In the busyness of the holiday season, I know I am usually more concerned about where the tape is than about how my marriage is faring. Our relationship is strong, I reason, so gravity can take it to the position of a distant satellite to planet Frenzy. But then I find myself getting snappy and bossy. We misinterpret simple statements, and each feel that we’re the one doing all the work. Faults come under the magnifying glass, and we find ourselves in the middle of ridiculous arguments. In short, our marriage slides.
I recently read a great description of the natural atrophy that threatens marriage by William J. Doherty, the author of The Intentional Family. He uses the metaphor of the Mississippi River, which flows near his office.
”I say that family life is like putting a canoe into that great body of water. If you enter the water at St. Paul and don’t do anything, you will head south toward New Orleans. If you want to go north, or even stay at St. Paul, you have to work hard and have a plan. In the same way, if you get married or have a child without a working plan for your family’s journey, you will likely head ‘south’ toward less closeness, less meaning, less joy over time. A family, like a canoe, must be steered or paddled, or it won’t take you where you want to go. . . . Only an intentional family has a fighting chance to maintain and increase its sense of connection, meaning and community over the years.”
One of the most important things to “keep paddling” upstream is to continue to date after marriage. There have been times when it was financially impossible to hire a sitter and have a night on the town, and other times when other demands threatened to absorb every bit of family time. We’ve had to stay committed to buffering enough time to stay close. Here’s one “no-excuses” date idea that came from being busy and cash-strapped, but still needing a date night. It is under a buck (under 30 cents if you find the right deals!) and doesn’t require a babysitter.
Try it Tonight:
All you need are sleeping children or a good movie, candles, and a pack of M&M’s.
Light the candles and open the M&M’s. Without looking, pick one and do what the color indicates. Have fun reconnecting!
Red: Give your spouse a kiss
Green: A quality or characteristic you admire in your spouse
Yellow: A happy memory from your courtship or marriage
Blue: A dream or wish you have
Brown: Share a story from your childhood
Orange: Make up your own (in other words…I’m not telling what orange is!)
(You can change what the colors mean to fit your relationship or to play a modified game with kids)