I once heard that a successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. If you've ever gone a month without spending any real quality time with your spouse, you know how negatively it can affect your marriage. All relationships need to be nurtured, and none more than spousal relationships.
Marriage was created to give people companionship: "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). A successful Christian marriage may be best seen as a triangle with God at the top and each partner at one of the lower corners. The closer we draw to God, the closer we'll be to each other.
Marriage is not a "done deal" at the altar, followed by happily ever after. It's a continuous, daily "I do." While it may seem impossible to spend quality time alone with your spouse, it can be done. It just takes a little planning and creativity. The following ideas can get you started:
Celebrate a monthly anniversary. Each month on the same date you were married, get a babysitter for the kids and go out on the town. Dinner, a concert, or even simple inexpensive or free dates—such as miniature golf, a picnic in the park, or ice skating—can do a lot to keep the flame burning. You're not likely to forget the reason you got married when you're both celebrating it monthly.
Attend a marriage/couples' retreat. Held year-round throughout the country, usually on weekends, these retreats often include inspirational speakers, beautiful scenery, good food, activities, and plenty of time to be alone with your spouse.
Give the gift of time. Surprise your mate from time to time by arranging childcare for the kids and giving your spouse the gift of time. Reschedule a meeting to spend extra time together. On weekends, forgo a favorite personal activity to spend the time with your mate instead. A gift of time speaks volumes and can do a lot to strengthen your marriage.
Attend a wedding together. You're likely to have the occasion to attend at least one wedding per year, so don't miss out. As you attend the wedding with your spouse, discreetly exchange your rings and silently renew your vows together while holding hands as the bride and groom say their vows. My husband and I recently attended a very moving wedding ceremony, and although we didn't pre-plan it, we held hands as we both silently renewed our own vows to one another. It's a great reminder of the marriage covenant and of all the reasons you got married in the first place.
Pull the plug. Once the kids are in bed, resist the urge to crash on the couch in front of the TV. Instead, put on an instrumental or praise-and-worship CD and snuggle together. Talk about your goals, dreams, and desires. Plan a future getaway. Spend some time talking about what you appreciate about each other.
Walk the block. Each evening after the supper dishes have been cleared away, take a walk (or two) around the block. This works especially well if you have children who are old enough to spend brief periods at home without supervision or who are mature and responsible enough to look after younger siblings. The evening walks not only are invigorating but also allow for good, private conversations.
Schedule a mandatory weekend getaway. Each year, make it a tradition to get away for a weekend alone with your spouse. Schedule a specific weekend just for the two of you, and don't change it for any other event. My husband and I go away each year on the weekend (Friday and Saturday) just before Mother's Day. Keeping the timing the same each year makes it easier on everyone; it's expected, and it gives us something to look forward to.
Read to one another. After the kids are in bed, light some candles and spend some time reading to one another. If one spouse doesn't like to read, the other can be the designated reader. Take time to discuss the readings—how they make you feel, what you would like to change, and so on. Book discussions have ignited many new adventures for us as well as constructive changes in our marriage that we are so thankful for.
Take advantage of small moments. Don't overlook those small blocks of time that you can spend with your spouse. I purposefully schedule my monthly chiropractor appointments (which are a few minutes away from my husband's workplace) just before noon so when I'm done I can pick up my husband from work and we can have lunch together. These small snatches of time really do add up to a closer, more intimate relationship.
Share memories. If possible, return to your childhood towns—if not physically, then mentally. Talk about the streets you walked, the homes you lived in, the schools you attended, the playgrounds you played at, the friends you had, and so on. Our family lives in my husband's childhood home, so childhood memories are a frequent topic of discussion. Knowing about my husband's childhood has helped me to know him better.
Create a romantic space. Make your bedroom "off limits" to kids' stuff. Instead, fill the room with pictures of you and your partner, pre-kids, to help remind you of how you fell in love. Keep the room clutter-free, as having toys underfoot just isn't conducive to romance. Place scented candles and flowers throughout the room, and leave each other love notes under the pillows or sheets.
Plan a sunrise picnic. When the kids are away at a sleepover, pack a breakfast picnic and watch the sunrise together. My husband and I did this one April morning at a dam overlooking a large lake, and it was breathtaking. And the bald eagle God had soaring overhead was a pretty nice touch too!
Arrange a midweek dinner for two. Once a week, feed the kids an early, simple, but fun dinner. Then send them off to another room to watch an approved movie of their choice. Along with your spouse, prepare a romantic dinner for the two of you. Listen to classical music, dim the lights, and light the candles. It's so relaxing to have a quiet, uninterrupted meal—especially in the middle of a hectic workweek.
Pre-plan dates. Buy season tickets to your spouse's favorite sporting event, symphony, or theatre. This ensures many pre-packaged dates where the two of you are together, and since neither will want the tickets to go to waste, these dates aren't easily cancelled. Set the dates well in advance so you can work your schedules around them with little effort. My husband and I love attending Christian music concerts and often buy tickets for just the two of us.
How often we let life pass by without really living. Twenty years from now, I don't want to be disappointed by the things I didn't do with my husband. I want to live life with him to the fullest now.
Since your spouse is the person you'll spend the rest of your life with, it makes sense to invest in your marriage now. Commit today to spend more one-on-one time with your spouse—you won't regret it!
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.