A special feature with Joanna Sheppard and Brianna Hines on the importance of cultivating consistent connections to keep one’s marriage healthy.
The last two weeks we’ve been sharing ideas on how to create consistent rhythms and schedules for our days. Created in God’s image, we thrive in atmospheres of order, peace, and beauty. Our hearts crave consistency in our schedules, relationships, and also in our marriages. In this season, as we face the unknown future of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope you’ll be encouraged to invest in the gift of your marriage.
As we all know, the marriage relationship will traverse many seasons in the course of its life, as the classic marriage vows so aptly allude. Times of richness and of poverty, both financially and emotionally. Times of busyness and of boredom, of sickness and of health, of security and of many unknowns. Regardless of where we are today, it’s important to remind ourselves that in these long days with children, our marriages still need nurturing to thrive and to grow.
It’s the habit of parents to sacrifice for their children, but in regard to date night, don’t give in! Pick a day and time that works with your schedules. Make a plan for the kids, and be flexible with the timing. You can use the following ideas at any time, day or night. Make boundaries clear with your kids and protect this marriage-building time like you would any other appointment of value. Kids will learn to appreciate the example you set as you make quality time for each other. Creating a consistent date routine will give both you and your husband something fun to look forward to throughout the week.
We have been doing date night at home for years now! We put the kids to bed and one of us goes to pick up takeout and brings it back. We snuggle on the couch and watch a movie, or eat at the table together and talk. Sometimes we pray together, too. Here are some ways that my husband and I have found to enjoy date nights together, even before the virus kept us all home.
- Support local business and get some takeout or delivery.
- Play a board game, unless you are us because there is a good chance we will get too competitive.
- Google questions to ask on date night, and start going through a list. I am often surprised at how little I know about my spouse, especially with the deeper things that don’t often get brought up in general conversation.
- Put devices and screens to bed early for a date night in. Take time to connect with each other, while you unplug from outside distractions. If this is particularly difficult for your husband, offer a harmless bribe, like a back massage, fresh cookies, or something a little more “exotic” to make the unplugged time a lot more fun for both of you, sans the grumpiness.
- Do a puzzle.
- Bake cookies or cook something together although beware. For some reason, cooking in the kitchen together often results in cooking up some love in the bedroom, whether cookies get baked or not.
- Foot massage exchange. Each grab the opposite foot and simultaneously rub each other’s feet on the couch. This one is great! You both win!
- Read aloud! We love doing this with parenting or marriage books because we can pause and discuss as we go along. You could also grab your favorite young adult novel like Narnia to read aloud, too.
- Watch a marriage video, or listen to a marriage podcast together. Listen to a sermon podcast, and then talk about it. Discussion and communication is the heart of marital intimacy.
Here are some other ideas for cultivating consistent connections in marriage:
Set aside some time to pray together: Yes, it will start out awkward, but soon it will become something you crave as it knits your souls in a deep way. It is humbling to hear what my husband has on his heart to pray for, things I wouldn’t get to hear about otherwise. I love this time. It’s well worth the effort and awkwardness at the beginning.
Light a candle and put on some relaxing music: It can’t hurt, and music has a way of setting a mood like little else can. It might pave the way for deeper conversation, connection, and intimacy.
Offer to watch or to get involved in one of your husband’s hobbies: It will make him feel like a million bucks if you genuinely give his hobby positive attention. The books I have read show that long lasting marriages are built on supporting each other’s hobbies and dreams. Who knows, maybe you will end up actually enjoying a new hobby together!
Get outside: Fresh air and getting out in God’s creation are a potent combination to lift your mood and unify your spirits! Put some lawn chairs out next to each other and hold hands while reading a book or magazine. Look at the sunset. Anything! You could even light up the fire pit, take a stroll around the neighborhood, or go for a bike ride as ways to relax outside together in the evening when it’s nice.
Dream together about a project or the future: Take time to dream together. It could be about anything like looking at houses on Zillow, planning a future renovation, shopping for outdoor furniture, talking about that new flower bed you have been hoping to put in, or booking your next family vacation. Dream about when you want to have your next baby or of what you want to do when the kids leave the nest. If it is a joint dream, it is fun to brainstorm together, especially if it involves shopping!
Pro Tip: Take the hour or two before the “date” and clean the house! We get the kids involved before they go to bed and do a giant clean up before they get dessert and story time. However it gets accomplished, we have ALWAYS found that a messy house is a deterrent to a relaxing date night, and a clean house sets the stage for better moods all around. Even if it is just one room that you can clean to enjoy on your date (bedroom anyone?) it will lift the whole evening and clear your mind to focus on connecting with your spouse, not thinking about all that laundry staring at you from the other side of the couch.
Also, for those penny pinchers like I — I use the logic that all the money I am saving by not having a babysitter can be used to splurge on takeout, or something fun I wouldn’t normally let our family buy. It helps my cheap mind loosen up and gives my husband a money-stressed-free wife for a night! Win win!