Together and in Love

MICHAELANN MARTIN

We have learned that it is so important to keep our marriage alive and well. Just as we feed our souls with prayer and our bodies with food, so too we need to feed our marriage.

How Do You Spell Love? "T-I-M-E"

We have fond memories of our time of courtship: living an hour apart, calling each other at spontaneous moments, and asking the other to meet at the midway point, Denny's. We used to race each other to see who could get there first, as if this were a proof of our love. In fact, we developed a growing commitment to each other through our willingness to meet and spend time together.

Then there were those dates that were made with meticulous details and arrangements all in order before the big night. One date in particular, Curtis planned a beautiful dinner at a restaurant on the beach. He researched the time of sundown perfectly so that we wouldn't miss the beautiful sunset. It still stands out as one of the most memorable evenings we have spent together. Sure, it was easier then to arrange a date or spontaneously meet at the drop of a hat because we didn't have a family and all we wanted to do was spend time together. Now it is more of a challenge to make our time together special and meaningful.

We have learned that it is so important to keep our marriage alive and well. Just as we feed our souls with prayer and our bodies with food, so too we need to feed our marriage. The food is what's different. We had a very good friend tell us that the best way to spell love is "T-I-M-E." Think about it for a moment. All we have on this earth is time to live, and then we die. Our society even goes so far as to say that "time is money," and people value money quite a bit. Therefore, they must also value time. Don't you feel important when someone you know takes time off work or specific duties to do something kind for you or visit you? Or think about the many children who long for more of their parents' time - time to listen to the little things that happened throughout the day, time to laugh about the funny things, time to read a story and cuddle before bed. Time is our hottest commodity. How do you spend yours? Her Time

"It is impossible to kill time without injuring eternity."

- William Shakespeare

If we profess our love for our spouse and continue to love, then it is our duty to show that love in how we spend our time. I'm a firm believer in the statement that "words are cheap." If they are not expressed through acts of kindness, then what value do they really have? That is why it is so important that our actions toward our spouse show him or her that our love is true and sincere. It is in how we spend our time that we will speak our most beautiful phrases of love.

Just as we show God how important He is to us by continuing to try to pray each day, so too we must show our spouse our love by giving of our time. I spend my entire day surrounded by five children. I rarely get out, and when I do it is a wild day of errands, loading and unloading children at each stop. By the time Curtis gets home, I am usually in great need of his loving attention, adult conversation, and a firm embrace from him. There have even been those times when I have wanted to hand him the baby and run out the door, but by the grace of God we have been given wise counsel on how to better deal with the stress and business of family life and marriage. He, on the other hand, drives home trying to forget about the financial struggles of his work and the many phone and email messages and responses that he didn't get to that day, and try to adjust to being inundated with children and thus enter "daddy mode." You might be nodding your head, you might be laughing, saying "No way," or you might be remembering the happy chaos of your own family life. Whatever the case, there is hope. His Time

This is where the challenge is for me as a man. Modern sociologists have studied our patterns of communications. They have found that the average man speaks about 10,000 words a day. The average woman speaks approximately 20,000! Here's my problem. For me, I've gotten most of the talking out of my system by the time I come home; for Michaelann, it's halftime. I've learned that on my way home I need to undergo a transformation of thought. I am tempted to say, "I'm done, I'm ready to relax now." What I need to be thinking is, "Now that my work day is finished, I can get down to the really important part of my life." Once I realize that what I do from 9-5 is secondary, then I can allow God to begin to sanctify my home life.

My first step is to connect with Michaelann. Our family is a physical manifestation of our fruitful love, and I need to come to her so that our love can overflow to our children. Even though I don't always feel the need to talk about our day, I do have that need. What the Scriptures tell us about our wives is a timeless truth. "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). By making myself available to Michaelann, God begins to expand my heart. I made a number of rookie mistakes early on, and I still have to fight the temptation to solve the many "problems" Michaelann shares with me. I'm beginning to learn that she doesn't want solutions, she wants me. As I listen, I begin to allow her to draw me into the family's day. I learn where she and each of the children are. One may need encouragement; another discipline. They always need my attention. The Key in Communication

After several years of marriage, Curtis and I found ourselves just living through each day and not embracing life with the zeal we once had. We were able to read some great books on the importance of communication in marriage, and it has changed our life. We were challenged to talk about our feelings, thoughts, and hopes and discuss our common goals. It has been so great!

We have been counseled to take the first 15 minutes when Curtis arrives home to catch up on each others' day. The children know that this is our special time to talk and that we will be finished shortly. This makes the transition to family time very smooth and relaxing. We have also been encouraged to schedule 30-45 minutes, one night a week, to talk about the budget, children's problems, household problems, and other potentially stressful topics. Then we try to get out at least every other week for a date without the children. After implementing these simple tips into our family routine, we began to experience a second honeymoon in our marriage. We remembered how much fun we had together, we were better parents to the children, and we began to have better attitudes about the ups and downs of family life. All because we were willing to manage our time in such a way that the other knew by our actions how important and loved they were.

I (Curtis) have to admit that the idea of setting aside 30-45 minutes to talk about the hassles of family life wasn't initially a hit with me. In fact, it was the last thing I wanted to do. Already I was frustrated. Our early dating had been fun. I like to have fun. After a few years of marriage, it seemed as though our dates had gone from fun to frustrating. We spent most of our time talking about challenges with the kids, difficulties with our finances, and home repair. Now I was supposed to dedicate one night a week to this stuff too?

To my great surprise, something wonderful happened. We spent the 30-45 minutes working on struggles and deciding how we could begin to tackle some of them. The next week, we prepared to go out for some coffee. And there she was, the woman I fell in love with! She was back. By taking some time to deal with the problems that had been burdening Michaelann, she was now freed up to enjoy our time together. Even if another problem was on the horizon, she knew that we could talk about it during next week's troubleshooting session. I had never understood how the normal hassles of life had been burdening my wife. Once I gave her the opportunity to share her concerns with me, she was freed up to have some fun. Talk Tips

  • Now that you have had an opportunity to read God's Word about living in greater harmony with your spouse, what might you do to strengthen your relationship?
  • Share with each other your memories from your favorite date. What made it so memorable? What was the most enjoyable moment?
Additional Reading
  • The Two Sides of Love and Love Is a Decision, Proven Techniques to Keep Your Marriage Alive and Lively, both by Gary Smalley and John Trent, are exceptional reading for developing a stronger marriage through communication.
  • The Hidden Power of Kindness by Lawrence G. Lovasik, Sophia Institute Press, 1999
  • Proverbs 31 (for wives)
Action Point
  • Schedule 30-45 minutes to discuss the challenges currently confronting your marriage. Once you have discussed the challenges and come up with a plan for the future, plan a time to enjoy each other's company.
  • Final Note: This initial troubleshooting session may seem a bit overwhelming, but it is vitally important to clear away any static in your relationship in order to rediscover the joy of loving each other. Love isn't always easy, but it's always worth it!
Personal Application

Let's see how the Scriptures reinforce the bond of love and friendship.

Read Malachi 2:13-16 and 1 Peter 3:7-9. Based on these passages, what is God's response to the man who honors his wife?

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The Book of Proverbs is filled with God's words of wisdom. Read Proverbs 5:18-19. What is the challenge for the wife? What is the challenge for the husband?

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Note how Scripture powerfully expresses the desire of lovers to spend time together. Read Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 2:8-10 and 5:16, and consider how we might apply these verses to our own marriage.

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How might you free your spouse up so that he or she is able to come away with you?

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Let's look to the Book of Proverbs for some timeless advice. According to Proverbs 17:17, do friends turn love on and off at one's convenience?

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Read Proverbs 18:19. What is quarreling likened to in this passage?

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Now read Ephesians 4:26-27. How important is talking things out? How and when should we work out our difficulties?

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Read Proverbs 25:11. How are we instructed to communicate with others in this passage?

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Read Proverbs 31:10-12 and 26. This chapter is worth an entire Bible study for wives. We want to look at the great blessing of a good wife. What kind of woman is she? In verse 26, what do we learn about her?

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Proverbs 20:5 tells us something about the man who is willing to take time to explain himself. How is he described?

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As a final boost and encouragement, read the following verses: Ephesians 4:15-16 and 5:15-16. How we are to speak to our spouse?

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Martin, Curtis and Michaelann. "Together and in Love." Lay Witness (April, 2000).

Reprinted with permission of Lay Witness magazine.

Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.

THE AUTHOR

Michaelann Martin writes a family column for New Covenant magazine.

Copyright © 2000 LayWitness


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