15 Hours to a Better Marriage
by Gretchen Stockman, MA, LMFT
According to Willard F. Harley, Jr., author of the popular marriage manual, His Needs, Her Needs, couples need to spend a minimum of 15 hours a week alone together, giving each other undivided attention, if they want to enjoy a close and fulfilling relationship and avoid a marital shipwreck. "How on earth can we squeeze 15 hours of togetherness into our already tight schedule?" you might ask.
According to Harley, you can't afford not to.
Think about it. When you were courting, you probably spent that kind of time together without fail. You couldn't bear to be apart. It was like breathing. Spending quality time together, in intimate conversation, was easy-peasy, and probably had a lot to do with you and your beloved building a solid bond and fanning the flame of desire. Your love bank accounts with each other had very high balances.
Then you got married. Maybe you had a couple kids. There are careers, Bible studies, PTA, sports practices, yard work, and a myriad of other obligations. Making room for a date night once in a while seems challenging. Maybe by now you're discovering that you're not as emotionally close as you used to be, nor quite as happily married.
Fifteen hours a week is equivalent to a little over 2 hours a day. Here is my brainstorm on ways to fit in time alone with your spouse, giving him or her your undivided attention:
Make love: For those of you with a very active love life, this particular activity will go a long way toward meeting that 15 hour minimum. Include pillow talk for maximum love bank deposits.
Take a walk: Not only is walking good exercise, but walking, talking, and holding hands is an excellent relationship exercise.
Play a game for two: Play cards, cribbage, or whatever, but make sure it's just the two of you and you're focused on each other.
Have a conversation: I once had a couple tell me they had been married so long there wasn't anything more to talk about! Hogwash! This tells me that as individuals they could stand to work on personal growth to become deeper, more interesting people. If you and your spouse struggle to find things to talk about, try Googling a website like http://marriagemissions.com/conversation-starters-for-married-couples/ or http://www.theidearoom.net/2011/06/date-your-husband-let-me-start-the-conversation-for-you.html and take turns picking the topic. Never stop investigating your mate and getting to know him or her better.
Share a meal: Dine in or eat out, either way make it a time of sharing and emotional intimacy. No kids and no TV.
Give each other back rubs: Giving each other a massage can make hefty deposits in your love bank accounts. Once you're feeling pretty good about each other, it may lead to love-making and/or a deep conversation afterwards.
Do devotions and pray together: Many Christian married couples read a daily devotional together. Topics introduced in devotionals can also be great conversation starters. When couples read the same thing, they may mull over it throughout the day and revisit it again later with each other.
Cuddle: Holding each other while talking is a sure way to communicate love. It can help you draw emotionally closer to each other and stimulate feelings of security and peace.
Go out for coffee or tea: Try visiting all the coffee shops in your city at least once, and then expand to a neighboring locale. On sunny days, find a place with outdoor seating to get the added mood boost of sunshine therapy.
Read together and discuss: Choose a book you are both interested in and take turns reading aloud to each other. Afterwards, discuss what you've read.
Road trip: Whether it's a short drive through the rural outskirts of town or a spontaneous day trip to the mountains, turn off the radio and turn your attention to each other.
Work on a home project: If you absolutely must get something off the to-do list while spending time with your partner, pick a home project that allows you to have a great conversation at the same time.
Plan for something exciting: Choose a place with few distractions, bring a notebook, and brainstorm with your lover. Share dreams for your future, plan a home remodel, plot out a European vacation, or exchange ideas regarding some other significant activity or event.
Go hiking: Getting out in nature with the most important person in your life can certainly lead to wonderful conversations that cover a wide range of topics, leaving you feeling more emotionally connected. A beautiful view doesn't hurt either!
Share a passion: Research it, talk about it, do it....together!
How Christian Counseling Can Strengthen Your Marriage
It is one of my passions to help couples repair and rekindle their marriages. I accomplish this primarily by encouraging both husband and wife to establish or reaffirm Christ's position in the "three-stranded cord" of their relationship while also training them to be intentional and meet each other's most important emotional needs. Most married people yearn to enjoy the blessing of a passionate, emotionally close, lifetime journey with a lover and best friend whom they can trust. Achieving this is possible when both parties are willing to learn and apply proven strategies undergirded by faith and the power of God. If you want to work toward something better, call today to make an appointment.