I was giddy. The hotel was beautiful, the restaurant opulent. This was special, dinner and an overnight date, just the two of us. Scott and I had just left our bags in the room and were waiting at the elevator to go for dinner when we received the call. “I’m so sorry but your son is throwing up. He keeps asking for you.” My dear friend had volunteered to watch the boys so we could enjoy a romantic evening for two. She had a desperate tone. He was fine when we left, now he was really sick.
My husband and I retrieved our bags from the hotel room and hurried to the lobby where we explained the need to check out immediately. The rest of the evening was spent comforting our sick son and washing sheets. Not the evening we expected, but real life parenting is rarely predictable.
Finding time to be together without getting derailed can be difficult to say the least. But it’s well worth the effort. Time together, having fun as a couple, strengthens the marital bond.
One of the best gifts you can give your children is a great marriage. When your relationship is strong, children feel secure. When you live life as teammates, children view the bond as solid and unshakable. An added benefit to a good marriage is providing a model for marriage. Daily you’re demonstrating what it looks like to live and work with your spouse through thick and thin (richer-poorer, sickness-health). This is unconditional love. No matter what life throws at your marriage and family when Christ-centered love is the foundation the ground is solid.
Here are questions to consider to make your parenting relationship stronger as a couple.
- Do you and your spouse portray a united front for your children?
- How are your communication skills?
- Do you schedule time for just the two of you?
- Is loving one another unconditionally a hallmark of your marriage and family relationships?
- United Front
If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand (Mark 3:25). The words of Jesus are so critical to a cohesive family unit that they were recorded in three of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Become “same page parents” by working together for a common goal. I overheard my boys talking to one another one afternoon. The younger brother was lamenting. I had not allowed him to play with a friend that afternoon. He confided in his brother his plan to ask Dad, hoping for a different answer. His big brother’s response was classic. With a sigh he said, “Don’t bother, if Mom said no, Dad will too. They always give the same answer.”
Did this always happen? No, but the trick is to try to stay a few steps ahead. Take time to discuss boundaries, scenarios, and exceptions. A great answer is, “Let me talk to your dad. I’ll let you know what we decide.” The emphasis is on we. If your child is in the habit of manipulating the two of you, a simple question can help squelch that behavior. “What did your dad say?” Let the children see Mom and Dad as a united front, not easily divided.
- Effective Communication
How we talk to one another is a good indicator of how much we love and respect a person. Think about not only the words but the tone. In Empowered Parents: Putting Faith First, Lori and I list good communication skills: eye contact, non-threatening body language, repeating, listening attentively, affirming, and recognizing another’s point of view1. Listen intentionally and intently to your spouse and children.
- Couple Time
A woman in a parenting class told me she was anxious to start dating her husband again. Curious as to how long it had been since their last date, I inquired. “Thirteen years. My husband and I never wanted to leave the kids with a babysitter.” This is not a tactic I would recommend. Children are a blessed addition to the marriage, not the center of it. Continue seeing yourselves and a couple first, then a family. There really is hierarchy in families; God, spouse, kids.
Friday was my favorite day of the week when the boys were in school. Not because it’s the end of the workweek or that the weekend is just around the corner but because of my standing lunch date with my husband. Years ago when our boys were in elementary school, we began our weekly date. Date night with a babysitter was expensive and we were always under the time constraints of our fourteen-year-old sitter, thus the weekly tradition began. Fridays were sacred. Scott and I would try out new restaurants and just enjoy each other’s company.
Couple time doesn’t need to be something extravagant. Tuck the kids in bed and enjoy popcorn and a movie. Let older children clear the table after dinner and have a cup of coffee and talk. Co-op a babysitting arrangement with a neighbor to have a night out as a couple.
- Unconditional Love
Love is not just for the good times; it’s for all time. Loving family members without exception is how the Lord calls us to love. Luke 6:32 tells us, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” So how do you love the spouse that has disappointed or hurt you? With a love that goes beyond your feelings, the love Jesus had modeled for us. Deep commitment comes with perseverance, true grit to get through the tough times. Is it hard? Absolutely! But when children witness their parents working together, putting the relationship and the family above their own emotions, they feel secure.
Plan a date night. Take the questions listed above and the tips along to get the conversation started. Enjoy each other’s company…just have fun together!
- Wildenberg and Danielson, Empowered Parents: Putting Faith First (Gainesville: Synergy), 2003, p.69.
©2017 Becky Danielson. All rights reserved.