8 steps for making time in your marriageWritten by Todd Foley
At the end of the day, I often ask myself where all the hours went, then I think back to how I could have made more use of that time. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "Lost time is never found again."
Maybe you can relate?
It’s hard enough accomplishing everything that needs to get done in a day, let alone making time to really invest in your marriage. Research, however, shows good reason to intentionally make time for your spouse. According to a study published by the Australian government’s Institute of Family Studies, researchers noted that the longest-married couples held up their shared memories as a chief factor in their relationships’ health – memories which require some time!
This month, we chatted with the experts to bring you eight practical tips for making time in your marriage and bringing your relationship back to the spotlight.
- Make time by slowing down. In order to give time to your spouse, you first need to make time for each other. Look at the things that take up your time and ask yourself how you can create more space for your relationship. "Love on the run will eventually result in love on the rocks," writes Dr. Johnny C. Parker Jr. in Renovating Your Marriage Room By Room. "Slowing requires simplifying your life and intentionally focusing on the things that are important to you. [This] is intentional intimacy."
- Set aside time to talk to each other – and actually talk! Lesli Doares, a licensed marriage and family therapist, advises couples to spend as little as 30 minutes a day in direct, uninterrupted communication with each other, saying that this "inoculates your relationship from stagnation and decline." This communication, she says, will help you move past merely exchanging information and into a deeper form of communication, which she says is the basis for real intimacy.
- Stay on top of each other’s unique needs. Shannon Battle, clinical director of Family Services of America, says that spouses can grow apart from one another by not paying attention to their partner’s needs. "We all would like to have spouses that are expert mind-readers," she says. "However, no one can tell you about their needs if they are not communicated. You can spend all day together but still be complete strangers."
- Try something new – it’s good for your health! If you’re intentionally setting aside time for your relationship, make a date out of it! Doares says that new experiences help trigger positive neurotransmitters in the brain. Need creative inspiration? Check out our list of great date ideas.
- Don’t let "home work" take up too much time. Cari Andreani, a marriage blogger, is a military spouse and has found ways to juggle her husband’s six-month deployments and her own work schedules during their 16 years of marriage. "You have to be creative with your time in these types of situations," Andreani says. "To make time for my husband, I will come in early to work, take care of things on my lunch break and even stay after work for a bit to get my things done. I leave everything at work so I can focus on my family when I get home."
- Draw near to each other, even when circumstances seem too hard to handle. Dr. Jan Harrell, a clinical psychologist, says couples can sometimes feel overwhelmed by life chapters through which they don’t know how to emotionally navigate. "It becomes unbearable, lonely and painful," she says, "and people [feel] they have fallen out of love. The love has become buried underneath a build-up of disappointment, hurt, feeling misunderstood, and helplessness about how to change the relationship." Dr. Harrell says it’s especially important to come together during difficult times and remember that you love each other. "Remember that you love each other, and that it’s just hard right now."
- Keep your relationship as your top priority. When other areas of responsibility demand your attention, your marriage may start slipping to the back burner – often without you even realizing it. Each day, ask yourself if you’re intentionally making time your relationship with your spouse. "I don’t know anything that thrives on neglect, and this includes marriage," Doares says.
- Invite God into your daily lives. Relationship expert Roland Hinds, author of Are You Right For Me? Whose Choice Is It Anyway?, stresses the importance of making God the centre of your marriage. He suggests adopting practical habits like praying together each day. "Allowing God a place in a couple’s relationship," he says, "is where the intimacy begins and should [be] maintained."
Reference to the individuals and organizations quoted does not constitute a blanket endorsement of either the individuals’ external work or their respective organizations.
Todd Foley is on staff with Focus on the Family Canada.
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