By Chris Marlink
— Captain Obvious
A flourishing marriage requires the investment of significant amounts of time. That’s obvious, right? No one stumbles into relational bliss. You have to sweat for it. You have to put in the time.
The thing is, even if you agree conceptually with the assessment that a great marriage requires time–it’s nearly impossible in the early dating days or during those first few years of marriage, when it’s likely just the two of you, to imagine how hard it’s going to be to make time together a priority over the long haul.
With relatively fewer commitments in those early days, you’ll find any excuse to be together. And if you’re anything like me, the possibility of not having gobs of time to go out, to talk, and to dream together never even occurs to you.
But it’s coming.
Careers and travel, kids, illness, aging parents, home maintenance–all these circumstances will draw from the same reserves of time, attention, disposable income(!) and emotional energy that your relationship requires. It becomes very easy to take your relationship for granted in the face of life’s “emergencies.”
But it’s your healthy marriage that can give you the sustaining strength and courage to face the challenges of life. So how do you keep focused on your relationship even with all those extra demands?
Here’s one way that my wife Becky and I have made our relationship a priority. We got the idea from a co-worker several years ago (thanks, Keri!).
Each year on Valentine’s Day, Becky receives a stack of 12 envelopes marked with a month of the year. Inside each of these envelopes is a slip of paper with one date idea*.
The date ideas range from small investments of time and money–like a dinner for two prepared by me after the kids are in bed–to larger investments, like tickets to her favorite play. Sometimes the envelope will contain an activity we’ve never tried before, like stand-up paddleboarding. Others will include old standbys, like an evening watching a period film together with a pint of our favorite ice cream.
Related: See Chris and Becky’s list of 12 date night ideas + one bonus reference.
It’s not about what’s inside the envelope really. It’s about the practice of setting aside time to feed our marriage. We’ve found these 12 planned outings (are they innings if you stay home?) to be essential for re-connecting and making sure that we’re moving toward one another.
Yes, it takes some planning on the front end to think of ideas that will be meaningful and enjoyable for you. But if you’re looking for more spiritual, physical, and emotional intimacy in your marriage, make the time.
*If you’re the one coming up with date ideas, keep a separate list of what you’ve written in the envelopes somewhere. Otherwise you might forget what you’ve written and drop the ball on dates that take a little extra planning. (Not that that’s happened to me, of course.)
About the author: Chris Marlink is a digital media specialist. He manages the social media programs for the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry.