Recently my husband and I were talking to our engaged friends about showing each other love through service. The husband-to-be said, “I feel like you treat a lot of your friends better than you treat me. When they come over, you’re willing to cook a full meal, run errands for them, or listen to their long boring stories without missing a word. Honestly, I just wish you would treat me as well as you treat your friends.”
His fiance sat in silence with a smirk on her face for a few minutes and quietly whispered, “Well, that’s pretty embarrassing. I think you’re right.” I loved observing this interaction from a young couple, but thought to myself, I don’t have that issue.
A week later, I found myself awake until 1 A.M. picking up a friend and dropping her car off at the mechanic, and then waking up at 4:45 A.M. the next morning to spend two hours in the car for an airport drop-off. I was battling a cold, had a huge to-do list in front me, and for some reason I said yes to being a before-the-sun-was-up chauffeur! As I was driving home, I let out a big sigh as I thought about the errand my husband asked me run that same day. Before I even had time to complain, I thought of the observation from my friend, I just wish you would treat me as well as you treat your friends. I laughed out loud as I thought about how God had shown me I’m guilty of the same offense. I treat my friends better than I treat my husband. I was so willing to bend over backwards to help a friend but was frustrated about running a simple errand for Caleb.
Have you ever experienced this? Why is it easier to help your friend, serve at the church, or even volunteer at a local shelter than it is to serve your own spouse? The design of marriage is to love and serve each other above everyone else! Honestly, this “aha moment” caused me to sit down and ask God to show me how to make my husband more of a priority. Here are a few practical steps the Lord has taught me on how to do just that.
Use Ink on the Calendar
With a lot of commitments for my job, church, friends, and family, it’s easy for a week to go by without making time for my husband. Even nights when we are home together, I find myself catching up on housework or answering emails instead of spending time with Caleb.
My friend Noelle is a great example for me. She marks off every Wednesday night on her calendar as date night. As an executive director of a large nonprofit in Ohio, she always has things coming up or responsibilities to take care of. However, Wednesday nights are non-negotiable date nights, even if it’s just popcorn and a movie at home.
Instead of “penciling in” time my husband and I might have together, I bought a big, fat marker just to make the statement that time together is not negotiable.
Ask for Your Husband’s Permission
I am very independent. I love proving I can do things on my own, figuring out complex problems, and successfully balancing my work/home balance. When it comes to scheduling meetings or even traveling out of town, I’ve always just made the decision and then let my husband know later. As God has been challenging me about prioritizing time with my husband, he showed me that I needed to start asking Caleb before I create my schedule. Yeah, I know. The “independent Hannah” didn’t like it, but I’ve been amazed at the result of seeking my husband’s permission.
In May it was my best friend’s birthday and I was planning a weekend to go visit her. I had all the plans made and was texting her about all the fun things we were going to do. Out of nowhere I thought, Oh, I should probably tell Caleb about this. I ran downstairs and said “Caleb, I meant to tell you that I have to cancel with your family. I’m going to see Megan this weekend and I’ll be back home Sunday.” His confused look told me something was not good. After a few minutes of frustrating conversation between the two of us, my husband said, “Hannah, I just really wanted to spend time with you. I feel like you haven’t been home and I need you.”
It was hard to tell my best friend I couldn’t come to see her, but saying “yes” to Caleb inevitably means saying “no” to some good things. If I continue to make decisions and plans that I want to make instead of thinking what is best for our marriage, over the long haul I will tear down our relationship. Have you ever considered viewing your schedule and plans as a team—not just making decisions and telling your spouse about them later?
Check His Vital Signs
The great thing about cars is they usually tell you as soon as something is wrong. Recently my “change your oil” light came on, and it was a great reminder that I need to take care of that soon. In the same way, I am learning to check the vital signs on my husband. There have been seasons in our marriage when he has been doing very well, and it has allowed me to invest time serving a hurting friend or spending extra hours volunteering. We have walked through other times when Caleb was dealing with some tough things, and I knew I needed to back away from other commitments so I could fully support him.
Two years ago Caleb lost his brother and mom very suddenly within three months of each other. During that time, God showed me that prioritizing my husband and his needs looked very different. I unplugged from commitments that were important to me for several months so I could walk through grief with my husband. Prioritizing your spouse looks different during varying seasons of your marriage. Are you checking in to see how he is doing and how he needs you?
Sometimes it’s easy to put my marriage on autopilot, but intimacy in marriage never stands still. If I’m too busy saying yes to everyone else, I may find that I have drifted away from the most important person in my life.