It seems like it should be easy, effortless, even fun. Of course our marriage is a priority.
As restrictions on this pandemic lift, however, we’ve realized we’ve very much set our marriage to cruise control these last 13+ months. And suddenly, the effects are settling in.
See, when the world shut down last spring, we quickly adjusted to a new way of life. Calendars scaled way back, and we found ourselves— like the rest of the world— doing everything from home. We started off strong last April with routines and plans and hope for finding new rhythms. But as month after month passed, those good intentions got put on the back burner in the name of survival.
It turns out, schooling and working from home is no small feat.
A few weeks ago, after too many tense conversations and a few tears— and maybe a couple dramatic declarations— we realized something needed to change. Wise friends and mentors reminded us that our marriage cannot survive on cruise control. Instead, to truly thrive, it needs lots of grace from God, including in the form of our regular and intentional care.
Arguably the most important thing you do
While making marriage a priority might sound like one more thing to do, I want to challenge you that it might be the most important thing you do.
Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul— and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:3-31). Who is my very first neighbor if not my husband?
As author Jennie Allen writes, “God is concerned not only with the posture of our hearts but also the people on each of our arms.”
Love each other well, not just with what’s leftover
The demands of the day— keeping home and children, sneaking in hours for work as the baby naps— keep my schedule nearly overflowing and my energy levels maxed out. By bedtime, I’m done.
But as my sweet friend Lois (who is a few years ahead of us in the marriage game) reminded me: it’s important to steward my days and energy so there’s enough of me to love my husband well—not just with what’s leftover.
Consider your stage and season of marriage
Nathan and I married in our early 20s, put in a decade teaching and coaching, and enjoyed all the perks that come with that dual-income, no-kid teacher life (i.e.: we traveled big and often). Prioritizing our marriage was a piece of cake. It came without much effort or work at all.
15 years, three kids, a non-profit start-up and a pandemic later— and we find ourselves having to make great effort to prioritize our marriage. Weeks can slip by before we look at each other like “Where have you been?!”
In this stage and season, prioritizing our marriage is something we must consciously fight to do—and I believe it’s a fight worth taking up. Here’s why:
Honor your covenant by actively working on it
Our marriage is not just a commitment we made one day before family and friends; it’s a covenant made between us and God.
If we really believe that, then honoring it and cultivating a fruitful marriage must be something we actively work on.
Society feeds us the lie that our relationship should always feel like fun, dripping with romance and love. But the truth is that love is a choice.
Our feelings will ebb and flow. But our love, like Christ’s love for us, shows itself in selfless action. Regardless of my feelings, I can choose to remember the good gift it is share my life with a man who loves Jesus and our family well.
Prioritizing your marriage
So what does it actually look like to prioritize your marriage?
For us, the first step was realizing, by the grace of God, that we were just cruising. It took several conversations and some hurt feelings. It took us turning back to each other and God in repentance for neglecting the gift he’s given us— but all of that led to the realization that we were made for more than cruising.
More practically, we felt convicted to re-establish these three norms:
Regular date nights
Let me assure you: date night in our home is very casual.
Once a month we hire a real, live babysitter and we go to sushi. The other three Tuesdays of the month, “date night” means we feed the kids early, pop them in front of a show (or two) and sit in the other room, enjoying our own dinner— mostly uninterrupted.
Stopping to talk at hand-offs
Thanks to COVID, we’re both home all day long. We just float in and out of the kitchen, backyard, office, and Target throughout the day until Nathan calls it quits.
In the olden days of jobs and commutes and definitive work days, we spent 10-15 minutes catching up on pleasantries at the end of each work day.
These niceties were cast aside, along with our schedules, last spring.
Around month 13 we remembered we used to be civilized humans who greeted one another. So we are committing to a 10-minute check-in at major hand offs. This ten-minute check-in serves as a touch point for both of us to connect, and also a boundary for our kids—mom and dad’s relationship matters, too.
I’ll be honest: I hate this one.
We’ve been to counseling together, individually, as a family, and together again over the years.
Every single time it reaps a great harvest. Every single time it uncovers stuff that needs to come out. And every single time I drag my feet the whole way there because I dread talking about my feelings.
It also takes actual dollars and minutes from our day and so much emotional energy. On more than one occasion I’ve been bribed to attend.
But you know what? If we want to enjoy our marriage— not just survive it— we’ve found counseling to be an abundantly useful tool. Sometimes asking the Lord for wisdom looks like paying a professional.
And if you have to bribe yourself with that $6 coffee each trip, so be it.
We’re not fighting for our marriage alone
We are committed to fighting for joy in our marriage. But here’s the better news: we are not fighting this battle alone. As our favorite marriage authors boldly proclaimed, “Christ is fighting on your behalf harder than you ever could” (Frederick, Fierce Marriage).
So while we are called to prioritize our marriage, to honor and cherish it, to perhaps take actionable steps to reprioritize it and fight for its health, we do not do so alone.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?