Growing up I swooned when Princess Buttercup and Wesley from The Princess Bride lived happily ever after.
I want that, I thought. And then I met the man of my dreams (who has never been a pirate) and married him. I thought I’d forever be staring into his blue eyes and laughing at his jokes. And I still do, but we have four kids. Which is amazing. And busy. And makes it extremely difficult to have complete conversations, let alone dates with my husband.
But our marriage is important to us. God brought us together. We’re better people when we’re together. And God didn’t just create our marriage. He created yours, too. And He values it.
Jesus said, “At the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’. So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” —Matthew 19:5
Did you get that? We’re supposed to be united with our spouse. One flesh. Joined together. When was the last time you spent more than an hour just talking to your spouse? If we let all our meetings and commitments, our kids’ games and events, and even our friendships or volunteering completely fill our calendar, then we’ll never have a clue what’s going on in our spouse’s life. How will we share what we’re worried or excited about, the conversation we had, the idea that’s simmering in our head if we never make time to connect? If we’re not purposeful about spending quality time together, before we know it, we’ll feel a lot more like two very separate fleshes than one. My husband and I don’t want that to happen. I bet you don’t either. And if you already feel that way, it’s not too late to make a change.
Clearly, we can’t spend every minute of every day strolling hand in hand down picturesque fields dotted with flowers, but we do have the power to be intentional about the blessing of marriage.
My husband and I do this in multiple ways, but one thing that acts as cement in our relationship is committing to a weekly date.
Early in our marriage we had four kids in eight years. We were poor and exhausted. There didn’t feel like there was any moment of any day that someone wasn’t on one of our laps, and we couldn’t afford the luxury of a regular babysitter.
Fast forward to now and our kids have practices, rehearsals, and youth groups. When they get home, they might be up until midnight studying for an exam or writing a paper. They go to sleepovers, football games, or grab ice cream with friends. They’re often dependent on us for transportation to all these things. Add in our schedules and we’re left with very few if any, evenings when my husband and I can date.
No matter how many or how old your kiddos are, finding time to be a couple when there are more than two of you can be tricky. But it’s an important part of nurturing the relationship God created and blessed. In fact, being connected with your spouse can help build you up and better face the tough stuff.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. —Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT
So, how do you do it?
Make it a priority
My husband and I take a half an hour every Sunday to plan our week. We pull up our calendars to determine which one of us is taking which kid where and when. We make sure we know if one of us has a deadline or a meeting or an evening event. And then we look at each other and say, “When can we date?”
It’s a priority. And if we don’t put it in our calendars, those small and few available moments get filled in or slip away. We value our marriage too much to let that happen, so we intentionally plan to spend time together.
If we find a Friday or Saturday night that’s free, we quickly block it off on our Google calendar. This can range from pasta on our porch to grabbing a bite at a local bistro in the city. But most weeks? Are busier. And more challenging. That doesn’t stop us. It shouldn’t stop you either.
When our kids were tiny anything that didn’t involve wipes or sippy cups felt like a date. Sometimes we’d splurge for a sitter, but usually, we’d let our children watch endless Scooby-Doo episodes and eat popcorn in one room (which they thought was an absolute treat), while we ate carry-out in another room. Friends of ours put their littles down early one night every week so just the two of them can share dinner. Whatever it takes. Yes, your kids are needy, but your marriage needs you, too.
Lately, we’ve been weaving dates into and around our kids’ schedules. We might take the hour between when our daughter needs to arrive at the soccer field and when her game begins to go for a walk. One date looked like taking our son to rehearsal and driving to the park across the street. We picnicked while he acted, and then we picked him up two hours later to all head home. Once, after dropping a daughter at a team meeting, we buzzed over to the nearby mall, window shopped, giggled, and nibbled on warm, buttery hot pretzels until it was time to pick her up. These things might sound more like errands to you than dates, but it’s all in the framing.
And who decided dates have to be at night? We have friends who both work near their home. They meet at their house for lunch together at least twice a week. Adorable. My husband and I have the blessing of flexible work schedules, so we are not afraid of utilizing day dates. Neither should you. This can be as fancy and intricate as going out to a hip restaurant for lunch or as simple as going on a stroll together around our neighborhood while carrying thermoses of coffee.
Use the time wisely.
This is your chance. To have fun together, work through hard stuff, remember why you fell in love in the first place, be vulnerable. Sure, it’s great to do things with other couples, but make sure you’re also creating time for just you and your spouse. Put your phones down. Tell your kids they can watch another episode. Skip the movie, so you can actually talk. Bring up important topics. Embrace this opportunity to interact one-on-one for an extended period of time without interruptions. Hold hands. Kiss. Tell jokes. Share dreams and struggles and worries and answered prayers.