Take a look at a person's calendar and you'll know what he or she values value most: People spend time on what's important to them. If you really value your marriage, consider giving your spouse something of incredible value, the gift of time.
The gift of time is so important that Gary Chapman, Ph.D., refers to it as a gift of love, calling it one of “The Five Love Languages.” William Doherty, Ph.D., agrees, but warns that in our busy world we need to make our marriage a priority by intentionally scheduling time to be with our spouse. If together time is left to chance, it won't happen; our busyness with other things will crowd out time with our spouse.
This creates a Christmas-gift opportunity for your marriage: Get two datebook-style calendars; one for your spouse, the other for you.
Keeping your calendars coordinated will help you intentionally set aside time for your marriage. You got married because you loved each other and enjoyed spending time together. But your love needs togetherness time to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, life gets in the way. Americans are compulsively busy people. We work long hours, volunteer during our free time, and spend time with our children, family and friends. And if there are a few minutes left over, we spend it with our spouse … although usually we're too exhausted to really enjoy it.
Use your calendars to make a couple-time schedule, remembering to schedule five basic activities.
Schedule time each day for small things that mean a lot. When you first wake up, when you're about to separate for the day's work, when you first see each other at the end of the day and when you're ready to go to sleep, schedule time for long hugs, passionate kisses and time to say “I love you.”
Schedule time each day to be together and connect. Allow 20 to 30 minutes each day that aren't interrupted by phone calls, the TV or children. You can do something together (washing the dishes or taking a walk), but it needs to be time when you can talk. Willard Harley, Ph.D., notes that women need large doses of conversation, since they're wired for connecting with others, primarily though talk. This time together helps with what she needs.
Schedule times each week for physical intimacy. This may sound unromantic, but planning intimacy allows both of you to use your creative side to make it all the more exciting. Men are wired to connect through sexual contact. This time together helps with what he needs.
Schedule time each week or two for a date night. If your children are too young to be left alone, find another couple to trade nights with. You and your spouse watch their children this week, and they'll watch your children next week.
It doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it together and have a good time. Whether it's window shopping, working on a project together or staying home to make love, just spend your time enjoying each other's company.
Schedule time each year for a get-away weekend. Couples need time having fun together. Once or twice a year, turn the weekend into a second honeymoon. (Stay home if money's tight. But don't do work and don't solve problems; just have fun, and enjoy conversation and intimacy together.)
Marriage is a team sport, and every team needs practice time to reconnect and learn how to work better as a team. By intentionally scheduling time together, your marital team will be stronger and more fun to be on.