Over the course of two weeks, the song I walked down the aisle to at our wedding popped into my head three times. This was a bit odd because it was an instrumental song I simply found lovely; it's not that it held sentimental or even spiritual value (at the time of choosing). I had never even heard of it until I began searching for a song. By the third time I heard this melody in my head, I knew it was the Lord. So, during my morning Bible time I pulled it up on YouTube and began to feel all the mushy feels again reminiscing that moment. I asked the Lord why He was bringing this song to me. He spoke so clearly. I heard inside Him say, "You are first a bride." I knew what that meant. Motherhood is such a high esteemed role to me, but I needed a gentle nudge back into the aisle where my target was my beloved grooms, Ryan. Before my role as a mom I am Ryan's bride. I love being in love! I love being a wife! Being Ryan's girlfriend was wonderful, but being His WIFE!? Pinch me. Seriously, the privilege of a lifetime. I got the best. I'm so grateful for Holy Spirit's sweet shove to get me back into view of seeing Ryan not just as "Oliver's Dad" but as "Abby's Husband". So here I am, reflecting on marriage and all the small ways that have enriched mine and I thought I'd pull you into the process. Married folk, let's commit to #MoreKissingInMay and learn about marriage together. The following isn't advice or counsel, I don't feel we are qualified for that just yet on our journey (we'll be completing year 4 in December, so we are still newbies). But these are practical things (in no specific order) that I feel have been helpful in our marriage. Some are not "romantic" but very rewarding to our covenant culture. 1. No TV Year One Don't get me wrong, we watched tv shows and movies, but we said no to a TV set for our first year of marriage. (Actually, we liked it so much we didn't get a TV until our third year of marriage). It was a pre-marital challenge that was given and honestly, this was such a healthy foundation we set. It forced us to learn how to be together. It forced us to learn how to talk instead of just zoning out. If forced us to be physically together if we watched something because we would watch on an ipad or laptop cuddled on the bed or couch. ***If you are already past year one, I'd suggest looking into how much time with your spouse you're zoned out on a screen. What can you do practically to still enjoy a show and yet fuel your marriage? Maybe make a special snack, light a candle, put on actual pajamas and not sweat pants. (I'm speaking to myself here). Give it some thought.
2. Monday Marriage Talks
Mondays are our days off, so Monday nights feel like the eve of our new week. We take a small chunk of time every Monday night to do 3 things : 1. Go over budget. (We love the EveryDollar app)
2. Pray for each other and our children.
3. Ask "How are you doing?" Sometimes this "Monday Marriage Meeting" is 10 min, sometimes an entire evening. Sometimes we like them. Sometimes we are exhausted and would rather skip it. But the consistent connection to get on the same page has been great for us.
3. Invest in Dates
We did really well with weekly date nights until Oliver came and then realistically shifted to monthly date nights. We even have a "Date Budget" we stick to, because we want to remind ourselves to prioritize that pursuit and romance aspect of marriage. Our rule of what makes a date a date?
1. Just the two of us. (no kids and no double dates)
2. Pre-planned. (No driving around saying "what do you want to do". One of us has a plan, ticket, or reservation.)
3. Dessert included. (A dessert makes it feel special. And when we do "stay at home date nights" it is the chime of indulgence that separates any other night at home together with "date-night".) ***Dessert is any "treat". So sometimes that's a piece of cake, sometimes that looks like getting candy at the movie theater. Other date desserts look like stopping at a coffee house for a fancy cappuccino after dinner. Date picnics, date nights, dates at home! Dates are wonderful! More dates for us all!
4. Placing Accountability In Your Covenant
Newsflash, have you seen the rise of divorce, affairs, sexual immorality, infertility, miscarriage, etc. The devil is after the lineage of faith and covenant. We are wiser than He is and in being proactive we keep our marriages strong. At the core of it, a personal walk with Jesus as Lord and a heart of repentance close is the real answer to a strong marriage; boundaries aren't the answer to everything. BUT, healthy boundaries eliminate places of darkness, and can prevent so many places of sin from ever taking root. We do the following not because we don't trust each other, but because it eliminates the defeated devils ability to plant lies in our head and heart. Keeping everything in the open has been really healthy for us. For us three practical things we do:
1. We share our locations on our phones.
At any point we both know we can look at the location app and see where we are. If I said I was at the store, I'm really at the store. If Ryan says he is still at the office, He really is still at the office.
2. We share passwords for everything.
Social media accounts, credit cards, streaming services, etc. (And we check in on those items during our Monday meetings to see how we've used our time and money. Have we stewarded what God has given us well?)
3. Never alone with the opposite sex.
This means not in a car, room, or even message. If Ryan has to text a girl, he'll add me in the text conversation. If I have to have a meeting with a guy student or volunteer, I'll keep the door open. These small things speak volumes of trust to us and to others.
5. Alone Time (From Each Other)
This might not sound romantic but we make sure to give each other time alone from each other. Space to breath. Space to do hobbies. Space to even get together with a friend for coffee or a friend for a movie. True love isn't clingy. *We LOVE time together. Don't get the wrong idea. We're best friends. But we've found it really healthy to have space to say, "Hey, would you be okay with me playing golf this Saturday" or "I think I'm going to read upstairs tonight while you watch TV" and not fluster each others' feathers. It's been mature in our marriage to verbalize that even though we are one in covenant we are still unique people.
6. Have A Laughing Goal I can not tell you how much laughter Ryan and I share! This is the diamond of them all. Keep things fun. Be silly! Joy is a choice and truly the fuel of a fun marriage. Make it a daily goal to make your spouse laugh!
7. Indoor and Outdoor Activity
I read an article about an elderly couple who were married for over fifty years. When they were asked, "What's a tip you'd give to young couples?" their answer was: "Focus on your friendship, just as much as your romance. Pick an indoor game and an outdoor game and have fun." They went on to say that their indoor game was cards and outdoor game golf. They both enjoyed these and it was a brainless way to enjoy each other without coming up with extravagant plans. This can change for different years or seasons, but I've loved this advice! For us :
- Indoor - right now we're really into puzzles. In the past we've had a few flings with various board games.
- Outdoor - we love walks, mainly because we can put Oliver in the stroller and still have some talking time just the two of us. Also I am the least athletic person in the world, and Ryan is extremely athletic. So any "sporty" thing we've tried to do together has been a total fail.
8. Friendship with Couples
Having friendships with other couples is such a gift. If you have that, treasure it. If you don't, initiate the friendships, or pray them in. Talking, learning, laughing about marriage with other people in marriage is so fun!
9. "Safe Space"
We've coined a phrase , "I need ___ min of a safe space". That's basically our precursor of saying, I need to have focused time to talk about something important. This has been really healthy for us. Maybe not always fun, because sometimes there are hard conversations to have. But our "Safe Space" talks always have a huge harvest of intimacy and trust! Ex: Abby : "Ryan, sometime in the next two days I need 30 min of safe space. You can tell me when that is."
Ryan : "Okay. We'll go to the porch after dinner." These topics range from marriage frustrations we want to get in the air, to personal words the Lords been saying, to places we need to ask forgiveness in. For us it sets the tone of "I need full attention, open ears and heart, and a calm tone."
10. Mirror Notes
Dry erase markers on the bathroom mirror are so easy and fun. From silly to spiritual to sassy, mirror notes are an easy win to keep things fun. Bonus and Big Important One : Physical Intimacy
Physical intimacy is such a tool and treat of marriage. Please don't negate it's power and purpose in a healthy marriage. In the boundaries of marriage it is beautiful. That's all I'm going to say here to keep things private and G rated on this family blog. :) I'd love to know what other practical things fuel your marriage! What small things do you and your spouse do that make a difference in your covenant culture? And let this be a reminder to all the stages of married folk out there to prioritize your spouse more, and continue cultivating friendship and romance together. Here's to More Kissing in May, Abby
***Don't Forget, the Cirkles are cheering you on!