A Holiday Getaway
Does holiday stress have you and your spouse desperate for some quiet downtime? During the month of December, plan at least one weekend getaway with your mate and leave behind the chores, commitments and chaos of the season to give your marital intimacy a boost. Slowing down the Christmas rush could be as easy as cosying up in a local bed and breakfast, or house-sitting the home of friends or family going out of town. Or, if fitting in a getaway is nearly impossible, reserve one day of the week for a relaxing time with your spouse, avoiding shopping centres and other places bustling from Christmas-season activity. Together, you can explore a nearby hike or visit the next town. Even if it’s raining bring your wellies and enjoy the quiet of a different surrounding.
In sickness and in health
How does your spouse handle being sick? Do they want lots of attention and tender care – or mostly to be left alone? Ask your spouse how you can best love and care for them when they’re feeling under the weather. Learning how they want to be treated during illness can strengthen your marriage for other challenges ahead.
Growing together in faith
For spiritual formation in your marriage, try memorising Scripture together. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning or driving somewhere together, see if you can recite the week’s passage to each other. You’ll have God’s Word dwelling in both your hearts and minds week by week.
Crystal J. from Alberta, Canada recently shared with us how she handles negative feelings towards her spouse. She wrote, “When frustration, anger or resentment is rising in my spirit because of something my spouse has said or done (or perhaps something I expected him to have done), I tell him I’m struggling and I ask him to pray for me. It doesn’t take a long explanation. Usually, he can sense what caused the issue anyway. It shifts my focus to how God wants to shape and mould me, and keeps me from trying to change my husband. Pride disappears and humble dependence on God and each other replaces it.”
For ideas on how to bless your spouse, keep your ears open when they’re talking with others. Often, your partner will express wishes that are easy to fulfil. Exclamations like, “I’ve always wanted to see that show . . .” are clues to great surprises for your spouse.
Keeping the love line open
Do busy days keep you and your spouse from finding time to talk and pray together? Take a moment or two throughout the day to briefly call, email or text message your spouse. Quickly share your prayer requests, praises and assurances of love. Make sure you end the day together in prayer.
When was the last time you spoke words of affirmation to your spouse? Over time, it may not come to mind as readily as it did early in your relationship. Intentional affirmation will not only encourage your spouse, but also strengthen those bonds of affection. Tell your spouse what you love and admire about them today!
I’m thankful for you because . . .
Tell your spouse 10 things about them that you’re thankful for. On an everyday basis, strive to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for each other, focusing on the positive qualities of your spouse instead of the negative. Often, we easily take our loved ones for granted and only look at what they lack according to our expectations. Constantly measuring up your spouse to those expectations will guarantee your disappointment and marital dissatisfaction. Instead, choose to adopt a thankful perspective and ask God for help to let go of unrealistic or selfish expectations. You’ll find through ups and downs, learning to be thankful for how God has made your mate will greatly strengthen your marriage.
Back to school together
September is a month associated with new beginnings. With the kids starting another year of school, why not begin something new in your marriage by taking a special interest course with your spouse? Together, you can learn a new language, try your eye for photography, cook new, flavourful foods or develop your green thumb. Pottery, dance, visual arts or creative writing are other options most continuing education locations offer. And the great thing is, most of these courses are fun, creative and probably don’t have homework. Another benefit of learning something new is that it not only generates new interactions with your spouse, but you can take these skills home and start a new joint hobby.
Jenn T. from Alberta, Canada shared with us that she and her husband sometimes find it hard to get out for their date night due to financial reasons and being parents of a toddler and an infant. So, another way they spend time together is to go for an evening walk right after supper with their kids. Distracted by the change in scenery, the children tend to entertain themselves in the buggy, not only giving Jenn the chance to get out of the house for some exercise, but also giving her and her husband time to unwind and catch up on each other’s day while they walk. Even something as simple as going for a walk is valuable time spent together. It works out great for them and better yet, it doesn’t cost them anything.
Holidays game plan
A spouse-only break is a wonderful way to reorient you as a married couple away from the responsibilities of regular life and parenthood. However, preparing for the trip and being on someone else’s idea of a holiday can cause more stress than relaxation. How many times have you found yourself flustered over packing, worrying that your spouse has forgotten something – or everything – important? Take a few minutes to create a packing list, which will help both of you get out the door faster. This will also give you the extra time you need to plan the trip together and address the question, What to do, what to see? Before embarking on your trip, discuss your vacation expectations with each other. You might want lots of time on the beach doing nothing; your spouse, on the other hand, may want to see every museum in the city. Settle on a holiday game plan that honours both of your wants and needs, and keep it flexible. By discussing your expectations, you’ll better anticipate what the trip will look like and reduce trip-related squabbles. Enjoy a truly restful and intimacy-building time with each other.
Try something new
If you and your spouse have very different pastime activities, consider ways to “play together” to strengthen your marriage. Even if you have very different interests, you still probably share general similarities. For instance, if she likes to sew and he likes to fix cars, both can enjoy a pastime that involves working with details and working with your hands. Begin with discussing each other’s interests and ideas of leisure, then look at the fundamental reasons why you’re drawn to those activities. Trying out your spouse’s pastime doesn’t hurt either – you might like it! And if you simply can’t enjoy sharing certain hobbies, learn something new for the both of you, and have someone else instruct the activity. This creates a neutral territory where both of you are beginners. If it turns out you’re both natural dancers, great; if not, you can still laugh together over the clumsiness of your shared “left feet.”
Honesty is important for a thriving marriage, but knowing when and where to express criticism and opinions on a touchy subject takes practice in the art of self-editing. In the heat of an argument, uttering every negative or critical thought that comes to mind can wound your spouse and ultimately harm your marriage. Instead, hold your tongue on thoughts aimed at tearing down your spouse. This is not to say that you can’t share your innermost concerns with your spouse; it does mean, however, that couples must learn to make their marriage a safe place where they can deal with conflict. Learn to speak what’s on your heart with a spirit of humility, and become a better judge of what thoughts are appropriate for the moment and which ones are generated by a desire to hurt the other person.
Do you know your spouse’s love language?
According to Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch are ways to receive and express love. Not knowing your spouse’s personal love language is like shooting an arrow in the dark. Ever wonder why your wife is thrilled when you pick up the groceries but less than excited about that thoughtful box of chocolates you bought her? While she might appreciate occasional gifts, it might be that her love language is receiving acts of service. Take time to sit down with your spouse and discuss the different ways he/she receives love best. To hear more about the Five Love Languages, click here: http://www.family.ie/ the-five-love-languages/
You’re not alone!
Whether you’re newlywed or married for years, busy lives can make going out a challenge, let alone going out with other people. However, making time with your spouse to connect with others is important. Spending time with different types of married couples helps bring new perspective to your marriage and affirms you’re not alone in your marital ups and downs. Older couples have a wealth of wisdom from their own marriage journey, offering valuable, seasoned advice. Couples who are in the next stage of life can counsel you on issues concerning the near future, such as the decision to have children or how to handle transition for empty nesters. No matter the age of your married friends, you can still benefit from their company. Armed with others’ encouragement, perspectives and stories of hope, you’ll be better equipped to fend off marital troubles and experience a lasting, fulfilling marriage.
© 2009 Focus on the Family (Canada) Association. All rights reserved.