I made some mistakes in our almost forty years of marriage, but there were also some things that I’m glad that I did. These actions strengthened our relationship and made us closer as husband and wife.
In the next few posts I’ll share some of these lessons with the hope that they might encourage others, especially those that haven’t been married long.
Here’s a simple, but profound discipline that has brought incredible dividends to our marriage: each year Paula and I would spend several days alone without our children.
Marriage is to be the priority in all of our relationships, even before our children. When God created Eve for Adam the first family was established; they were a family before they had children. You are not a family unit because you have children; you are a family when you are married. Having children extends your family, but it doesn’t begin your family.
Now, we love our children. God has given us seven precious children whom we value more than our lives. They are the treasures of our heart and we have made great sacrifices for them. But the biblical priority puts the marriage relationship before parenting. And this includes time.
As I write this we still have two of our children in our home. It won’t be long before we have an empty nest. I always dreamed of taking Paula to special and unique places. We still have some of those dreams and talk of them occasionally. It’s healthy to have something to look forward to, even if some of our dreams don’t come to pass.
During the early parenting years as our finances and schedule would permit we would pull away for some time alone just between Paula and myself. God used those times to refresh us and to give us time to talk, laugh, and rest.
Here are some brief thoughts about these planned getaways.
- The place isn’t as important as the memories you make. For many years we drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and took three days in the fall when the leaves were changing. On our 20th anniversary we took a cruise to Bermuda, just us. One of our favorite trips is to go to Orange Beach, Alabama. We’ve been to a nice Bed and Breakfast and plan on going there again. I took Paula to Birmingham to a nice hotel and to shop. And there are other little things we did along the way. All over our house are pictures of us at special places. It isn’t how spectacular it is; it’s the memories we will always have in our hearts.
- It shows your children that you value each other. It’s an incredible teaching point for our children for their own marriages that they might do the same. Also, it gives them security knowing that we care for each other enough to want to be alone.
- It’s usually not easy to do so. It took a lot of planning to find a place for all of our children to stay while we were gone. The money wasn’t always available and sometimes we couldn’t do anything at all. But the goal was still a priority – to take time away as we were able.
- It is an investment in your future happiness as a couple. Time alone is like compounding interest that strengthens your relationship as the years pass. As we now approach empty nest days I look forward to traveling more to have fun with the wonderful gift God has given to me, my wife.
- It’s worth the sacrifice. There will always be a sacrifice and trade offs. This is so important to us that we have lived simply in other areas to try and make it happen. We drive used cars, live in a simple home, and sometimes shop at thrift stores rather than waiting for the proverbial lottery to hit. Those pictures in our home of our trips together shout at me that it has been worth it all.
I remember standing with a friend at a funeral home with the body of his dear wife in a casket before us. He said something to me I shall never forget.
“Rick, we were married for almost fifty years and just recently I started doing some things for my wife. I wish I had done them sooner”.
That stirred me again to be faithful to go on little trips and special places with Paula as we are able. The time will come when those opportunities will be forever gone. So we will take advantage of them today.