Everything ever accomplished on earth was the result of time invested. Time is a great mystery, yet it makes life or living possible on this side of eternity. As a matter of fact, this physical realm is defined basically by two properties: time and space. Is it therefore not amazing that, as married men and women, many of us think we can have the best of marriages without investing time?
Remember, during your courtship you spent quality time with each other. Unknown to you then, that quality time was the fuel for your love. Making each other top priority was what, in a way, made you deeply in love. In spite of your busy schedules, you both made out time to be with each other. Where it was not possible to be with each other physically, you talked on the telephone, sometimes for hours. And when you were together, you gave each other undivided attention.
I believe our forefathers had better marriages partly because the prevailing circumstances in their own time made it easy for them to spend time together. In all likelihood, the man and his wife went to the farm together and they talked all the way. And everything they did on the farm they did together. Where the woman had to stay at home to nurse the baby, the man returned early. Even that was when the entire family was not temporarily living in the hut on the farm at certain times of the year.
Unfortunately, today, all that has changed. After the wedding and honeymoon, the economic reality of our time requires that the man and the woman work to sustain the family. So, they wake up in the morning, and go their separate ways almost the whole day and week. Much of their precious time is spent with colleagues, business partners or customers. It is therefore no wonder that extra-marital affairs thrive in the marketplace since it is natural to bond with or be attracted to people you fellowship with often. This can be detrimental to marital relationships except spouses make conscious efforts to spend time with each other and balance things out.
Now, spending enough time together will often build intimacy, open the communication lines and strengthen your relationship, which in turn will strengthen your marriage. In addition, it will provide your children with a good example for their own future relationships.
The truth is, as a man or woman, you and your spouse have emotional needs which must be met. Not creating time to meet those needs will naturally expose you both to a floodgate of temptations. Is it not amazing, although it is wrong and should never be encouraged, that some of those who abandon their homes do so, not for some ‘billionaire’, but for someone who is there for them always – someone with a listening ear?
I read the heart-wrenching story, in a book by Lester Sumrall, about the wife of a certain millionaire. They had practically everything money could buy, including a beach house, a home on the mountain, the best cars, and more. And the man was working really hard to sustain this lifestyle. Unknown to him, however, his not being there created a vacuum in his home: his wife became very lonely. It was not so obvious, but it was too serious to be neglected if he was sensitive enough. It however took one ugly incident to bring all the issues to the fore. A vacuum cleaner had broken down and a technician was called in to fix it. The few hours he spent in the home made a lot of difference in the life of the woman as he provided the attention and company she badly needed, in addition to fixing the vacuum cleaner. He was there again the following day to check the machine, and she welcomed him with open arms. Then he came again, and again, and again. One thing led to another and that was the end of her marriage. We need to make out time for our spouses!
Now, apart from the challenges careers and businesses pose, child-bearing also comes with its unique challenges to marriage. A couples’ therapist, Esther Perel, writes in Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic: “The transition from two to three is one of the most profound challenges a couple will ever face…. For a while, there seems to be less for the couple: Less time, less communication, less sleep, less money, less privacy.”
Some men, at that stage, actually decide to spend more time with ‘the boys’ since, in their minds, there is nothing for them at home anymore. Unknown to them, however, the wives are trying to adjust to their new roles and are probably struggling with some emotional issues and so need the support of their husbands more than before. Unfortunately, staying away from the home creates a gulf which many marriages never recover from.
It therefore becomes important that, as married couples, we do not allow the drudgery of daily living, and selfish attempts to avoid our spouse, to gradually choke the love we share. Ironically, it is this intentional or unintentional staying away from each other that culminates in a situation where some couples, after years of starving each other of time and attention, feel they are no longer in love or compatible.
Perhaps you are wondering how much time is considered enough when it comes to a husband and wife. I believe it has less to do with the number of hours but more with the quality of time spent together. If you are the very busy type, some marriage experts recommend at least 15 hours a week, alone together, discussing the things that are important to you both, and affirming each other. And this should be spread across the week, and not just a day or two of the week.
In our fast-paced world, however, finding time for each other can be a difficult task, but it is something that must be done. After all, we often make out time for what we consider truly important to us. And I believe this precisely should be the case with our marriage – it should be on top of our priority list, even before career or business. If our relationship with our spouse is in order, then other aspects of life will fall in place.
It was Lao Tzu who said, “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’” We can and must create time for our spouse. Mary May Larmoyeux, who has been married for over 30 years, offers the following tips on how to do just that:
1) Cultivate a common interest.
2) Have a regular date night.
3) Try new adventures together.
4) Write love letters to each other and read them over a romantic dinner.
5) Go on overnight getaways—without the children.
6) Set aside regular time to talk with one another—without any distractions.
7) Read a book together and discuss it.
8) Be accountable to one another.
9) Pray together.
10) Tune-up your marriage at a marriage seminar or couples’ programme.