John and I are busy, busy people - we have 3 jobs between the two of us, we're both in school, we have two children who are also in school and have various other activities they're part of, we own our own house and two vehicles, have a yard with flowers, grass, vegetables and trees that we need to maintain, we're part of a faith community, and have extended family and friends that we enjoy spending time with as well. And I could add more to that list too.
With all of these things going on it's very hard to maintain our connections to each other - especially time to really connect and listen to each other.
Several years ago now we went through the Lutheran edition of World Wide Marriage Encounter (LME) and it rocked our world. We got a lot of things out in the open, we both listened to the other and felt heard ourselves, and most importantly we discovered that taking time for each other is really, really, really important!
Our schedules are crazy:
John is out the door by 6am most days and I don't take the kids to school and head on my own way until later (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the semester and/or time of year).
While John is then done by 3pm most days, I usually teach until 4pm or 5pm or later - for a few years I taught an early evening class that usually got me home about 830pm (just in time to put the kids to bed).
We usually have evening services once a week at church (sometimes with meals) and other evening events at church as well and the children have activities 2-3 times most weeks.
Then we both have homework to work on and I have grading and course prep to do, too, which eats into that time after the kiddos go to bed.
After our LME weekend we started making deliberate time together. We learned and were convicted that (like many other things in life) if it's important enough, we need to make time for it rather than just "letting it happen."
Here are some of the things we do to deliberately make time together. We aren't perfect at doing any of these, but it sure helps when we do them! :)
* Get up and pray together each morning before John heads off to work. We pray out loud for our days and then pray Luther's Morning Prayer and the Prayer of the Day from the Lutheran Book of Prayer. We don't make this every single morning but we try to and it really does help the day get off to the right start!
* Spent 10-15 minutes reconnecting when we get home. The kids know they can change clothes, get a snack and go play for about 30 minutes when they get home. We change clothes, get a snack, do whatever else we need to and then sit and chat together for the last 10-15 minutes of that. It's not just a logistical planning time but also a time to share the good, the bad and the ugly from our day. We're pretty good about doing this every day and we love getting back in touch with each other after a day apart.
* Hold regular "schedule" and "budget" meetings. This may sound silly but we take about an hour Sunday evenings to talk through our upcoming week - what do we need, who's picking the kids up each day, what errands have to run, etc. and then review our budget. This has really helped us get and stay on the same page and ensures no big "surprises" for anyone as the week goes on.
* We have a weekly date night - usually at home and usually on Saturday nights. Nothing fancy - after the kids go to bed we watch a movie, play a game, or put together a puzzle. Occasionally we do something wild and crazy like making our own Subway Art on the computer or looking through Wedding Photos (man, we were young!). We also like to sit out on the patio with a fire in our fire pit, holding hands and talking - in the summer or fall of course, when it's relatively warm out! We found a great resource of at-home date night ideas here.
My favorite way to connect has to be the dialog method from LME.
We write each other a love letter on a topic or question and then swap letters to read and after they are read, we discuss (there's more to it than that - attend a weekend yourself to find out! ;) ). When we ended our weekend we left with lists of questions and ideas, a summary of how to use Scripture as our dialog topic and a calendar with a question for every day. That was a few years ago and I wanted to do something special for John to share with him my commitment to him and to daily (or mostly daily) dialog.
Here's what I made him for his birthday this year:
Two journals - one for him and one for me and a box full of the questions/ideas to write on!
We started using a journal for our love letters at the weekend and I really like how they're all together, so we can look back later without having to worry about loosing pages or something like that.
The box looks like this (this is a side view - the top is just plain red). I had gotten a Christmas ornament in this from a Sunday School student eons ago and tucked it away with my gift wrapping supplies but never used it. It's slightly smaller than a recipe box so it's not a good size for wrapping presents. It's perfect for this though!
Inside the box are little slips of paper with our questions/ideas on them. I combined the questions from the loose sheets and the calendar into one handy place. I haven't figured out a good idea of what to do with the questions we've already used - I thought we'd tuck them in a zip top baggie in here but that didn't work, and now we're just writing the date on the back and then tucking them back into the box. Maybe we need a divider or something!
I typed the questions up on my computer in fun fonts, printed them off on our printer using ink and paper I already had, and then cut them using the paper cutter that I have for crafting. I trimmed fairly close to the letters so that we could fit all the questions in our box. We have questions/ideas for about 2 years in there plus we can use Scripture so we have lots of things to write about!
The journals were just composition books - one red and one yellow - that I bought on clearance back in August 2012 for about 15 cents each. I photocopied the logo from the journals we got at the weekend on our printer (which is also a scanner/copier/fax machine) and printed them out on regular paper. I then attached them to the cover of the composition books (covering up the book's logo and labeling space) using scrapbooking adhesive.
Other than the typing, it took maybe half an hour to do all that. I did the typing in little bits over several days until it was complete.
A great way to connect with my spouse and a very inexpensive and well appreciated birthday present to boot!
How do you connect with your spouse on a regular basis? I'd love to hear!