When my wife and I welcomed our first child into our family, our marriage changed forever. This sweet baby girl came crashing into our world with a full set of lungs, a disdain for sleep, and a level of neediness we weren’t prepared for. Don’t get me wrong; we had read all the books on babies, prayed for the gift of children, and were eager to jump into this new journey together. But as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, it was hard to see this child as Scripture described her: a blessing, a reward, and a gift (Psalm 127:3-5).
Fast forward five years, and we now had four young kids. We found ourselves living in a hazy, reactive world where our focus was on the urgent, not the important. At the close of each day we would veg out on the couch and binge watch our favorite shows, all in an effort to remove ourselves from our present reality. We would stay up later than we should and eat food our bodies didn’t need, because we feared the cycle of sleepless nights and the dawn of a new day of crazy. There were days we were exhausted, not sure if we could go on. There were times we felt hopeless, unsure if we could ever return to life as we knew it.
This all led to feelings of guilt. We had wanted these kids and had prayed for them, and yet our world was not all that we had hoped. Worry and fear crept in. “Are we doing this all wrong?” “Are we causing more harm than good?”
As we focused our time and attention on the kids and their well-being, we didn’t realize that the greatest harm wasn’t being done to them—it was being done to us. As we attempted to meet the seemingly unending needs of our kids, we had stopped doing the things that made our marriage special. And neglecting the health of our marriage wasn’t really helpful to anyone, including the kids.
Some of you find yourself in this same place. You’re weary and willing to do just about anything to return to some type of normalcy. If that’s you, there’s hope! But, like anything worthwhile, it’s going to take some work. You must commit to making an intentional investment in your marriage.
So how can you build into your marriage when life seems crazy? Over the years, my wife and I discovered four simple ways to keep our marriage at the forefront even in the midst of the chaos of kids.
1. Communicate Intentionally
Most of the frustration you feel in your marriage comes from poor communication. It’s essential to know what’s going on in each other’s lives.
One of the best practices we discovered, through a little bit of trial and a whole lot of error, is a thing we call “couch time.” It’s a weekly meeting to clarify schedules, discuss expectations, deal with conflict, and encourage each other spiritually. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” but I’m here to tell you that you can’t afford not to make time for it. Just pick a night that’s consistently free, find a comfy spot, and give each other your undivided attention.
2. Serve Eagerly
Look for ways to serve one another, without expecting anything in return. As Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Be aware of what your spouse needs daily and look for ways to meet that need. (Good communication, above, can help you understand how to best serve your spouse.) It could mean taking chores off your spouse’s plate, like unloading the dishwasher before you head off to work or folding that load of laundry that keeps getting fluffed over and over again. Perhaps it’s treating her to a special dinner or catching him off guard with some unexpected fun time between the sheets. And in a season of weariness, look for ways to serve one another by providing opportunity for rest. Whether it’s time away alone or with friends, figure out what your spouse needs to recharge, and then encourage them to get away.
3. Affirm Consistently
Parenting is hard work, and your kids usually aren’t quick to pull you aside and tell you how grateful they are for all you do. Find ways to encourage your spouse daily, both for how they’re doing as a parent and how they’re doing as a spouse. A thoughtful text message in the middle of the day or a sweet note hidden in the house will do wonders for someone who is feeling completely inadequate.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” You should be your spouse’s main source of encouragement and support.
4. Have Fun Regularly
During this season it’s easy to get bogged down and forget how much fun you used to have together. While you can’t be as spontaneous as you once were, look for ways to creatively carve out time for just the two of you. Put the kids to bed early and order some takeout. Or grab a new board game on the way home from work to play together. A date night swap with friends is a great way to save some cash on babysitting while ensuring regular time out on the town together.
As you make it a priority to infuse fun back into your marriage, you’re reminding yourself that you’re not just roommates or parenting teammates—you are friends who actually enjoy being with each other.
By working together to strengthen your marriage, you serve not only each other, but your kids as well. You provide them with a stable family foundation and a positive role model for their own future relationships. It takes some work, but it’s worth it.
To help couples work on their marriages, Watermark is hosting the Uncommon Marriage Conference this fall! Join us on November 4 and 5, 2022, for a weekend of encouragement, equipping, inspiration, and fun. You can learn more and register here.