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Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (NIV)

In honor of my husband’s birthday, and us just celebrating our 13th anniversary earlier this month, I want to take you on a stroll down memory lane with me today.  Not so much so that you get a glimpse into our lives, but so that it will make you stop and think about your own journeys with your own loved ones.

When we were dating, it was very easy to make our relationship my number one human priority, second only to God in my life.  I would anxiously await the mail every Tuesday because I would get letters or cards from him letting me know that I was being thought of during the week.  The weekends were spent hanging out with my now-husband and his best friend, and we did everything together.  We would rollerblade (not for lack of practice, but I’m not very good), go to the park, and spend time at the beach…building memories to last a lifetime.

It was fun to sit and listen to all their stories, to put in my memory bank all of his “favorites,” and then I loved getting a chance to surprise him days or weeks later with one or two of those things I had learned about him.  I remember one time specifically I went to the mall and had fun buying him stuff “just because.”  I guess I went a little crazy in Bath and Body Works because he started to question whether or not I thought he smelled bad.  He didn’t – I just went wild with their great sale.  Being together was definitely my favorite thing, no matter what we were doing.

Then we got married…and first one, then two, then three kids came.  Work got busier, schedules filled up, and then we added the kids’ schedules to our calendar too…well, I don’t need to remind anyone about how crazy life can get.  And, even though my husband is still the most important person to me besides God, I don’t always do such a great job showing him that.  By the time the kids’ problems are resolved, laundry and other chores are completed, work is finished (or at least manageable until tomorrow), dinner cleaned up – where is there any time to make the one I pledged to love until death do us part feel special?

There are lots of articles out there talking about how there needs to be regular date nights in order to keep the spark alive, but in all honesty, I can’t seem to schedule regular haircuts, let alone find the time or money to schedule elaborate date nights once a week or even once a month.  Our idea of a date night is dropping the kids off at his parents’ house (next door) and running a few errands, alone, together, with the ability to have a conversation uninterrupted.

Even though I completely agree that date nights are important, I don’t think it has to be that elaborate all the time.  Sometimes, depending upon the kids’ ages, taking a walk down the street and leaving old-enough children at home with a walkie-talkie is spontaneous, cheap, and a fun way to reconnect with your spouse.  Or, if the kids are too little, strap them in a stroller and take the walk, pretending it’s just the two of you while your little one(s) eat a snack or read a book.  We love to go hiking, with our oldest kids creating elaborate adventures far enough ahead of us that we have some uninterrupted time to laugh and talk while they are safely within eye sight.  Sometimes, sending our kids to their rooms an hour or so before bedtime to watch a movie so that we can have some alone time laughing during our favorite sitcom is about all we can manage, but that also speaks volumes.  It shows my husband that I am putting him and our relationship before our children.  It doesn’t matter so much what you are doing as the fact that you are purposefully doing something.

I used to worry that I was sending a message to our kids that they weren’t important and only their dad mattered.  But, I’m finding that there is quite a bit of research out there to contradict that false mom guilt.  An excerpt below proves what I’m saying, “Marriage is the foundation upon which your entire family is structured…In addition, your children will greatly benefit from your stronger relationship. Children feel secure when they know that Mom and Dad love each other…Your children need daily proof that their family life is stable and predictable. When you make a commitment to your marriage, your children will feel the difference. No, they won’t suffer from neglect! They’ll blossom when your marriage — and their home life — is thriving.” (“How to Have a Happy Marriage When You’re Busy Parenting”, by Elizabeth Pantley).

It is just as important for my husband to feel like the king of his castle as it is for our children to see their father in that role.  Our kids need to see that I respect and honor their dad.  Part of that respect means carving out specific time just for him, or buying him little treats when we are at the store to let him know that he is being thought of during the day.  There are also times I will go out of my way before arriving home to pick up his favorite cooler flavor from Culvers or a McFlurry from McDonalds “just because.”  Each of these little instances doesn’t take too much money, but leaves a big impression on his heart – letting my man know that I love him just as much as I did when we were dating and hopefully letting him see that my love for him keeps growing the longer we are married.  It also shows in the way I drop everything to help him find his belt or the fact that I make his lunch every day before work, as I have been doing since the day we got married.

When the kids are a little bit older, we will have more time to travel “just the two of us” and probably more time for those regularly planned date nights too.  For now, I pray that my husband feels loved by the specific things I choose to do on a daily and weekly basis to keep our love alive just like we did when we were dating.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t look forward to the yearly or twice yearly getaways that we have even with kids at home, (or at least we will again when we can get our littlest to sleep better), to refuel and reconnect.

Lastly, I pray that I am modeling for the “future wife” in my daughter how important it is to nurture the relationship she has with her husband over every other relationship, second only to God, in her life.  I also pray that my sons are learning how to nurture their “future marriages” someday by watching their dad and I keep each other first priority, second only to God, and with any future children coming in a close third.  That is, after all, what family should be about – making sure each member feels like a valued member – secure and loved and each in his or her own place.

Having said that, were any of you able to walk down memory lane about your own dating and marriage experiences?  Are you remembering any special times from the past that you want to relive with the most important person in your life?  There is no time like the present to start.

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