This week at the OC Register, I’m talking relationships. Specifically – what to do when bickering starts to take over your date night. I’ve heard this happens. To some people. I have a friend . . . *cough* Okay, this totally happens with us. First of all, we are lucky when we even schedule a date night, and if they are two few and far between, inevitably the evening turns to tense conversations because it’s the first time we’ve been alone in a month and someone wants to air their grievances about not being fully appreciated for all the work they do around the house. I’ll leave it to you to figure out who that “someone” is. Anyways, we are working hard to have regular date nights, and also trying to implement the “business meeting” strategy I talk about in the column this week:
One of the best ways I know to balance the practical with the passion is to set aside a weekly time to deal with the minutiae of marriage – outside of the date night scenarios. You might even call it your weekly business meeting. It doesn’t have to be something formal, and it doesn’t need to have the attention (or childcare) that a date night warrants. It’s something you can do on a weeknight once the kids are down, or over lunch while the kids are at school. The point of a weekly business meeting is to have a pre-appointed time to talk about issues, concerns, and details, so that you have the space to talk about the finer points. If you’ve been married for any length of time, you know that date nights are not a great time to bring up finances. Right before bed is not an ideal time to start a conversation about that little idiosyncrasy your spouse does that is bothering you. And yet, as schedules fill and issues mount, couples often find themselves using any opportunity they can find to try to bend their spouse’s ear to something on the agenda. But when the business talk starts creeping into daily conversation, it can feel like it is consuming the relationship, and it can also leave couples walking around on eggshells with each other, never knowing when their partner might initiate “a talk” about something that feels overwhelming, or at a time that doesn’t feel safe.
We went to a marriage conference at our church last weekend and it was such a good reminder that marriage needs to be prioritized. In our culture, and with our busy lives, it is so easy to put it on the back burner. But I think this conference came at just the right time for us, as we are emerging from a year full of transitions and striving to figure out our new normal – we are hoping to move out of crisis management and into more intimacy with each other (and with our kids). I am curious – for parents of little kids: How do you keep your marriage a priority? How has having kids changed things? Going from ten years of no kids to four kids in five years has been a pretty big learning curve for us.