We, as ministry professionals, spend our lives serving the needs of others. This person is lost and needs Jesus, that family is having a crisis and needs counsel, and yet another brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord. Who has time for romance when serving the almighty God?
With Valentine’s Day upon us, perhaps it’s time to reflect for a moment on our relationship with our spouse. This may be the one day of the year that your spouse looks forward to more than any other to gain your undivided attention. That special card, their favorite flower, or perhaps their favorite box of chocolates. Those things are wonderful. But what if Valentine’s Day could come more than once a year? What if these special memories could become part of your daily walk? Is that even possible? Here are two things that we have learned in our 26 years of marriage:
1) You don’t need a holiday to celebrate your love
We have decided that our entire year can be a celebration of our love for each other. Gifts come and go at random intervals. We seek to engage each other through date nights and other activities on a regular basis.
This is perhaps something that everyone can do, even with small children. It does require some planning because you will need a babysitter a few evenings per month. One of the best ideas that we’ve seen is to find another couple with children and trade babysitting for date nights. This can be the most economical method. Even if you must hire a sitter for a few hours, the time away from the kids can be just enough breathing room to recharge your love tank for each other.
You don’t even have to go out to a restaurant. The goal is to ensure that you are spending quality alone time with your spouse and without interruption. There were a lot of times that we just weren’t able to afford eating out or doing anything that cost additional money. We would work out something for the kids to do with a sitter, friend, or family member for a few hours and just stay home, watch a movie, and whatever else might happen. Sometimes we just took a nap together because we were exhausted.
One of Heather’s favorite things to do was going to the lake, sitting on the levy, and talking. In order for me to get her undivided attention, I had to remove her from the home. All she sees at home are things that she needs to be doing around the house. It can be difficult for some people to just unplug from the mommy role and switch to the loving wife role. It helps to understand how your spouse operates and plan accordingly.
2) Take a vacation together without the children
We also plan to have at least one quality vacation together without the distractions of life and children. We just recently had our first 2-week vacation ever. We spent a few days in Florida acting like youths riding all the roller coasters at Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld. We then ventured off on a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean. The memories that we made and the time that we spend together cannot be measured. There is nothing in the world like having this kind of dedicated time to spend and share with the one that you love most.
We realize that a 2-week vacation without the children can be quite impossible when you have children at home. Our youngest daughter moved out on her own in 2016 leaving us empty-nesters. The way we managed to take vacations alone looked very different over the years. Here are some suggestions from what worked for us:
- One Night with You – this works well if you have children under 5 years old. Just focus on taking one night away to keep your fires burning. Try and do it more often, at least once per quarter.
- Weekend Getaway – We did simple weekend escapes as the kids began to age a little more. Nothing fancy at all. Reasonable hotel in a city not too far from home for connection, focus, and rest. We tended to walk around shops and have reasonable meals or catch a movie.
- Extended Getaway – We only took a single week long vacation alone before our kids were old enough to take care of themselves. In 1999, we took a trip to Niagra Falls. The girls were 8 and 6 at the time and it was way too stressful for them and us. As our oldest reached her mid-teen years and matured, we were able to take these longer vacations to the mountains or other places. It was much more enjoyable when you didn’t have to worry about them so much and could really relax together. The kids will not be happy with you for not taking them along but the time away from them to focus on your relationship will make you both better parents.
We have not always had this level of balance in our marriage. We wrote about the tragic marriage that we had in the early years of our ministry work on our blog. The good news is that we found a balance in our lives to have a rich marriage, stable children, and remain consistent servants to our calling in the ministry.
So many of our brothers and sisters who serve the cross struggle in their marriage and family relationships. We are living proof that it doesn’t have to be that way. This doesn’t mean that we always agree on everything or that we like to do the same things. In fact, the opposite is true. We don’t usually enjoy the same types of entertainment and our ideas of quality and relaxation time can be quite polar sometimes. But what we have gotten correct in our relationship is that we enjoy spending time with each other.
We recognize that our differences in life are okay. God made us different as a compliment to each other. Areas that I am weak, Heather is usually stronger and vice-versa. If we were both just alike, one of us wouldn’t be needed… Think about that. Embrace the difference and enjoy each other’s strengths.
My wife and I committed our lives together and God blessed our union with two wonderful daughters. They came from our passion and love. He didn’t call us to be unstable, miserable, and destructive in our behavior in a way that destroys our family. No, He established us as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His Church. To raise our daughters to know who He is and how to establish their own godly marriages and families.
So, give your relationship with your spouse a priority in your life.
- God never intended for us to sacrifice our marriages and families on the altar of the church. Though the work we do for our church and community is important, our responsibility to our spouse and families are greater. Don’t allow your work, even in ministry, to rob your family.
- Be a father or mother who is deeply engaged in the home and raising of the children.
- Establish good boundaries so that you give to your spouse due benevolence. Don’t just give your life mate the leftovers and scraps. Serve your best every day and make your relationship a reflection of the true love that God intended it to be.
Your children, your friends, and your ministry followers will then see a true servant of God who has the peace of God displayed before them.
It is our prayer that your marriage is blessed beyond measure.
Tim and Heather Key are the founders of LifeTravelers.us Marriage Blog. They have been married for over 26 years, have two daughters and are expecting their first grandson. Their passion is for helping couples overcome the struggles of marriage.