Having had the privilege of marrying several people (no, I’m not a polygamist, I’m a minister) I kind of have them memorized.
“I (so and so), take you (so and so), to be my husband/wife. To have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish; as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.”
It’s future-speak. It’s not just saying “I’ll love you if such-and-such happens.” It’s more often than not an actual prediction of what will happen.
There will be better, and worse.
There will be richer, and poorer. (And that isn’t just economic language)
There will be sickness, and health.
I am really passionate about couples having strong relationships, and this includes making each other a priority.
I like the phrase “dating your spouse.” (And I’ll admit I’ve unabashedly stolen the phrase from fellow blogger Carey Nieuwhof (and Reggie Joiner) from their excellent book Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. In it they say that your “kids should grow up with a sense that your spouse is your priority relationship.”
I worry that we can be so kid-focused that our priorities get side-swiped. If you tell anyone these days that “it’s all about the kids” you’ll get a silent pat on the back.
If kids aren’t in the picture (or, if they’re out of the house and off doing well) we can also get side-swiped by being too me-focused or work-focused or whatever-focused.
Busyness is also a silent cultural value. Ask anyone how they are and 9 times out of 10 they’ll say “Good. Busy, but good.” Listen for it. You’ll hear it everywhere. And it’s often true. But it can be a badge of honour showcasing our desire to be important.
But if we’re so busy, what’s slipping between the cracks? What are we missing?
I like how a friend once said it: there is an order of relationships: 1) God. 2) Spouse. 3) Kids.
I’ve been married for over 12 years. And even though I’m fairly new at this parenting thing (I have 3 wee ones), I also draw upon some wisdom from others and say this:
A healthy, vibrant marriage is one of the best things you can do for your family, and for yourself.
And the reason I like the “date” idea is that it speaks to the passion and love of how a relationship can always be.
So I’m going to suggest four ways you date your spouse.
1. Go on actual dates
That’s right. If you have kids, get a baby-sitter. Do something date-like. Perhaps start with once a month. Act as if you were trying to impress them. Pursue. Don’t shy away from romance. Create time for one another.
2. Don’t hide your love from your kids
If you have kids, it’s healthy that they see expressions of love between parents. A hug, a snuggle on the couch. It communicates that the other is important, and that the kids aren’t the centre of the home. They’re not. God is the centre, and the parents are the shepherds of a sacred trust. Plus, your healthy relationship will be an example of healthy relationships for their own future. Your kids may not always listen to you, but they’ll sure copy you.
I have this feeling that because everyone is so busy that we’re too tired to work at the essential things, whether this is making time and space for God, or our spouse, or our kids. This may sound nerdy, but schedule down-time. If you don’t, you may just wish your hours away with a TV show that doesn’t really matter, face-sucking Facebook time (everything in moderation, right?), over-working because you’re lost, or too much time reading… um, blogs. (Not this one, of course!)
4. Say Thank You
Being in a marriage and running a home is a big deal. Usually both partners do so much to make it all happen that we take it for granted. Honey, thanks for doing the laundry. I appreciate you cutting the grass. Wow, you got up with the kids again. You were a taxi all of Saturday, that means so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Gratitude isn’t a once-off; it’s a state of mind.
It’s never too late to make awesome.
I think we live in a time when nobody really cares if your relationship is strong and healthy. It’s brutal out there. There seems to be an “If the grass is greener on the other side, go for it!” attitude. How destructive. Neil Barringham adds a counter note: “The grass is greener where you water it.”
So water it.
We don’t “fall” in love. It’s not some magical force that grabs us as we passively breeze through life. We may have a strong feeling that propels us to a new place and it may feel like “falling.” That comes and goes. And comes again.
In the end it’s a choice. Every day.
Date your spouse. You’ll have so much fun! And you’ll be reminded of that last vow: “To love… and to cherish. Cherish to the heart is water to the river.
“As long as you both shall live.”