In honor of Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ, who died last week, I thought I would run this Life Lines column from last July. It was sparked by the marriage workshop she offered in the Albany Diocese. The column also ties in nicely with my chat this morning on the Morning Air Show on Relevant Radio. I was talking about marriage and faith. At the end of this column is a link to a follow-up piece I wrote called “Prescription for a Better Marriage: Start dating.”
What Have You Done for Your Marriage Lately?
The days and months and years leading up to a wedding are often filled with romantic dinners and shared dreams, as couples spend long hours getting to know each other and planning for the “big day.” But what we often forget is that the “I do” is not the culmination of all the hard work but the first step on a whole new journey, one that requires even more attention to detail.
Maybe we’re not picking out colors or arranging seating charts, but if we don’t put some regular thought and planning and, yes, sharing of dreams and plans into our existing marriage—whether we’re marking two or 15 or 50 years—things will slowly become a little muddled, a little less satisfying or maybe even outright unhappy.
Most marriage “experts” will tell you that “date nights” should be sacrosanct, preferably weekly but at least monthly scheduled time together that is never dismissed or ignored. And by “date” they don’t mean a quick dinner out where you discuss financial problems, the kids’ school issues, or that argument you had last week. They mean relaxing time to focus on you as a couple, even if it’s just walking through the mall holding hands and talking. Maybe it seems a little silly, even a little selfish, but taking care of your couple-ness is the most important thing you can do for your kids.
I’ll admit that Dennis and I have gone on dates fairly infrequently over the years, and we’ve never been on a vacation or even a weekend getaway without our kids. Mostly that’s been due to a lack of babysitters, but it’s also been due to the mistaken notion that taking time away from our children makes us “bad” parents. Turns out the exact opposite is true. You know how flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your child in the event of a change in cabin pressure? Yeah, marriage is like that. If you don’t take care of your marriage first, your family life will suffer.
Just recently, Dennis and I decided to attend a workshop called “Strengthening Your Relationship,” which was sponsored by the Diocese of Albany and presented by Sister Anne Bryan Smollin, CSJ. The two-night, six-hour program was like a mini Marriage Encounter. Sitting side by side with about 15 other couples was a great opportunity to refocus on our communication skills, our differences and similarities, and all the ways we can build up what everyday life has a tendency to beat down.
The stresses of work and parenting and life in general use up a lot of our energy. What’s left for us as a couple? Not much, especially since we have no family living nearby and no one to spell us now and then. It’s always been just the two of us trying to hold everything together, and while that’s a great tribute to our strength as a couple, it’s also problematic in that it can turn us more into business partners than loving couple.
Whenever we take dedicated time to focus on our marriage, we are reminded of the many wonderful things that brought us together in the first place, the similar interests and sense of humor, the love of God and family that is so central to our relationship, the beautiful life we’ve created for our children.
Sister Anne suggested that couples make their anniversary date special every month, not necessarily with a dinner out or an expensive gift but with a heart-to-heart conversation about where you are at that moment and where you’re hoping to go next— together and individually. It’s a great idea and an easy way to remember to turn your attention toward your spouse on a regular basis. And by using your wedding date as a springboard, you’ll get to experience a little of that original joy and anticipation month after month, year after year, for as long as you both shall live.
Do you want to read more on how to strengthen your marriage? Click HERE to read “Prescription for a Better Marriage: Start dating.”