In the busyness of life, love isn’t self-sufficient. Your marriage must be constantly fed and nurtured by spending regular time together.
Finding ways to sustain love involves spending enjoyable time together. Thriving couples build a strong friendship by continuing to date. They develop meaningful traditions, spend time with each other, laugh together, and look for adventure. They work together to find hobbies they can both enjoy. A healthy marriage has a good mixture of independence and togetherness, and happy couples are intentional about building their lives on a foundation of common values, interests and goals.
How much time should you spend together? Answers to that question vary, but if you ask the best researchers, they generally respond "as much as you can." Some specify a weekly amount. Recommendations range from eight to fifteen hours per week. Naturally, the quantity of time husbands and wives spend together is only one piece of the puzzle. Quality is also crucial to the health of your relationship. There are at least four critical ingredients to the kind of togetherness that enables a marriage to thrive: regularity, variety, adventure and fun. Let's examine each of them in more detail.
In marriage, opportunities to enjoy each other's company should not be few and far between. On the contrary, they have to be part of the fabric of a couple's life. That means making together-time a priority. And that requires intentionality – after all, talking and doing things together don’t just "happen."
This is why it's so important to plan regular outings and date nights and do whatever it takes – for example, arrange for babysitters or carve time out of busy work schedules – to make sure these engagements are faithfully kept. Both spouses must make every effort to pursue each other just as you did back in the days before you were married. If you want time to share your hearts, your hopes, and your dreams with each other, you've got to make up your minds to fight for it.
Current research indicates that thriving husbands and wives draw strength, energy and life from being in each other's company. This doesn't mean that they spend all of their time together. Healthy, vibrant relationships require breathing space. They need the ebb and flow of independence and togetherness. You can infuse this kind of experience into your marriage by making room for novelty and variety and by working an element of the unexpected into your date night plans.
The same effect can be achieved by changing up those plans from date to date. Don't get stuck in a rut. Look for new ways to inject fun and excitement into your relationship. The way to stay excited about being together is to spice it up now and then. Think outside the box. In other words, it's a question of achieving the right balance, like finding your rhythm in the dance and then improvising steps just for the fun of it. Even if it means something as simple as eating at a different restaurant or going to a different movie theatre, it's important to keep things interesting by changing the pattern.
Variety in its turn introduces a touch of adventure and excitement into a couple's together-time. But an outing doesn't have to be big, dramatic, risky or outlandish in order to be adventurous. It simply has to include an element of the new, the unusual or the unexpected. As we've already suggested, this can be accomplished in small and subtle ways. The idea is to keep yourselves just a little bit off balance so that you can benefit from the enriching experience of reacting to new things together.
Finally, when date nights are adventurous and exciting, even in understated ways, they're also fun. This is essential. Research shows that new activities activate the brain's reward system, creating excitement, exhilaration and joy. Husbands and wives who have fun together strengthen the bonds that unite them without even realising what they're doing. In a hundred different ways, they create powerful incentives to stick together and keep on coming back for more.
Couples who stay together tend to be couples who find ways to keep this kind of hilarity and fun alive at the heart of their relationship. The fabric of their marriage is strong because they know how to weave spaces into their times of togetherness and maintain threads of connection even when apart. They do this by developing meaningful traditions and rituals characterised by laughter and playfulness. Instead of just living under the same roof and sleeping in the same bed, they're intentional about building a blended life upon a firm foundation of common values, interests and goals. What's more, they keep their relationship vibrant by allowing it to breathe – and by celebrating the surprising and serendipitous side of life every chance they get.
Putting it into practice
Here's an idea that may help you make your next date night a real "out of the box" adventure. Try having a "progressive dinner" around town. Start out the evening by stopping at a place that's known for its appetisers. After that, move on to the best coffee shop (a fun, sumptuous meal need not be in an expensive restaurant). Or find some out-of-the way café that specialises in creative recipes. End the night with a lip-smacking dessert at your favourite ice cream or tong sui shop. Plan your date night as if you were planning your weekend date during your courting days.
From the Focus on the Family website at focusonthefamily.com. © 2016 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Questions for Discussion
- How can we work together in the weeks and months ahead to turn conflicts, arguments, or difficult decisions into a source of new strength and understanding in our marriage?
- What are some of the major personality differences between us? How do our maleness and femaleness set us apart in terms of our perspective on life? How can a deeper appreciation for these differences help smooth the waters the next time we're facing a serious disagreement?
- How can friction in our relationship give us new insights about each other? How can those insights improve our ability to communicate effectively?