Our family is in a busier season than we have chosen in the past. When our children were small, we kept a guard against busyness and much preferred a slower, more contemplative lifestyle. But as children age and we begin to allow them to make social decisions and extracurricular decisions, our lives becomes much fuller and scheduling becomes a sort of art-form of ebb and flow. There is a real need for quality time at home and yet another need for being more open and flexible to the world around us.
As a result of greater involvement in Scouting and youth group activities, and for me, a greater investment in loving and leading women, Mike and I just haven’t been getting the time that we need with each other to feel connected and loved and known. Quality Time is both of our primary love languages, and when that language isn’t being spoken, we both feel pretty neglected. As an aside, I think it’s really wise to see how love languages influence a marriage and also parenting and friendships. We tend to love others according to our own language, and if we speak a different language, then sometimes we don’t realize how we are being loved by someone and only look at the ways that we think we aren’t. It’s really helpful to communicate what our languages are to each other!
We went to Charleston, SC, for an overnight because we had the annual triple whammy of my birthday, our anniversary and Mother’s Day to celebrate and getting out of town for 18 hours is better than not going at all! We both entered the weekend feeling happy and hopeful for rest and connection but as Friday evening wore on and the expectations of intimacy arose, we realized how relationally disconnected we felt and that no amount of physical closeness was going to connect what was feeling broken on a spiritual and emotional level. That would just be a brief band-aid of sorts and may give us the illusion of connection when our hearts would be far from one another.
So instead, Mike and I stayed up talking vulnerably with open listening and sharing without accusation or defensiveness because at the end of the day, we are best friends and we are on the same team. We forgave one another and recognized areas where we have allowed distance and stress to keep us from oneness. We got up Saturday morning and had a beautiful breakfast together and went deeper on catching up with each other’s dreams and goals, books read and podcasts we are listening to and found our way back to fun and laughter.
It’s really hard when you have expectations of what a “romantic getaway” will look like and you hear about or read about these idealistic images of what it “should” be like and you know that your marriage isn’t in that place that week. We look at each other’s photos on social media and assume that every other marriage is connected, intimate and loving, and we feel a sense of marital shame that ours feels a bit stale and needs some work and healthier ways of relating.
All marriages go through growth seasons and there is no shame about that. We have been married 19 years, and there have been years of deep friendship and grace and connectedness and seasons where we felt so different from one another spiritually and emotionally and also just in our interests, mindsets, hobbies, expectations and habits. These are the times that our deep covenantal commitment kicks in, and we remind ourselves that we are in this for the long haul and because of that, we are going to invest in this love and also trust that God has so much more He wants to give us and free us and heal us for in the context of this bonded relationship.
Having a large household means that he and I are going to have to build better habits of dating and connecting with each other in consistent, creative ways. We have young children up early and teenagers up late so finding the time to connect alone is crucial. We can’t just get by with being teammates and parenting partners. We have to pray and plan and commit to holding up our relationship in ways that will protect it, nourish it and grow it back into better health. Stress and busyness contribute to the insidious undermining of a marriage, and bring out the worst in both of us. We keep reminding each other that life and dishes and laundry and schedules are not an emergency, and that we can live this calling with joy and peace, love and respect.
We are not alone in our marital struggles. Most of us desire vibrant marriages built on commitment, respect, love and grace along with adventure, laughter and intimacy, but those things take tending, a growth-mindset, communication, forgiveness, humility, and grace. These are all worth asking Jesus for and fighting for as we pilgrim through the middle years of marriage. We need to share our stories with each other and stop hiding them. We need to ask for help and insight. And mostly we need to trust that He can do immeasurably more than we can ask for or imagine in our very messy relational dailiness. We are counting on it!