In the early 1990’s myself and two of my pastor friends traveled to New Hampshire to encourage a good friend of ours, who was pastoring in Connecticut. A man in his church had a cabin in the middle of nowhere, a beautiful place. and he graciously allowed us to use it. It was in January, very cold and two feet of snow covered the ground, something us southern boys really enjoyed!
We talked about our lives, shared our burdens, discussed problems we were facing in our ministries, and we prayed. Old friendships were deepened and new friendships were made.
That get together was the catalyst of an annual gathering that grew and eventually included about a dozen other colleagues in ministry. We’ve been doing this for over twenty-five years. I believe it has been one of the primary contributors to my being able to stay in occupational ministry through the years.
But it had another benefit that I didn’t realize at the time. It had a role in improving the quality of our marriage.
Some things you stumble upon and in hindsight you discover that they were life changing. This trip was one of those. I can’t remember reading or anyone telling me that this would strengthen my marriage, but it has. If you’re married, I would recommend it to you – with some caveats I will mention later.
Paula enjoys going on shopping trips with her friends or to see Broadway shows. Sometimes she and her local friends will spend the night when one of their husbands is on a business trip. It’s only one night, but it refreshes Paula’s spirit. And what is good for her is good for our marriage.
Of course, there have been ladies retreats and men’s retreats we have attended separately, but I’m writing here about times when we do something on a social level with our friends.
Some of the benefits of these times apart from one another include:
- It facilitated topics of conversation to share when we reconnected. We not only shared interesting things that happened, but also experiences that made us laugh.
- It was refreshing to our spirit. We enjoyed learning about and seeing new things and catching up with old friends.
- It increases your appreciation for your spouse. When I helped care for our children when she is gone it helped me realize some of the things she went through as a mother.
- It deepens your love for your spouse. For example, when I’m away and I call she always cheerfully asks, “Are you having fun? What have y’all been doing?” Her gracious spirit draws my heart even more to love her. She never complains or is negative about these times. It makes me love her even more.
- It gives you ideas about places to go together with your family. We have returned to sites with our whole family or just Paula and myself after learning about them on trips with friends. My family has been the beneficiary of these times away. I can recall restaurants, hotels, and interesting places we later visited that they enjoyed because of my spending time with friends.
Some cautions to consider:
- We didn’t do this for the first twenty years of our marriage. Foundations of communication, trust and respect had been established beforehand. I wouldn’t recommend this for those that have not been married long.
- We took many more trips together than apart from each other. It was the exception rather than the rule for us to spend time with our friends without the other. If there has to be a choice in the matter always fall on the side of spending time with your spouse and taking them somewhere special.
- We didn’t “keep score”. That is, we had a spirit of generosity toward the other rather than trying to make sure each had equal time to get away with friends.
- We don’t do this often or for long periods of time. Something is wrong when the people that know you the least like you the most and those that know you the best like you the least. Our purpose in these brief getaways is not because we don’t enjoy each other. In that case, absence will not make the heart grow fonder.
Reconnecting with old friends can have a healthy impact on your marriage. I’m grateful for friends that had contributed in my life in so many ways. They have helped to make life’s journey a little better. And the occasional opportunities we get together has helped to make my marriage stronger. I’m a better friend to my best and dearest friend, my wife, because of them.