It was 11 p.m. on a weeknight during the holidays and I was wiped out.
My husband and I had just finished up watching one of our favorite shows on Netflix. I was ready to sleep, but he wasn’t feeling connected with me and wanted to spend more time together.
We got into the same argument we’ve had probably hundreds of times. The night owl versus the queen of routine. Whose needs would take priority? Or to look at it another way, who was being more selfish?
It’s a common problem in marriage: We get busy, and by the time we reconnect at the end of the day, we’re just done.
It’s so tempting to follow our individual desires, rather than work on strengthening the relationship.
But that’s a surefire way to let your marriage drift apart, especially during the busy years of raising kids. I know it’s difficult to find time for romance when your children are little, but it is necessary for your marriage.
I can’t tell you how many couples I know of who are more like roommates than lovers by the time their kids move out. Physical and emotional intimacy are distant memories.
That’s why it’s so important to fight for your marriage during the exhausting years.
With three kids and the demands of work, community and running a home, we’re in the thick of “busyness.” We’ve argued many times about how we spend our time together. And while I can’t say we’ve found the magic answer to this issue, we’ve landed on a few really helpful strategies.
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3 Ways To Fight for Your Marriage When You’re Busy and Exhausted
1. Protect Alone Time in Your Schedule
This one seems obvious but I know too many couples who don’t do it. I have to give my husband credit for making this a big priority in our relationship.
If possible, we try to have weekly date nights. While that doesn’t usually mean a big fancy dinner date, it’s okay for your date nights to take place at home. As long as it does mean we get time together away from the kids. (A few weeks ago we ran into another couple we know on a “date” at Target and we all had to laugh at ourselves.) While there are some weeks when it doesn’t work, those are the exception and not the norm.
I know the excuses: it’s hard to find/afford a babysitter and schedules can be crazy. But here’s the thing: if it’s important to you, you can get creative about how to make it work. In fact, I’d love to hear some creative ideas in the comments.
In addition to a weekly date, we usually try to spend alone time together every night for at least half an hour after the kids go to bed. While on some days I might want to use that time to read or catch up on work, we’ve agreed that for the most part, this time is non-negotiable. Skipping it is the exception, not the norm.
*Related: 10 Ways to Make Your Marriage Fun Again
2. Communicate Expectations about Your Alone Time—Before It Happens
This is basically the crux of many of our arguments: what are we going to do with those precious few minutes we get together?
For us, the problem hasn’t been about us having different opinions about what we like to do. We usually can negotiate through those. The problem has been not communicating in advance what we want.
So we end up doing something mindless that doesn’t really bring us together, like in the example I mentioned when we zoned out on Netflix for an hour. That night, if I had communicated that I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed early, and if he had communicated that he wanted to connect and be more intimate, then we wouldn’t have watched the show and then gotten into an argument at 11 p.m. Instead, we would have spent quality time together at what I deemed a more reasonable hour, and then I would have gone to bed.
It only took us 11 years of marriage to figure out this little trick: After the kids go to bed, we communicate about what we want the rest of the evening to look like, rather than just drifting through it. I think this logic can apply to just about any situation: dates, vacations, holidays, you name it.
We haven’t repeated our tired old argument since we started doing this!
3. Get Creative Connecting in the Margins
Some days my husband is out late, which starts to creep into our set time together in the evenings. So lately he has been calling me on his drive home, just to get in a few minutes of conversation when we’re not together. It’s a little gesture, but it means so much!
Every couple’s dynamic is a bit different, but there are tons of little ways to connect:
- Kiss each other goodbye.
- Say “I love you” at least once a day.
- Pray together before bedtime.
- Send each other texts throughout the day.
- Write love notes or cards.
- Pick up a thoughtful gift or make his favorite meal or treat.
- Make “grown up” time a priority 😉 — (if you need some help here, these Christian sex tips are a great starting point!)
I’m sure you can think of more, but the point is that when you’re short on time, think outside the box about ways you can connect in the margins of your hectic schedule.
I’m proud to say that we’ve fought for our marriage in the hectic years, and I believe it has paid off.
What about you: What could you do to strengthen your marriage when you’re busy and exhausted? What other suggestions do you have for staying close when you’re both busy and exhausted?