Maintaining a healthy marriage requires work for any couple, but when you add kids into the mix, it can get more challenging because your time is divided into even more directions. Being intentional about making the health of your marriage a priority is often the first step toward achieving that goal and is often easier said than done. Jenni Schubring and Clark Schultz both remind us how important it is and offer encouragement to keep trying.
— Nicole Balza
This is a loaded question. Thousands of books are written about this topic, and yet I get to address this in 600 words. Here are a few things that my husband, Tad, and I do to maintain a healthy marriage.
Define “healthy.” Healthy marriage can mean different things to different people. Tad and I make sure that we are on the same page when it comes to having a healthy marriage. The only way we know if we are on the same page is if we talk about it. Have the conversation. Work to get on the same page.
Share expectations. Getting on the same page requires us to share our expectations. A two-minute conversation about how we are planning to spend our day, our down- time, our vacation time, can have a tremendous positive impact on how our time goes.
Make time. Tad and I like to date each other, and we get to define what “date” looks like for us. Tad and I make time to have coffee in the morning together at least four to five times a week right in our kitchen. We like to go for walks or to the local bookstore as well as do the traditional dinner and a movie. The point is to make time together, preferably uninterrupted time. That means if you have little children, pay for a sitter or do some bartering. That investment is worth it.
Get support. We don’t wait until things are bad to get support. Tad and I each have a Christian coach. My coach helps me see the things that I can work on for myself so that I can love Tad better. Wellness check-ups for marriage are important. So find a coach, therapist, or counselor as a way to get the support you need.
Get more support. Do life with other couples. Tad and I recently joined a couples’ Bible study. We realized it had been a long time since we have been in a Bible study together. As people who serve in the church, we found ourselves leading a lot, but being a consumer has been a blessing. We also see how important it is to make sure we are getting poured into through community.
Look at intent. When there is conflict in our marriage, we look at intent. If I’m being honest, this isn’t the first thing I do. I wish it was. When I pause long enough to look at Tad’s intent when he does something that hurts me, rarely is it to be hurtful. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. But looking at something from his perspective sure helps in finding the common ground so that we can work through the conflict.
Forgive. There are times when our intent isn’t where it should be. There are times when we do or say hurtful things, where pride gets in the way of loving each other well. Forgiving, letting go, and no longer holding that sin against the other is imperative in our marriage. Keeping score and bringing up the past is not a part of a healthy marriage.
We do need to be on the same page. What we’ve learned is that God is that page. That page is full of grace—grace that God has for us and grace that we have for each other because of what God has done for us.
First comes love, then comes marriage. Then if Mom and Dad start pushing a baby carriage, the inevitable next step comes—pure exhaustion.
Marriage is great; it’s a unique blessing from God. The same can be said for parenting. However, they both require work. When our first child came along, it was manageable for us. Our second child was a game changer, partly because he takes after his father. Our third child was the biggest adjustment as we went from man-to-man coverage to zone coverage. But whether you have 1, 2, 3, or the Brady bunch, parenting requires a great deal of patience and love. It can also take its toll on a marriage as much of the focus and energy of the parents is on the kiddos.
I am in no way the love doctor, but I have been asked to share with you what works and does not work for us as parents and a couple to maintain a healthy marriage.
Continue to date your spouse. Schedule date nights. The first night we left our firstborn home with a babysitter was like we were expecting a call from the president of the United States with the constant checking of our phones. But it was vital for us to have “away” time. And, yes, our son reenacted the end of a war movie with real tears as he put his hand on the glass of the door as we drove off, thus taking our guilt meter to 11. You may have experienced something similar. But remember, it’s fine for your child to be with someone else for awhile so you and your spouse can take some time away to recharge and reconnect.
Hang out with other couples who have kids in your age group. This can be performed in different ways. My wife schedules playdates with other moms, and our church has a moms group that meets at different parks during the summer. It gives the kids time to burn off some energy and gives the moms time to chat, compare notes, and encourage each other. I’m not saying ditch your non-kid or empty-nester friends, but it’s mutually encouraging for us as a couple to talk to other couples who are in the same boat as us. It makes us realize that certain events, behaviors, or problems are not just exclusive to our children, and it is encouraging to know we are not alone.
This may go along with #1 but, if your budget allows, have longer getaways with your spouse. Schedule a weekend or an overnight stay at a hotel or place that’s close but far enough away. We have parents who love grandparent time, and that gives my wife and me the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. We can have a conversation without someone flinging a vegetable across the table or spilling a beverage. And sleeping in at least for one day helps recharge the batteries.
Don’t forget intimacy. I will go in a couple directions with this. It is vital that you stay intimate with your spouse even if it means scheduling it if the spontaneity doesn’t always happen. This is one of the blessings of marriage and companionship. Sex is an amazing gift from God that helps you and your spouse connect. The other intimacy I speak of is being intimate in your devotion and prayer life. Life happens, things get busy, and it’s vital that you both take time together in the Word and look to Christ as the model for the love, humility, and patience needed to interact with each other and your children.
“They grow up quickly.” We hear that a great deal. So enjoy the precious gift of being a parent. But continue to give yourself permission to enjoy time and a special relationship with your spouse. After all, in the blink of an eye, you will be the cool grandparents watching your grandkids so their parents can have some time to themselves.
Authors: Multiple authors
Volume 108, Number 11
Issue: November 2021