Wow, none of us would really make excuses for not investing in our marriages, would we? I think most couples really want their love to last and would say they are willing to do almost anything to make sure it does. But why do so many marriages still fail? And why are so many people so unhappy in their marriages even if they are still technically “together” and “okay”?
A very dear friend of mine gave me a copy of “His Needs, Her Needs for Parents” by Willard F. Harley as a Christmas gift. As I read the book description, my excitement grew for reading the book. Here’s a brief description, from the cover:
“Are children a threat to your marriage? Finding time to laugh together, talk with each other, and enjoy each other’s company came easy when it was just the two of you. But then you had children…Quiet dinners and romantic evenings disappeared in the wake of school projects, potty training, and middle-of-the-night feedings. And juggling work, family life, and household errands now leaves you too exhausted to even think at the end of the day. If marriage and parenting leave you feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone…But don’t let the pressures of parenthood ruin your marriage. Don’t let the care you give your children prevent you from caring for each other. Instead, keep your marriage healthy-and your children happy-by making each other your top priority…If you are ready to put the sizzle back in your relationship, this book is for you.”*
Wow, any other “married with children” folks resonate with that like I did/do? Our marriage has not ever really been “on the rocks,” but we have definitely had our ups and downs, and when I was reading this book life had been throwing hard stuff our way for many months and we both felt quite weary. Some of the marital advice from this book really gave me a boost to press in to building a stronger relationship. One thing stood out very profoundly – building a romantic love relationship requires time.
Dr. Harley defines a romantic relationship as “Two people in love who meet each other’s emotional needs for intimacy.” Of course all of us have different emotional needs and different ways that we need them met. We fill each other’s “love banks” through recreational companionship, domestic support, open conversation, affection, sexual fulfillment, etc. When you’re dating, engaged and first married, you are naturally meeting each other’s needs in these ways and both feeling very delighted and “in love.” But as the pressures of life mount and children are added to the picture, time becomes a very precious commodity, and couples often begin to meet each other’s needs less and less because they spend less time together.
One of the main premises of the book (and what Dr. Harley points to as a major factor in the health of a marriage) is that having a great relationship requires spending time together. Dr. Harley suggests that couples need 15 hours a week of together time to have a healthy love relationship. This 15 hours should be undivided attention.
It sounds impossible, right? This problem is addressed in Chapter 4, when Dr. Harley says: “Don’t neglect spending time together – it’s vital to the security of your marriage and your children. It’s more important than time spent doing anything else during the week, including time with your children and your job. And remember, fifteen hours is equivalent to a part-time job. It’s not time you don’t have, it’s time you will use for something much less important if you don’t use it for each other…” He also notes, “how does a workaholic businessman find time to have an affair? The man who couldn’t be home for dinner because of his busy schedule is suddenly able to fit in a midafternoon rendezvous three times a week! How does he get his work done? The answer, of course, is that he had the time all along. It’s simply a matter of priorities.”
Now I don’t know if there’s really something magical about the 15 hours (which he says is a minimum), but I do know that meeting each other’s needs must be a priority and it will take time. 15 hours is probably a good rule of thumb. Maybe you’re already spending that much time together. Great! Maybe you’re far from it and feel overwhelmed by the “to-do” of finding those hours. Might I encourage you to sit down, look at your daily schedule and calendar and find times to schedule in together time? It might require a babysitter sometimes, it might mean the two of you picking up some new hobby that you’d both enjoy together. It may mean waking earlier to pray together and have breakfast before your children are up! Schedule lunch dates or a weekend away if you haven’t been spending enough time together and have some catching up to do.
If you are creative and make it a priority, you can find time to invest in your marriage and strengthen it, with God’s help.
Does your marriage matter to you? Find time to be together. You may have to say “no” to other good things to make this a priority, but your love is worth it. Spend your time investing in your spouse.
*A quick disclaimer – I know this may seem like an advertisement for this book, and I do think it is a good one, but I definitely DO NOT agree with Dr. Harley on everything (I think he actually has several unbiblical positions), BUT he is a very respected marriage counselor and psychologist, and a Christian who has been in the field for many years and seen many broken marriages pieced back together and I think much of his marriage-related advice is quite sound.