Our family is loving the beautiful fall weather! We’ve built bonfires, played pickleball, and walked in the woods. Our windows are wide open, and we are soaking up the sunshine. While the weather is good, it is a temptation to spend all our extra time in recreation, but, as we look around our home, we find plenty of projects that need to be done to prepare for the frigid, freezing, frostiness to come. Here’s our list:
None of these items are things we’re looking forward to. Honestly, there have been years when we’ve skipped these tasks. (Spoiler alert: that was a bad idea!). When we ignored these annoying or hard tasks, it resulted in damage to our home and property and turned a regular job into a much bigger one later!
Our physical homes are not the only things that need maintenance. Our marriages need regular attention, too. It is all too easy to focus on individual work schedules, personal hobbies, or even the children and neglect a marriage. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you ignore your children or drop your work commitments, but I do want to stress that our marriages need to be our top priority. I have never seen a healthy, thriving marriage where the children suffered. In contrast, we have seen many families in which the children were the main focus, to the detriment of the marriage, which ultimately hurt the children anyway.
Just like cleaning out the gutters on your house isn’t easy, we know that prioritizing your marriage can be hard. Life is not a Hallmark movie, and marriage is not always full of sappiness, surprise, and spontaneity. We’ve had seasons of marriage with small children who didn’t sleep through the night, big children with increasingly busy schedules, limited finances that ruled out spending on “fun” things, and the challenge of helping aging parents through a health crisis. We’ve not always been good at prioritizing our marriage, but we’ve been married long enough to know that we have to make an effort to maintain our marriage to avoid a bigger relationship mess down the road. I’d like to give you four practical “C’s” to consider as your work to sustain and strengthen your marriage.
(1) Commit. Schedule a regular date night. Once a week, set aside at least an hour to have a date that doesn’t include scrolling on your phones. If money is tight (we’ve been there!), trade off babysitting with another family or put the kids in bed a few minutes early and have an in-home date. Share a special dessert, play cards or a board game, watch a movie, or simply talk and dream together. You can find lists of conversation starters online if you need some help getting started.
(2) Connect. Set small points of connection through the week. Text your spouse to see how his day is going. Leave a little love note in a lunch box. The other day, I found a post-it note that Christopher had left on my steering wheel, and the meaningful message made me smile as I set out on my errands because I knew he was thinking of me.
(3) Compliment. Make a point of verbalizing something you admire about your spouse every day. I’ve noticed the pep in Christopher’s step when I tell him how much I appreciate how hard he works to support us, and I find more joy in my daily tasks when he admires a meal I’ve prepared or something I’ve tidied up around the house. Let your children hear you speaking positively of each other, too.
(4) Communicate. Beyond a regular date night, Christopher and I have now scheduled a standing weekly business lunch. It is a non-negotiable time for us to communicate about household business matters (bills, vacation plans, homeschool issues, etc.). As a homemaker, I handle a lot of the day-to-day workings of our home, but our home functions much more smoothly when we both have input and work together. We found it was too easy for us to let things drop in the evenings when we were tired, so we finally wised up and scheduled a specific time for us to talk about business. We are both happier because we are taking care of important things, and, as an added bonus, we aren’t tempted to spend our date nights talking about discipline issues or investment portfolios.
I’ll leave you with a personal example of commitment from our marriage. We have been married for 16 years and have celebrated our anniversary in big and small ways, but one of the most memorable anniversaries might surprise you. When our fifth anniversary rolled around, our second son had been born only four days prior, and we’d been home from the hospital for two days. It was very tempting to ignore the special day altogether. I was recovering from a C-section and feeling very postpartum, and neither of us had had much sleep. Instead of giving in to the temptation, we sat on the couch holding a brand new baby, ate a supper someone from church delivered, and watched the Fireproof movie that had just been released. It was probably the simplest and least romantic anniversary we’ve ever had, but I remember it vividly because we chose to celebrate our marriage anyway. Even in the midst of exhaustion and discomfort, we decided that our marriage was important.
Maintain your marriage, even when you’re tired or it seems inconvenient. You’ll be glad you did.
Proverbs 3:3-4 “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”