Monday, December 2, 2013

6 Simple Strategies to Connect With Your Busy Spouse

Mike and I have one of those marriages.  The kind where we’re rarely at the same place at the same time. Our schedules feel almost like working opposite shifts. Our travel itineraries can be hectic and not infrequently, we see each other for a day or two every few weeks.  On a typical day, we don’t have “face time” until very late in the evening, just as our heads hit the pillows for much needed rest.

Throughout our 26 years of marriage, we’ve never connected well without our quality time together, yet as we agreed just last week - even as hectic as things are, we’ve never felt closer as a couple.  We’re often asked, “How do you two stay so connected?” 

It’s no accident.  We’ve learned to prioritize intentionality in our relationship and follow six simple and effective strategies to keep us on track.  We don’t do any of these things perfectly, but we strive to do them well and the effort brings huge reward.

1.   Establish and protect shared priorities. 

Our individual relationships with the Lord are our top priority and without that in place, none of what I’ll continue to share has any bearing. We also share the belief that our family is our next highest priority and we’re committed to do whatever it takes to protect it. Whatever it takes. If that should mean leaving a job or any other aspect of our lives to protect our marriage and family, we’d do it in a heartbeat.  This is not a lofty, false illusion, in fact, it’s part of our history. We’ve done it in the past. It’s not enough to set priorities; we do everything in our power to protect them.

2.  Don’t go it alone.   

About a year ago, our pastor saw a potential storm coming when he realized all we were about to undertake in the public service and ministry arenas.  He encouraged us to recruit a team of prayer warriors and we didn’t hesitate to do so. Our faithful prayer partners intercede often and on demand for our marriage, our family, our ministry and our public service. We do the same for them. Prayer support is a vital asset to our marriage and family.

3.  Date unconventionally.  

Hebrews 10:25, Philippians 2:3

Our schedules rarely give us evenings together and we’ve had to learn to date during other, non-prime time windows. We meet for morning or afternoon coffee as often as possible. We try hard to meet for lunch once or twice a week. Sometimes we have to act spontaneously, but if one of us is free for a daytime meeting, we try hard to make ourselves available. Sundays are our family day. While it’s a workday for me, we attend worship service together, serve our congregation together, and then enjoy time with one another in the afternoon and evening hours. We protect Sundays at all costs and rarely commit to appointments or accept invitations on that one day each week.

4.   Maximize the minutes.  

When afforded brief windows of time together, we stop multi-tasking and give each other our full attention. When we have 10 minutes together, our focus is on each other, not on our iPhones or unfinished tasks.

5.  Keep the air clear.

There’s not much time together and we don’t have time for guessing games. We’ve learned to keep short accounts and when something begins to bother us, we share it quickly and honestly. I can’t fix a problem that Mike doesn’t share with me and vice versa. I can either choose to let a problem escalate, or let him know he’s pushing one of my hot buttons then work toward a solution together. We choose to communicate kindly, openly, and in honoring ways toward one another. This takes practice, especially when emotions are raging, but it’s well worth the effort. We’ve learned to navigate most conflict with trust and calm hearts.

6.  Trust the other’s motivations.

We came to the obvious realization a number of years ago that we never intentionally set out to hurt each other. Of course, there are seconds that tick by from time to time when we may wonder, “Is he / she just trying to get my goat?” But we are intentional in giving each other the benefit of the doubt and reminding ourselves that we’re a team. We’re in this marriage forever, and we have no reason to wish the other harm or pain. We trust that when we do something to offend the other, it’s not intentional and we’ll work as hard and as fast as possible to make it right.  We choose to fight together as a team rather than fighting against each other.

Our marriage is far from perfect, but I won’t hesitate to call it magnificent. I adore my husband and I believe that he adores me. When we are intentional about working on these simple (but not always easy) strategies, they resolve about 98% of problems before they even start, and make our marriage dramatically easier to navigate. They keep us on a higher plane of communication where we can get to the heart of a matter without feeling blindsided or criticized, enjoy our time together, and not squander it on pent up and unresolved issues.  

Your turn:

How do you connect with your spouse when life is hectic?

Which of these 6 strategies would you like to implement right away and why?

Be strengthened today, by His Word,

Psalm 119:28

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