attention.
With the large number of priorities you are likely juggling, it can be easy to let date nights and private moments slip away. Work, household tasks, children and family obligations can slowly take over the times when you and your spouse would have normally focused on one another. It can be easy to let normal interactions that are present in the beginning of your relationship slowly slip down in priorities. You may assume that your spouse understands the needs of the children should “come first” or you may tell yourself that your work task is more important than your dinner date because “it pays the bills.”
Regardless of how many new priorities you are balancing, it’s possible and necessary to keep quality time with your spouse as a priority in your marriage. When you were first together, you likely would have moved heaven and earth to spend time with one another. Years later, this quality time is even more important. Your spouse should be your safe place and your center. You need to nurture your marriage just as you nurture your children.
Here are some ways to incorporate time together into your lives no matter how busy the two of you may be:
Schedule Date Nights Out
Date nights are necessary to reconnect with your spouse. They don’t have to be extravagant, but they do need to occur. It’s easy to become parents and roommates if you don’t rekindle the spark that is unique to your relationship. These nights should ideally be scheduled weekly and they do not have to all take place out of the house. Going out is important to focus on one another but with kids or a tight budget, this can get tricky. For out-of-the-house dates, scheduling a reoccurring babysitter ahead of time removes a lot of the stress of planning.
Here are some low-cost date ideas:
- Coffee and perusing a local book store
- Having appetizers at a new restaurant
- Check out Groupon for new ideas and inexpensive activities
- Investigate local offerings such as music or movies in a park
If out-of-the-house dates nights are not possible, you can still have a fun date together! Once the kids are in bed, spend a few hours focusing on one another. Make dinner together while trying a new recipe, order in and watch a movie you’ve both been wanting to see, have a game night or sit on your deck enjoying a glass of wine.
What you do and how much you spend is not important. What IS important is the time you spend together.
Take Time Out of Your Day to Touch Base
Make sure your spouse knows you are thinking of them when you are apart. Send a sweet text message, leave a message on their phone saying you love them, or leave a note in their car. When you see each other in the evening take the 30 seconds it requires to greet your spouse. Hug them, kiss them and make eye contact. It’s the little things that usually are the first to go, even though they require the least amount of time and effort. Restart them and you will likely be surprised how a little effort can go a long way.
Choose Your Priorities
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
If you don’t consciously identify your priorities and act on them, your life will decide where your energy is spent. And that doesn’t mean your priorities will be numbered as they should. If you don’t decide to make your marriage and spouse a priority, they won’t be. You have to decide to spend your attention and energy in maintaining and growing your relationship or at the end of the day, you won’t have time left.
Model the Importance of Your Relationship
Show your children that marriage is a priority by making time for your spouse and voicing your actions. By teaching the kids that date nights are important and that marriage takes work, they will be raised with the knowledge that marriage needs to be a priority. Also, by voicing your priority decisions it helps to solidify them in your mind and within your family.
Making time for your spouse may take a little bit of schedule rearranging, but it’s a step that is vital to the happiness of your marriage. By spending quality time together you are giving your marriage a chance to flourish, to bring fun into your relationship, and to demonstrate to your spouse that they matter. Quality time, when coupled with positive communication skills, acts of kindness, respect, humility and forgiveness can bring your marriage to a deeper level: Fulfilling both you and your spouse’s needs and strengthening your marriage for long term success.