“Babies are loud about what they need. Marriages are not. It’s easy to neglect each other because other things are more urgent, but you have to save some time and energy for your spouse.” (Teresa Parr, Parent Coaching Consultant)
Now, don’t let the title of this message or the above quote scare away those of you who don’t have children or are past the child-raising time in life because this message has nuggets of truth for every married person to read. Whether it’s the “tyranny of the urgent” because of children or because of other things, we all need to remember to save time and energy for our spouse because otherwise life, in its natural progression, will slide us apart from one another.
This message is based on a portion of an article titled “Marriage Matters: The Little Things Matter the Most” written by Barbara Inger, feature several years ago in the Richmond Parent’s Monthly.
Our suggestion to you would be to read through this material and talk about the points that pertain to your marriage (even if you don’t have children) and ask God to show you anyone else who would benefit from reading what the author has to say so you can pass it on to them. Several suggestions made in the article are:
A little can mean a lot. When you’re apart from each other, keep in touch with your spouse by telephone, snail or e-mail.
You don’t always have to communicate with words. Sending flowers or giving a box (or a bar) of a favorite candy can keep your romance alive. Having sex or just hugging, touching and holding each other are other ways to reassure, comfort, and love your partner.
Reassure each other, in word and deed. A new mother needs to know her husband still finds her attractive. A new father wants to be sure he’s not the third wheel in the growing love affair between mother and baby.
Make an effort to look good for each other. “Learn from French women,” Dalia Cohen (MS, LPC,and certified Imago Therapist) says. “A quick wash under your arms, comb your hair, dab on lipstick and perfume. You’ll feel and look better.”
No matter how old your kids are and how long your marriage has lasted, don’t take your spouse for granted. “Be mindful, loving, and forgiving,” urges Jesse Rabinowitz (director of Psychological Services at Jewish Family Services).
Simple gestures, such as surprising each other with an offer of free time or taking over a task your partner doesn’t like, can revitalize a relationship.
“One day I was on the phone, telling a friend how much I hate unloading the dishwasher. My husband overheard me and from then on, the dishwasher was always emptied,” Noelle Lavach says.
When your spouse does something thoughtful, make sure you recognize the effort. Thank him. Tell him he’s wonderful. Compliment him on how well he’s done at changing diapers, preparing a meal, cleaning the bathroom or modifying his behavior in response to your needs or requests — even if the results are not perfect. Your positive response will encourage him and make him even more willing to continue to help out.
Make space, too.As important as it is to spend time together, you’ve got to nurture yourself. “People need to charge their batteries,” says Cohen. Allow each other time and space to be alone and with friends, to read, take a class.
“Recognize that the person coming home from work might need a break” says Rabinowitz, “and that the at-home spouse has also been hard at work.” Take turns doing kitchen chores and childcare duties, so that each of you gets a chance to play or work at something on your own.
“On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, I take care of the kids, so my wife can attend a class she likes,” James Marcus says. The Marcus’s have even structured their work to allow plenty of flexibility. “I work out of home,” James says, “so Marianne can work late or on weekends, if she has to. I benefit, as well, because one of us is always at home to deal with issues (such as a sick child having to be picked up from school). There’s no anxiety.”
Parent together. In an ideal world, people would agree on and develop a parenting philosophy and style long before they had children. In reality, however, most of us don’t know what we’re in for, and tend to react to situations as they occur.
“Be proactive,” says Parr. “Parent with intention, rather than by the seat of your pants. Even if you lead parallel lives, you can maintain the same vision and be part of the same team.”
Again, you don’t have to start out with the same perspective; you just have to be willing to communicate, says Sherry Finneran. “You learn to consult each other so the child gets the benefit of both parents’ perspectives. Parents make a mistake to think they always have to cave in to the other’s way. There’s often a middle road. The only way to find out is if you’re open-minded.”
Rabinowitz says parents should seek information and support, wherever they can find it. Talk to friends about their parenting experiences. Join or start a parenting group at your church or synagogue. Make connections with other parents from your children’s school or daycare center. Advocate for family-friendly policies at your workplace.
Be sure to also schedule time for family fun and meetings. According to Cohen, devoting time to your family might mean postponing some personal gratification. It might mean saying no a lot more often than you’d like. It might even mean turning down volunteer opportunities, until the kids are old enough to participate.
We need to all keep in mind that love is an active verb —it’s no just a state of being. It’s something you possess. It’s something you do. We are reminded of just how we are to “do” love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Our love is to be patient and kind and not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. Our love also is not to keep a record of wrongs committed against us or delight in evil. Rather our love is to rejoice in truth, always protect, trust, hope and persevere. And most of all our love is to NEVER FAIL.
Remember, this applies to our “married” love —whether we have children at home or not.
“If a marriage is to be deeply valued and appreciated, it must be a courtship for life” (Bob Garon).
Are you doing that with each other? Are you “courting” each other so your love will continue to grow for each other?
“Too many couples count on past memories of the good times to keep generating new sprouts of love. If however, love isn’t continuously weeded and re-energized, it will get sick and could eventually die. I’ve seen it happen countless times. Lovers who want to keep their love vibrant need to remain vigilant and put a lot of creative effort and time pushing their love to new and greater heights” (Bob Garon).
May we never forget this and continually work together to “push” our married love to new and greater heights with the love of God,
Steve and Cindy Wright
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