It was a humbling conversation. My husband David and I were talking casually with a friend, who happens to also be a priest, and we were joking about how we never had time for dates anymore. Instead, we were always in survival mode—paying bills, cleaning up messes, mowing the lawn, trying to balance work and family and (maybe) social life.
But it was no joke to our friend. He paused thoughtfully before saying to us something along the lines of, “Be sure that you don’t neglect each other.” He went on to explain that our family would only be as strong as we were as a couple. Our kids needed us to spend quality time not only with them, but also alone as a couple.
His words struck me deep. There was wisdom, but also a puzzle. What do you do when life is stressful and there seems to be no time for romance or quality time in your relationship? Or when spending money on a date is not an option?
In the months following that conversation, David and I discovered a few answers to those questions.
One answer was to turn chores into opportunities for romance. We don’t travel far, but who says you can’t have a date night in the kitchen? If the dishes are piled high and meals need prepped, we’ll put the kids to bed and then watch a show or listen to a podcast on a laptop while David washes dishes and I chop vegetables and cook. Some nights I’ll even throw on a dress and put on makeup—as if we are going on a real date. As David reaches over me to put away a plate, perhaps he’ll swoop in for a kiss, or I’ll wrap my arms around him for a little slow dance interlude. That’s not our everyday normal, but the point is that romance can happen even during the mundane. In fact, women find it sexy when men help out around the house.
I know, I know—working in the kitchen or cleaning the bathroom together does not sound romantic. But I have to say that there is something extra attractive about my husband when he is scrubbing a toilet, because it is a sign to me that he loves me and our family enough to do even the yucky jobs. Plus, doing chores together makes them a lot more fun, and it’s a good time to talk at the end of the day.
Still, there are other times when a couple just needs time to be. With nothing on the agenda but empty time and space to look into each other’s eyes and really see each other again.
We’ve been grateful to have friends and family who help make that special couple time a reality for us. In fact, just a few days after that conversation with our priest friend, another friend texted out-of-the-blue: “We’d really like to watch your boys so that you and David can go on a date.” The next day, another friend—who I owed money—emailed to tell me that I shouldn’t bother to pay her back. “Just use the money to go on a date with David,” she wrote.
So there it was: the money for dinner and free babysitting all lined up without us even trying to arrange it. We took it as a sign that we must really need that date. And after going out to eat, talking together about our dreams for our little fixer upper, troubleshooting parenting problems, and just reminiscing—we realized how much we really did need that time together.
Don’t neglect each other, our friend had wisely reminded us. Because without each other, what else do you really have?
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