Every day, for many of us, life seems to fly by, with more and more demands on our time. The care of our children, the expanding pressures of our work-life, and the rush of activities, may keep us running so fast, so continuously, that we hardly have time to breathe. Our spouses also face a dizzying array of pressures and responsibilities, leaving us both so busy that time for our marriage may simply get crushed out.
What happens when we don't invest time in our marriage relationship? We stop talking, we stop touching, we stop connecting — each on the constant treadmill of other things to do, other places to be, and other priorities on which to focus. Like an unwatered garden, our marriage may start to wilt, and finally die from neglect. In this way, even strong marriages, between very good people, can be weakened — or even destroyed. How can we reverse this trend in our marriage, and find time for this most central of relationships?
1. Reaffirm the value of couple time
A family is only as strong as the marriage upon which it is built. Remember that the best thing you can do for your kids is keep your marriage strong and stable. Your performance at work is best when you’re not worried about trouble at home. So — decide to put your marriage first, so it can stay strong and vibrant, to support these other areas.
2. Reduce media time
— with the TV, Facebook, texting, cell phones, gaming systems, iPods, computers, or other electronic media devices. While these can all be entertaining and useful, they are also the #1 distraction from marriage and family relationships. Set clear limits on these devices, reinvest time and focus on real relationships — beginning with your marriage.
3. Reduce media access in your home
Never keep a TV in the kitchen or your bedroom – it will almost inevitably interfere with meaningful interaction and focusing on each other. Consider eliminating cable TV — the constant availability of so many entertainment choices can be almost impossible to resist — sucking up vast quantities of what could be focused family time.
4. Work together on household chores
. Washing the dishes together, grocery shopping together, weeding the garden together — these are just a few of the mindless tasks that can become rich opportunities for talking and connection. Also, when you do these tasks together, they are finished more quickly, leaving time for you to share more enjoyable bonding activities together.
5. Establish a daily check-in time
— a time to briefly catch each other up on your day. This might be at the end of your workday, or a quick phone call during your lunch hour. It might be early in the morning, or late at night as you’re getting ready for bed. Even a 2-5 minute conversation, carried out daily, can work wonders in your relationship, to help you feel more connected.
6. Invest 30-60 minutes weekly in a couple planning meeting
This is a meeting where, on a deeper level, you can coordinate schedules, discuss priorities, resolve differences, and keep each other informed of what’s going on in each other’s lives. Here you can plan your weekly date, review the family budget, and make needed decisions to guide your family.
7. Plan and carry out a weekly date
This should be a fun, happy time where you spend time together in a focused, positive way, without the distraction of children, electronic media, or job responsibilities. Do something that helps you feel closer as a couple, and take turns planning the date. It need not be expensive — perhaps just a walk around the park, or a leisurely drive to a beautiful natural setting. Don’t discuss issues or problems on your date — save that for your planning meeting. Just enjoy one another’s company, and make your weekly date a top priority.
8. Learn to say "no."
In the richness of modern life, there are so many exciting, fulfilling possibilities for you and your children that you may soon find yourself drowning in too many things to do, too many places to be, and too many good causes in which to contribute. Learn to be selective and careful with your time - and with your children’s time - in order to preserve and protect time for the most important things, including the health of your marriage. You can only fully say “yes” to essential things, if you learn to say “no” to non-essential things.
Remember — Your marriage is at the heart of everything else in your life. It is a living thing, that thrives on nourishment, but can die from malnutrition or neglect. Nourish your marriage with meaningful connection — with time and focus specifically directed to keeping your relationship strong. Such a focus will help keep your kids secure and happy, your job solid and steady, your mental and physical health sustained and strong. Start today, and stay consistent in your efforts. Such an investment in your time and focus can bring rich and joyous returns — now, and for years to come.