In the fall of 2005, my marriage, as I knew it, changed forever. It was at this time that my wife and I welcomed our first child into our family. 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 read every book in print on babies, we prayed for this gift, and we 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.
Five years, and four kids later we found ourselves living in a hazy, reactive world where our focus was on the urgent, and 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 prayed for these kids 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 on the immediate, we missed the eternal. God was using these kids to conform us more into his likeness and remind us that apart from him we could do nothing. As we focused on 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. 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 everything of value in your life, it’s going to take some work. You must commit to making an intentional investment in your marriage. I’m sure this all sounds good, but I bet you’re wondering how. For some, you think this decision means a complete life overhaul, and it might, but you’ve got to start small. Over the years, my wife and I discovered 4 simple ways to keep our marriage at the forefront in the midst of the chaos of kids.
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, and find a comfy spot, and give each other your undivided attention.
Look for ways to serve one another, without expecting anything in return.
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. Men, load or unload the dish washer before you head off to work, or fold that load of laundry that keeps getting fluffed over and over again. Ladies, clean out the garage, or catch him off guard with some unexpected fun time between the sheets. 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. As you selflessly serve and meet their needs, your needs get met as well.
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, but also 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, both when they’re around and when they’re not.
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 take out. 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 while insuring 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 who divvy up tasks equally, you are friends who actually enjoy each other.
In this season, the days are long but the years are short. You can choose to live them out in passivity, hopelessly reacting to all the crazy that comes your way. Or you can actively set out to learn a new normal, and in the process put the emphasis back on the eternal rather than the immediate.
Lance Sisco serves as the Director of Premarital Ministries at Watermark Community Church. He’s been married to his camp crush, Mandy, since 2002. Together they’re prioritizing the eternal over the immediate, and embracing this crazy life with their four adventurous kids. Lance enjoys coaching, wood working, Oklahoma State athletics, & the great outdoors.