Mark: When life gets busy, connection in marriage is usually one of the first things to go.
Jill: When life is moving faster than is healthy for our relationships, it’s easy to minimize, both internally and externally. We internally minimize when we say to ourselves, “I don’t have the time or energy to deal with this,” or “She doesn’t have time for me,” or “He doesn’t care.” This kind of self-talk puts distance between us and our spouse. It erodes intimacy and pulls us apart when we need to be drawing closer.
Mark: Drive-through relationships are just as unhealthy as drive-through food. And busy seasons are usually a time where we actually need to tune out the world and tune into our spouse, instead of the other way around.
Jill: How do you do that? Well this week for #MarriageMonday, we’re sharing 6 practical ways to slow down and increase margin and connection with your spouse. Here’s our list:
1) Eat dinner around the table.
You can even make dinner prep something you do as a couple. Then linger at the table and talk (if you don’t have little ones pulling you away!). Make mealtime as much about relationship as it is about food.
2) Put away your screens.
Determine where and when screens are fine and where they need to be tucked away or turned off. Mealtime. Conversations. Vacation. Date night. These are all places where our screens likely need to be put away.
Will this take some self-control? Probably. Will doing so communicate value to your loved ones? Absolutely. It will also increase your patience and decrease your temptation to minimize.
3) Stop. Look. Listen.
We use these three words to teach our kids how to cross the street. We also need to use them to teach ourselves how to cross into our spouse’s world. When your loved one enters into your space, stop what you’re doing. Close the computer. Pause the television or video game. Walk away from your task to warmly greet him or her. Look at him or her fully. Maintain eye contact. Then listen with your eyes and your ears. Listen to learn. To hear his question. To understand her feelings.
4) Talk to God together.
This may feel awkward at first if you’re not accustomed to praying together, but prayer always slows down our pace and gives us opportunity to hear what is weighing heavy on our partner’s mind. Now that we’re empty nesters, we often pray in the car when we’re driving somewhere. When the kids were smaller, we would try to pray at night as we crawled into bed; however, we often found one or both of us slipping off to sleep sooner rather than later. Some couples find praying together after making love works well for them, thanking God for their marriage, their love, and lifting up whatever is on their heart and mind. If your spouse prefers not to pray with you, you can still reach out and hold hands and silently pray for both of you.
5) Connect and catch up.
If you have little ones, take some time to talk after the kids are in bed. Even 5 minutes can make a difference! Are you empty nesters? You still have to be intentional about setting aside time to connect. In the summer, enjoy the porch together. In the winter, resist the urge to flip on the television or hop on the computer until you’ve taken some time to connect and catch up. Take a few minutes to ask questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” or “What was the hardest part of your day?” or “What’s bothering you the most and how can I help you?” or “What’s weighing heavy on you today?” or “How can I be praying for you?” These connecting questions help us tune back into our spouse.
6) Date your mate.
Dating your mate means bringing your best self fully present for a specified period of time just as you did when you were single and trying to impress the person you were interested in. Life is busy, so you have to set aside space in your days, weeks, and months to nurture your marriage. Create a repeating schedule you both prioritize for time together. Sometimes that may be as simple as the first thirty minutes after the kids are in bed. Ideally, it is once a week or once every other week or, at a minimum, once a month where you get a sitter or let the kids go to grandma’s or trade sitting with another couple and enjoy some focused time without interruptions. Even if you’re empty nesters, date night is important because you’re getting away from the everyday routine and focusing on each other. Slowing down and taking time to relate is essential in sustaining intimacy.
Don’t let the external circumstances of life control how connected you are to your spouse. By implementing even just 1 or 2 of the suggestions on this list, you’ll find that you start to feel more in sync and less distant from your spouse, making it a whole lot easier to navigate life together.
So we’re curious: Which of these stood out to you? Which one do you need to implement in your marriage?
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