Are you using this time of “social distancing” to tap in to your spouse? How about your family? What do we mean by the term “tapping in?” Several weeks ago our friend Debi Walter, from The Romantic Vineyard ministry made a great point on this issue. In her blog, “Tap in with Intention” she talked about the reality television program titled “Alone.”
Intentionally Tap in with Your Spouse
The premise of the show, Alone, is this:
“Ten people, trained in survival skills, who pass the strenuous audition, are dropped off on a remote island to live for as long as they can endure. The last one standing wins $500K. The difference with this show is there are no film crews. Each participant is given a complete camera set-up to document their time alone. They are allowed to ‘tap out’ at anytime they choose. This could happen if they don’t feel safe, if they’re missing home too much or if they get hurt.
“…They are each given a satellite radio phone to call in case of emergency or to say, ‘I’m ready to tap out.’ Once they say those two words, ‘tap out’ their journey is over. They simply wait on the shore for the boat to come pick them up.”
But here is the part that tugged at our hearts. Debi said that she and her husband have been watching the different seasons of this TV program. And then she makes the point:
“In season 3 one guy was ready to leave and used his radio to say, ‘I’m tapping out!’ Once the boat arrived, he explained his reasons. He ended it by saying something that really impacted me [and us too]. He said, ‘I like to think that I’m not ‘tapping out’ from the show, but I’m ‘tapping in’ to my family and what matters most. I’m ready to be home.’”
Debi goes on to say:
“Isn’t that good advice? [We sure think so!] While we are sheltering in place we could be focusing on the negative aspects of being stuck at home all day every day. Or we can think of it as ‘tapping in’ to our family, new routines, new habits, and our health. We have more time to consider these things…”
And that’s what we would like you to focus on here. Again, we want to propose the questions we asked you at the beginning of this Insight. Are you using this time of social distancing to tap in to your spouse? How about your family?
Suggestions to Help You Tap In
Here are some ideas as to how to tap in to our spouse and family:
• First off—ask your spouse for some suggestions. Tell him or her of your desire to better connect with each other and that you want to hear their heart and ideas on this issue. That will go a long way in itself. And then here are a few more ideas:
• Read a book together. Sound boring? It doesn’t have to be. You can do this several different ways. You can read a book together as a couple—chapter by chapter. We know a couple that have done this for years. Every morning they read a chapter of a Christian book as part of their devotional time before they leave for work. (They even managed to do this when their kids were growing up.) And they attest to the fact that it has enriched their lives on many different levels.
But if that won’t work for you, both of you can read separate books while relaxing next to each other. Then you can share highlights of the books from time to time. That’s what we do.
And/or you can read a book as a family. One of the best memories I have of my dad was when he did this with us (4) kids. Sure, my brothers squirmed. But they later they acknowledged that they loved that time with my dad.
In Our Home
When our sons were growing up we’ve read quite a few books as a family. We would find a true book about a Christian (living or deceased) and read it aloud so we could all learn from it. We folded it into the devotional time we held together as a family. After reading a chapter of the book we would read scripture. Then we’d each share prayer requests and pray as a family. We even included friends sometimes who were over at our house at that time of night. It bonded us all together all the more. And in recent years we’ve also read books together with our grandkids over Skype.
Additional Ways to Tap In
• Take a walk together. Perhaps you can do it in the morning or in the evening. You could Power Walk together. Or you could Prayer Walk with each other. Or maybe you just want to stroll hand-in-hand talking together—enjoying one-on-one time with each other. We love taking walks together out in the fresh air.
• Bring out an old-fashioned table game. This can include games like Monopoly, Sorry, or Yatzee. Or you can play Uno, Hearts, Crazy 8’s, or another fun game. We enjoy playing Farkle, Rummy, or Phase 10. But make it light—not competitive. The goal is to laugh together. It’s true what they say. “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” It’s a fun way to “tap in” and connect with one another in a light-hearted way.
• This is a great time to plant a garden together. We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it here again. Sure, the kids (or your spouse) may grumble about the work involved, but the benefits are great.
We always had a garden while our sons were growing up. (Even now, we have 3 raised bed gardens.) The rule was that we got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and worked in the garden for a half hour. (Anyone who wasn’t working outside of the home participated.) And then we either had our devotions together at that time, or everyone could go off to do other things. Grumbling while gardening was not allowed. If someone grumbled (including us), that person had to work 15 minutes longer than anyone else.
One summer my (Cindy’s) younger sister stayed with us. After pulling weeds for a while she started grumbling. It was so funny because immediately our sons looked right at me. The looks on their faces obviously said, “What about her? Are you going to make her work longer?”
Yep! I explained the rule to her. And I then told her the next time she complained she would have 15 minutes added onto her gardening time. After some protesting on her part the complaining stopped. She realized I wouldn’t change my mind. She hated pulling weeds, but she participated. However, the benefit was that she also enjoyed the fruits of her labor when the garden came in. The rule was “if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” That’s what we’re told in 2 Thessalonians 3:10.
More Ways to Tap in to Connect
• Put a jigsaw puzzle on a table somewhere and make it available for everyone to work on it. Some families do this at Christmas. My family did it throughout the year. It is a pleasant memory that I recall at different times. It provided the opportunities for many “side-by-side” conversations.
• Cook together. We have been enjoying time connecting through cooking. Steve wasn’t really into this earlier in our marriage. But one day (inspired by some friends of ours who love to cook together) Steve told me he wanted to help with the cooking. I was thrilled! But I didn’t think it would last beyond that one time. It did, however! Steve now calls himself a sous chef (second in command in the kitchen)! He even switches roles sometimes where he is the main “chef.” Call me shocked! But also call us both happy. We enjoy this time together.
We also are now really good at cleaning up the kitchen together afterward. One of my fondest memories of Steve’s parents centers around the way they worked so well at cleaning up the kitchen mess after dinner. They owned a business together so they were both really tired after eating in the evening. And yet they both got up and worked like “worker bees” at cleaning up everything. They were a great team (in many ways), and it was inspiring to watch. And now we do the same.
Another Way to Tap In to Connect
• Enjoy some movie and screen time together. But make sure you are intentional about it. Otherwise it will steal more time away from you that you will forget to “tap in” to your spouse and family. Jedd Medefind put it well when he wrote:
“There’s no doubt, technology will be a lifeline for both work and education. But we can choose the place of our screens and their boundaries. We must. Otherwise, screen time will fill every crack and crevice of life, like jungle vines overtaking an ancient temple. If that happens, we’ll look back on this time as having been far less than it could have been.” (From the Christianity Today International article, “The Case for Sheltering in Place Without Screens”)
Jedd recommends “block scheduling—mapping out the day in chunks of time set aside for specific purposes.” If you don’t the hours can smoosh together where you spend too much time on the least important things. You will neglect your spouse and family. It’s important to “prioritize” and “plan” in the beginning of the day so you truly WILL tap in to your spouse.
Additional Tap In Tips:
Those are just a few suggestions. We have others posted in past Marriage Insights. Here are just 3 (of many):
And then there’s the Insight where you tap in and:
The Marriage Missions web site is filled with tips and articles to help you to tap in to closer connect with your spouse. Go into the topic sections and look through them. And then look around within the ones that you believe will help you.
We challenge you to do what Jedd Medefind wrote about this matter:
“Prioritize. Decide what matters most and what experiences we’d most like to look back on. When this unique season ends, what things will I be especially glad I did?”
A Step Further
But we want you to take this a step further. Don’t stop making your family a priority. I’ve heard quite a few people say that they never realized how out of touch they were with their spouse and family until they were sequestered together. They have said that they want to be intentional in continuing to find ways to connect (tap in) with their loved ones, even after things open up again. We pray they will. And we pray you will.
Don’t let this time together with your family go off to the wayside. Prioritize… Decide who matters the most—God and your family. But make sure you do something about it, and keep doing things about it. Pray… Ask God for His help to find ways to keep connecting—no matter how busy you get. Participate… Make sure you partner with your marriage partner. And if you are parents—make sure you BOTH partner in raising those children.
Again, we pray you will!
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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