Why is it couples often spend more time planning a vacation than planning for marital success? My husband, Derek, planned every detail of our 15th anniversary trip to Alaska: flights, accommodations and tours.

Day in and day out, however, marriage is not a vacation. We don’t have a detailed itinerary. Derek and I often travel in opposite directions – and our relationship suffers. How can we juggle our lives and still invest in one another? We need a plan to develop a healthy marriage.

Our vacation in Alaska reminded me what matters: my relationship with my husband. Little did I know that in nine days, Derek and I would experience such closeness. As I reflected on why, I saw five ways we drew closer to one another and how these could work for any marriage.

Spiritual closeness

On vacation, Derek and I were intentional about connecting spiritually. We read a devotional book, prayed for our marriage and watched a DVD on Biblical worldview.

Spiritual intimacy is vital. Take 10 minutes to read Proverbs or pray together. Consider joining a couples’ small group or starting one. Share your thoughts about the pastor’s message. Commit to praying for one another when you’re apart.

Fun

I took more than 600 pictures in Alaska of everything that moves: whales, bears, sea lions, jellyfish and the ocean. I also recorded videos of glaciers cracking and Derek singing ’70s love songs to me in the car.

I had forgotten how funny Derek is. We laughed every day when we dated, but once we married and our responsibilities grew, we forgot to laugh. I missed that.

So after returning home, I bought the board game Cranium. I chuckled as Derek swung his arm up to act out an elephant. Derek howled when I performed a pillow fight. By purposefully planning fun, we’re showing our two kids marriage isn’t just about budgets and chores.

Laughter is health food for marriage. Create opportunities to unwind and have fun again. Go roller-skating or bowling. Watch a comedy. Watch your wedding video. That always makes me blush and giggle.

Affection and sexual intimacy

Derek and I rekindled our sexual intimacy in Alaska. As the week went on, I noticed my heart was drawn to Derek again. I found myself reaching for his hand or snuggling up next to him whenever possible.

Affection and sexual intimacy are part of a healthy marriage. Women need emotional closeness, and men need sex. Are you neglecting this area because of busyness or fatigue? If so, look for ways to give affection throughout the day. Hug often. A wife will appreciate your attention, and a husband will be happier when his sexual needs are met.

Face-to-face communication

While in Alaska, Derek and I enjoyed fish and chips at a seaside restaurant in Seward and pizza at Moose’s Tooth in Anchorage. During our meals, we talked about everything and even reminisced about our dating years.

Couples need regular communication to connect. Value one another by scheduling time to talk. Share your burdens, hurts, fears and dreams. Give eye contact. Listen.

Shoulder-to-shoulder time

Derek and I were in awe of God’s creation in Alaska. We took day cruises and saw humpbacks. We rode the scenic train, hiked up to a glacier, kayaked across a lake and rented bikes.

Spend time together around common interests. Attend a concert, walk together or browse the library or a bookstore. I may not enjoy watching football with Derek, but to him it spells l-o-v-e.

A plan for success

Since our Alaska trip, Derek and I made a plan to deepen our relationship. We’re reading the devotional Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life by Charles Swindoll, and Friday nights are now date nights.

Don’t wait until vacation to plan your marriage success. Pick one or two areas to work on. Brainstorm ideas such as praying together on Sunday nights or dedicating a couple hours each week for play. Even something as simple as scheduling breakfast in bed once a month will bring a new closeness to your marriage.

Tiffany Stuart enjoyed game nights with her family in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the time of publication.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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