“So, how’s life?”
It seems like every time someone asks me that question these days, my response is “So busy. But so great!” This isn't necessarily what I want to say - it's just my reaction. Life seems to get busier and busier the older I get. I know that once children enter the mix someday (God willing), I'll look back on these days with laughter at how busy and tired I thought I was.
We're all busy. It looks different for everyone. Mine looks like traveling full-time for ministry coupled with trying to write for a new album, on top of all the other responsibilities of work, life, marriage, prayer, family, friendships... you know how it is. We can't do it all perfectly all the time. However, if we're not careful with how we balance our time, the most important things might suffer the most.
When Dom and I got married, we received a lot of great advice from friends on how to maintain connection through the ebbs and flows of our life together. From the get go, we tried to establish some practices that we have kept to this very day. Let me preface this by saying I am no expert in marriage. But if there is anything we have learned in the short amount of time we've been married it's that working to stay connected is priceless work. I’m convinced that by making some of the things on this list a priority in our relationship, we're setting ourselves up for success in the long run. An encouragement to you dating / engaged couples out there: the great part about most of these ideas is that if you put them into practice now, it will help make sure they're habits in the future :)
So, without further ado, here it is. 4 ideas for connecting with your spouse:
This one may seem obvious, but it’s an important one. You don't stop dating when you get married. One of our most trusted friends told us when we were dating that it was crucial to make one date night a week a priority. No matter what. Whether you have no kids, 5 kids, a busy travel schedule, a busy work week. Date night is non-negotiable. And make it a rule to not talk about work (or kids). Seems harsh, but focusing on each other for at least this few hours a week is crucial.
Date nights are not only meant to help you reconnect with one another, they can help you to remember what made you fall in love in the first place. When you're married it can be easy to forget that, even though you know you will be together forever, you still have to pursue one another. That's why dates are so important! It's time to get away from the mundane tasks of life and to remind you that you are not just roommates living in a shared space, you're friends and lovers first and foremost.
Because Dom and I both work in ministry and are passionate about what we do, it can become all we talk about sometimes - especially on date nights. A great way to avoid talking about things you already talk about every other day of the week is asking each other fun, creative questions. I've found some great lists on Pinterest and Marriage365.com. And dates don't always have to be expensive, candlelit dinners either. Get creative! One of our favorite date nights is boardgames, wine, and dancing around with the record player on. Again, Pinterest to the rescue if you're really stuck for ideas ;).
This one is our personal favorite. The idea is super simple: After the workday, set aside one hour for unplugged conversation and catch up time with your choice of cocktail or wine (or water if you're pregnant ;)). We've been doing this once or twice a week ever since we got married and it's been amazing! The idea came from a blog post I came across once. The author said that her and her husband established this early on in their marriage and have kept it going even as kiddos came into the picture. The kids know that when Mommy and Daddy are having their "happy hour", they are not to interrupt and they have to occupy themselves. We've added appetizers to our happy hour from time to time to spice things up. :)
This is another pretty obvious way to connect, but I wanted to dive into it a little bit. Let me start by saying this: prayer time as a couple looks different for everyone. I struggled with that truth for awhile. In the beginning of our marriage I found myself comparing our prayer life as a couple to what I had seen other couples do. But just like individual prayer life is different for everyone, the same is true for couples. Figure out what works for you and stick with it. Whatever you do, don't let it fade away - praying, in addition to being our relationship with God, is among the most intimate things we can do with our spouse.
For Dom and I, we are not pray-right-before-bed kind of people. We’ve found that when we try to pray together at night, we’re tired, distracted, sometimes cranky and our prayer ends up being rushed and way less fruitful. Mornings are much better for us. Usually we’ll read the readings of the day and reflect on them with one another. Other times we will individually spend some time reading from a spiritual book that we’re working through and share about it. Sometimes we’ll listen to a spiritual podcast or worship music while we’re making breakfast. There are endless ways to make your prayer life together enjoyable and fruitful, and the best part is you can change it up over time!
Turn Off Your Screens
Sitting on a couch next to someone who has their face buried in a screen, scrolling mindlessly through newsfeed after newsfeed is not fun for anyone. Especially when it’s your significant other. I will admit, I am the one who was most guilty of doing this at the beginning of our marriage. What I didn't realize was that while I was on my phone, mindlessly "connecting" with hundreds of people on social media or friends via text whilst my husband sat beside me, it made Dom feel like the people on the other side of the screen were more important to me than connecting with him. That's just not right.
Airplane mode is a real gem, people. Use it. I try to keep my phone either on airplane mode or on silent from dinner time until work hours the following day.
I know what you're thinking. But what if someone has to get in touch with me? What if I miss an important email? What if I miss out on something that's going on in the world or on social media? You don't know how bad my FOMO is, Sarah.
Listen. A text can wait. An email can wait. No one has ever died from not hearing back from you immediately. What the world needs most from you now is to stay connected to your spouse. And an added bonus: I promise you that by disconnecting from your phone for several hours every single day, your stress level will be significantly less. Trust me, try it for a week.
There it is. I hope some of these ideas are helpful to you! Do you and your spouse have a way that you enjoy connecting that I didn't share above? Comment below, I'd love to hear about it! We all know that relationships take work, but a lot of the "work" should also be fun and enjoyable. You're married to who you are married to because they are your best friend. Let's work to never forget that :)