Some couples go all out on Valentine’s Day. A wallet-busting dinner filled with foods nobody can pronounce. A hotel suite with an in-room spa and a Caribbean steel drum band. Or creative surprises such as a blimp ride or a singing monkey serenade.

Of course, others of us may shoot a little lower:

HUSBAND: Here’s a can of soup. I drew a heart on the label. . . . The pen ran out of ink so the heart kind of looks like a fishhook.

Whether you shine or sink on Valentine’s Day, you still have another 364 days to work on your relationship. My wife, Sally, and I try to nurture both physical and emotional intimacy in our marriage whenever we can – even on not-so-romantic holidays like Arbour Day. The problem is, our busy schedules and full-time jobs often get in the way. Some weeks are so busy I stop worrying about to-do lists. Instead I consolidate:

2/11-2/17: Try to do everything*

*Order singing monkey for Valentine’s Day.

My wife and I have learned that if we want some time for the two of us, we have to pencil it in. But scheduling intimacy? It seems like an oxymoron – such as tasty beets or exciting antiques.

Learning the finer points

Emotional intimacy can be scheduled, but it’s best not to treat it like any other appointment:

HUSBAND: I’ve carried this fear like a crushing weight since my childhood. But I think I’m finally ready to share it. I think . . .


WIFE: Oh, I’m sorry, our time is up. Let’s continue this next time, shall we?

It’s also not wise to multitask as you work on building intimacy with your spouse. A question such as "What has God been doing in your life?" should not be asked while vacuuming or used in the same sentence as "Hand me that screwdriver."

Once we learned these finer points, a little scheduling has helped Sally and me grow closer. We have periodic "retreats" to talk about bigger issues and look ahead. Some days I’ll simply take time to ask, "Anything on your heart this week?"

Tips for guys

Although we’re doing better at building intimacy, it’s never easy to clear our schedules and our minds so we can explore deep issues or discuss hopes, goals and dreams. Plus, a little thing called gender gets in the way. For a lot of guys, this level of sharing is as natural as making doilies. It’s near the top of their list of fears, right below being trapped in a scrapbooking convention.

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned that might help other guys:

1. Don’t approach talk times clinically. Lines like this won’t work:

  • "Let us now commence the dispensing of emotions. Three . . . two . . . one . . ."
  • "Alright. Let’s knock out some girly time."
  • "You’re probably mad at me about something, so bring it on. I’ve got on my Wall of Steel!"

2. Intimacy building does not include:

  • guitar solos
  • reviewing Super Bowl highlights (even if your heart was broken at the result)
  • sharing dreams that are not grounded in reality: "I’ve always wanted to take on a whole army of bug creatures, and all I have is this cannon – but it’s from another planet!"

Getting physical

Putting physical intimacy on the calendar can feel a little awkward. Many couples envision a life overflowing with spontaneous passion. The problem is, busyness and passion don’t mix. If my wife and I waited until both of us were overcome by a sudden fit of passion, we’d experience physical intimacy about once a year – most likely on Arbour Day.

We’ve had honest talks about expectations in this area. Most guys understand the idea of scheduling physical intimacy and are happy to add an appointment about every 45 seconds. Women, however, may be content waiting for Arbour Day to roll around. Fortunately, there’s room for compromise.

Grab your calendar

Scheduling one-on-one time solely to invest in our marriage takes ongoing effort. It can be hard to say no to all the other responsibilities. But after two years of marriage, I can honestly say that Sally and I are learning to love more deeply and we’re having a blast.

That reminds me, Valentine’s Day is coming soon and I need to book that romantic "Singing Monkeys and Moonlight for Two" excursion. Guess I’d better pencil that in.

Patrick Dunn lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the time of publication. He has been learning how to share his thoughts and feelings without hyperventilating.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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