Let’s start through our list of time commitments with some practical ideas about handling the “time squeeze” that comes with a growing family. I am going to begin with our time together as a couple (see last post’s diagram for a list of these areas) because getting this right is critical to our marriage and family health. Now some of this couple time is just naturally moved over to the kid time because of all the things we do together as a family. But keeping some time for just the two of us is very important.
One of the ideas I challenge men with is to commit at least two uninterrupted hours a week to listen to your wife. This is just the two of you together. To our women readers, this may seem pretty minimal; to your husbands, it may seem like a herculean task. The key to this time together is to listen attentively without distraction or interruption.
When our children were young, it was hard to get this two hours all in one sitting. So I tried to spend at least a half hour each evening after the kids went to bed to listen to Rhonda’s concerns, joys, hopes, and challenges. In strictly practical terms, this time was invaluable. For Rhonda, the stressors of the day were much easier to handle when she knew that a time was coming – and coming very soon – when she would have a listening ear. She did not have to “stuff” the challenges of the day and plow ahead never knowing when they would be addressed. And beyond just hearing Rhonda’s thoughts and feelings, these times gave us a chance to discuss problems, seek solutions, and make plans before things just drifted to the back burner never to be thought through. It gave us a sense that we were moving ahead in life; moving ahead in training our children in an intentional way.
The commitment was not always easy to keep and sometimes we had to get creative. As our children began to stay up later, we reached a point where it just seemed that we were too tired to accomplish this goal when the house finally became quiet. So we went to plan B. We would wake our oldest at 6:30 in the morning and let him know that Mom and Dad were going for a walk and he was in charge. Then Rhonda and I would take a half hour stroll around the block before I went to work. It was a blessed time to connect and pray together as a couple.
This is just one idea for not letting our time together as a couple “go to zero” in those busy years. Look for opportunities to add to your daily time together through dates and trips away. Be creative. Seek out what works best for you as couple. The expectations and suggestions of others may be helpful, but don’t let them complicate what you find works best for you. The important thing is to stick to with it. Sometimes, when we go several days without making the connection we need, we are tempted to give up. Don’t do it. Pick up right where you are and get it going again. The key to keeping our time together a spark, not a dying ember, is not to demand perfection; it is to be consistent.