Love is a Verb
Happily ever after isn’t easy to make happen, no matter what Hollywood says. It’s work building a lasting relationship. But most anything worthwhile is. You may have “fell” in love when dating, however, when the new wears off you’re going to have to work to make love happen.
Make Your Marriage Priority #1
Do your actions, schedule, and budget show your spouse is #1 in your life after God? Nothing else is more influential on your quality of life and the health of your kids than the relationship between you and your spouse.
Marriage Priority Test
Answer True or False for the following statements: Almost always…
- I spend more time engaging my spouse than I do watching TV or on my phone.
- I interrupt whatever I am doing if my spouse wants my attention?
- I recognize in a significant way my spouse’s birthday, our anniversary, and other special days.
- My spouse and I go on vacations alone together at least once per year.
- I have at least one personal and meaningful discussion with my spouse per week for at least 25 minutes.
- When my spouse phones I make time to talk.
- I speak to my spouse about non-logistical matters at least twice per day.
- When my spouse walks into the house, I interrupt whatever I am doing to greet my spouse.
- If I’m with my spouse and some one else phones I don’t take the call.
- When something significant happens in my life I share it with my spouse first.
- When we go to social functions I spend at least half the time talking with my spouse.
- When I walk into the house the first thing I do is greet my spouse.
- I spend more time interacting with my spouse than any one else in my life.
- When I need someone to talk to I talk to my spouse.
- My spouse and I go out alone together at least once per week.
- I have photographs of my spouse in my office, wallet, or phone.
- I do unnecessary thoughtful things for my spouse regularly.
* Adapted from Mort Fertel’s “Put Love First Marriage Assessment”
Love isn’t Selfish with Time
Putting your spouse and marriage first requires time and focus. There is no substitute. Soulmates aren’t perfect for each other, they love each other with all their imperfections. Take an interest in the things that interest your spouse. You don’t have to be interested in the same things, you just have to be interested in your spouse.
Be the one they look forward to hang together. Find a hobby that you can both enjoy and engage together. Trade “Me” time for “We” time. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have activities in your life that don’t include your spouse, but these should be limited and far less than together activities.
Be a good parent – put your spouse first.
Having quality time with your kids is important. Even more important is having quality time with your spouse. Kids need the security and relational learning that comes from a mom and dad that are passionately in love with each other.
You can’t give to them what you don’t have. If you don’t give them the gift of knowing what a healthy marital relationship looks like, how will they know how to have that for themselves as an adult? They’re not going to get in high school or college, that’s for sure.
There is No Substitute for Quality Time
Your relationship is like a tomato plant. All the conditions for growing plump, delicious tomatoes can be perfect: great sun, fence to keep the animals out, soil with just the right mix of nutrients, spray to keep the bugs away – but if you don’t water it, it won’t grow.
You can’t dump 100 gallons on your tomato plant once a year and expect it to not need water the rest of the time (think vacation). The ground can only soak up so much at a time and the rest rolls off. There’s also no such thing as “super wet water” that only requires minimal application because it’s so super quality (we don’t spend very much time together, but we make sure it’s “quality” when we do).
No, your tomato plant is going to need regular, daily watering if it’s going to bear fruit. Without it the flowers will die, the leaves will wither, and before long there will only be scorched earth.
So it is with your relationship and quality time, there’s no substitute.
Minimum Quality Time for a Healthy Relationship
As a rule of thumb, I recommend the following quality time schedule for all couples as a minimum for keeping their relationship healthy:
15-20 min a Day
At some point in the day, every day, make some time to give your spouse your undivided attention and meaningful conversation. This could be morning coffee together, pillow talk before bed, or any number of other forms. It’s best to have a bit of a ritual though to make it a habit. Having it be a habit will increase the likelihood of it happening consistently. Try to keep it up even when apart by Facetime or phone call.
1 hour Sync Meeting a week
This is the business meeting for your family, where you and your spouse get on page about schedules and upcoming decisions, so you don’t have to use your date time for this.
2-4+ hours a week
Date night is what most couples call this, though it could be breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night dancing. When our kids were young going to the grocery store without children felt like a date! The important thing is that it’s a time of relaxed “hanging out” without kids. Have fun together and enjoy some adult conversation without interruptions every 2 seconds.
An Overnight Once a Quarter (24hours+)
An overnight or weekend getaway where you spend a full day or two with your honey enjoying life as lovers and friends is so very important to staying in love. Whether it’s a romantic getaway to somewhere tropical, or a staycation at a local hotel – having a relaxed time to enjoy each other’s presence without children is key.
We don’t have time to do that!
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There are 8,760 hours in a year. At 344 hours, it takes less than 4% of your time to give the most important relationship in your life the priority it needs to be healthy.
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