I was recently asked during an interview if my husband Bruce and I ever have the chance to get out by ourselves, to reconnect as a couple amid the busy-ness of our every day lives. How much importance do Bruce and I place on having alone time together? Good questions … which led me to wonder: How much emphasis do we as couples with kids place on ourselves as a couple?
When you have a big family such as we do with six kids, dinnertime can be a loud and chaotic part of each day. Amid the chatter of competing conversations across the table while the salad bowl and salad dressings pass from big hands to little hands, and a cup of milk inevitably spills as it does most every night, my husband winks and smiles as he briefly makes eye contact with me. At that moment, I may not experience the wave of butterflies in my stomach that I’d once felt many years before after a look like that, but I still smile and wink back, knowing that once leftover foods packed in storage containers are placed in the refrigerator, the dishes are washed, the baths are done, the prayers are said, and the bedroom lights are out, my husband and I will finally have some quiet time to ourselves … before we both collapse.
The focused reconnection between married couples, especially those who are parents, has become a vital link in the survival of those marriages that are successful these days. In addition to one or both parents holding down full or part-time jobs are the countless tasks that must be fulfilled daily that didn’t exist before they brought home that first tiny bundle. Between the various schools that children of different ages attend, various carpool schedules, dance classes, ball games, karate and piano lessons, it’s a surprise that families have the chance to actually sit down together at dinner once or twice a week. Being so busy and going in different directions day in and day out is precisely why it’s so important for couples to take a break from the kids, and focus on each other.
My husband and I make it a very high priority to have one night per week where we sit down after the children are settled in bed and talk about our budget and finances. Sometimes a couple of weeks go by, but we make every effort to both know what’s going on with our household management. During this time we sit and tear up junk mail that’s accumulated while we chat, gripe or laugh about our day.
A “date night” is also a great way to reconnect as a couple. When a night that we’ve planned out is approaching, we both become full of anticipation for the chance to “get out alone”! The tasks and chores that need to be complete as the time leads up our departure is oftentimes crazy, but once we close the car doors and sit, pause and smile just before the key goes into the ignition, we know we made it. Once we begin to drive away, our hands clasp as we laugh together with the knowledge that all is fine with the sitter (in our case, our two built-in teenage sitters), and we’re off for a few blissful hours with our cell phones close at hand.
On some of our dates, the excitement of being “just the two of us” allows for the reconnecting of a once young couple. We let ourselves get goofy, silly and talk about things we couldn’t talk about in front of the kids! While at dinner, we anticipate either the comedy movie we’ve wanted to see for weeks, or the breezy after-dinner walk on the beach that would feel so good. We’re able to talk, plan, ponder or just simply walk quietly together, content and warm with each other’s presence. For just a while, a wife and mom feels like the woman she is, and a husband and daddy becomes just her man.
After returning home to sleeping kids and sleepy sitters, we lock the doors and engage the alarm system. All is safe, quiet and good. What better time to continue our date in the warm, welcoming, comfortable privacy of our bedroom.
Yes, having time alone with your spouse and allowing for reconnection and communication away from the demands, noise, and confusion of jobs and a busy family, is key to improving a marriage and vital to sustaining a healthy, happy one. Children observe and learn how important it is for their parents to be a couple, to express their loving affection, and find time to be alone together and nurture their relationship. This can only be a healthy example for them to take into their future relationships.
And when the most recent couple’s date is but a memory, the after-effects last through the next few days, while the anticipation of the next get-away sits happily on the horizon.