Joe and I had a long courtship before we were married- five years, one week, and one day to be exact :). The last three years we lived 100 miles apart so we didn’t see each other much. Joe would often make the long car trip just to see me for a few hours. All through the week I’d be counting the hours til that ’85 Grand Prix rolled into my driveway. Our lives revolved around making time for each other.
Fast forward a couple decades and a houseful of kids and even more responsibilities -and even though we live under the same roof, finding time alone can be as big of a challenge than when we lived in different cities! Joe and I frequently call our kids our chaperones- it’s hard to have an uninterrupted conversation or find time alone sharing our home with so many people!
Spending time is not enough- we have to make time to be together! Someone else or something else will snatch our time unless we protect it like the valuable resource that it is. Just like money: if you don’t manage it, track it, and watch it like a hawk, it will slip through your fingers.
What does your 24 hours say about how you value your spouse?
We all juggle so many things, and there’s no way to avoid that someone gets our best and someone else gets the leftovers. And usually whoever is getting our leftovers knows it. It doesn’t place value on our spouse or marriage when we only give it whatever is left. Or worse, when there’s nothing leftover at all.
For Joe and me, that means placing a high priority on our time as a couple. It could mean leaving an event early, or saying no to going out altogether. One way Joe has consistently valued me is he doesn’t stay out later than he has to if he knows I’m home waiting for him.
For me it might mean leaving that pile of laundry so I can rub Joe’s feet at the end of the day. (Rubbing his feet is so much more fun than laundry!) It often means shooing kids off to bed earlier than usual. It means not overcommitting myself so that when we do have time I’m not an exhausted, cranky wife with eyes that have glazed over.
There’s no get-rich-quick or get-close-quick scheme to a strong marriage. Joe and I have had to put time in, then more time, then even more time, to build what we have today. And looking back at our twenty years, we don’t regret for a minute the things we said no to so we could say yes to our marriage.
Andy Stanley calls it small investments of time, over time. It all adds up!
What kind of time are you making?
Our time together also has to be alone. Time with our kids and with others is fantastic, but intimacy grows when we’re alone. And mostly, I love when our time is open-ended. Occasionally on a busy day we’re like “Okay, we have ten minutes, what do we need to talk about?” In that ten minutes, we can cover the weather and the day’s schedule. But we can’t talk about things that matter. That happens when we know there’s not a ticking clock rushing us to the next thing.
There’s always the age-old disagreement of quality time over quantity time. I believe quality time can’t be forced or manufactured but grows in those long stretches of quantity time. Dr. Harley writes below how a strong marriage needs 15 hours of meaningful time together per week:
From His Needs, Her Needs by Dr. Harley:
I studied couples who were dating, couples who had maintained romantic love while married, and couples having affairs. In all of these cases, I found that those who maintained their love for each other scheduled time to be together almost every day. While their daily time together varied, the time they spend each week was almost always over fifteen hours. During that time they had each other’s undivided attention, and they used most of it to engage in intimate conversation.
Based on these findings, and overwhelming evidence I’ve acquired since then, I tell couples that if they want to maintain their love for each other, they should learn to do what those in love are doing — set aside at least fifteen hours a week for undivided attention, where one of the primary purposes is to engage in intimate conversation.¹
What do you need to say “No” to so you can make time for your spouse?
Ephesians 5:15-16: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”