If someone would have told me that I would write a blog post about marriage during our early years, I would have told them they were funny. After almost 20 years of married life, we can honestly say that we have learned more than we ever thought we knew. When two people who are as completely opposite as my husband and I are, we were bound to need some shaving and sanding to fit these two puzzle pieces together. Allan is the happy-go-lucky, never-met-a-stranger, so-loud-he-should-have-been-Italian sort of guy, while I have been more reserved, rule-following, melancholy, slow, quiet type. The stereotypical thought that women have to speak a bazillion words per day and men only speak 10 does not fit our husband and wife dynamic. Allan is the talker. I am the thinker. If we were one person, we might be brilliant J… or very dangerous, haha. We had our first child within the first year of marriage, so the days of just the two of us were few. We loved every second (well, maybe not EVERY second) of our three children being young. Life was busy, and because I was a full-time mom, we worked hard to stretch our funds. The kiddos had us going all the time, and we seldom stopped to just be a couple together.
Even though I had read several times how important it was for couples with small children to make time for one another, we were really bad about it. There were several years that the only time we went out was on our anniversary. Because it was so infrequent, I fretted the entire time. “How do you think the kids are?” “Do you think they are behaving?” or even, “My goodness, we really cannot afford to go out AND pay a sitter.” and "What was your name again?"
Under normal circumstances, we did life like every other family, rolling with the punches while bobbing just above the surface. However, when life circumstances got heated, as they always do, we found ourselves coming apart at the seams. That “three stranded cord” [And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecc 4:12] can become frail when we become separated and entangled in the cares of life. The three strand cord can be seen as the husband, wife, and God, who binds them together. Whether the spouse is a believer or not, there is still room for this principle to be applied by the believer, and it is quite powerful.
During a particularly challenging time, when the economy fell apart and our livelihood was at stake, we needed something to keep us anchored. Though our finances did not make it easy, we started making Friday night our date night (with flexibility for schedules). No matter how difficult the week had been, that was a time that we could personally connect again, and rediscover what it was like to date again. We didn’t have to dress up (all the time), nor did we have to go to the fanciest place in town. There were several times that I found a great Groupon for an activity or dinner. Sometimes we just enjoyed an endless bowl of chips and pico de gallo (my personal favorite splurge on cheat night).
If the frugal side of me got caught up on the expense of date night, I would talk myself out of it. What I have discovered is, this weekly investment of alone time together has been worth its weight in gold. If I could have told my younger self anything, I would have said to keep these things a priority:
- Honor your relationship with God; be in prayer, praise, and doing His work continually.
- Honor your relationship with your husband, and never stop dating.
- Honor your health, because you are a vessel that the Holy Spirit dwells in, and the lifelong helpmeet to your husband.
- Honor your children by teaching them how to do these things.
I have found myself leaving this reminder to engaged friends, and really hoping to instill this in my kids. The best thing I can do for them is to show them that their parents really do love one another.
Date night (or morning) does not have to be out to eat. A walk in the park, feed the ducks, explore a trail, or visit a museum. Walk the downtown area, grab a cup of coffee at a little coffee shop. Check for outdoor concerts like Symphony Under the Stars, or take a fishing pole down to the lake. Keep it simple, and every once in a while plan something very special.
The point is to really enjoy one another. Take pictures, hold hands, laugh, and get to know one another again, especially if it has been some time since you had time together without wiping peanut butter off of someone while playing referee between rowdy kiddos.