Shel and Ben exited her mom and dad’s house. Almost giddy with excitement, they both cheered aloud running to the family SUV. They chattered about how long it had been since it had been just the two of them alone anywhere. Ben asked her, “Has it REALLY been over a year?” As they got into, he turned to his wife, “Really, Shel, I don’t even think we’ve had a meal alone since Valerie.”
She heard his tone change and began thinking. “It’s true, we’ve not been away – really away – been alone – for over a year.” Their youngest child, Valerie, had just turned two and the older kids, Todd, four and Ethan, seven, although still young, were good kids. This past year they had grown a lot and turned into big helpers. She admitted to herself, she didn’t really want to ever be away from them for long. Their pastor had recently taught a series on marriage and she and Ben had agreed to work harder on their relationship. So when Ben asked her about this weekend trip, knowing how much he wanted to use the restaurant gift certificate his parents had given him for his birthday, she agreed to go. The gift was for dinner at very nice steakhouse and they had talked about going numerous times before today. She realized now as they were on their way to the city, only a 45-minute drive, maybe Ben wasn’t as thrilled as she had thought he’d be about this brief overnight adventure.
His last words, “It’s better than nothing,” still hung in the air. He had said this to her Dad as she was giving their hotel information to her mother. Now, sitting alone with Ben, anticipating the next few hours with just the two of them, she was reeling over just what he might have meant. She thought maybe Ben had become unhappy of the time spent at her job. Her job as an office manager for a dental office was steady and had family-friendly hours, but lately she had taken on more responsibilities and this meant bringing work home a couple of days a week. She thought, “Was that what was bothering him?” She had noticed he had become more distant in the evenings and he went into his home office more often than he had ever done.
Having three children so close in age, while she continued working had been a strain on their marriage. But they both had agreed it was worth it because they enjoyed the thought of their kids being close siblings. Many of the couples at their church were doing the same thing and as they planned their family, it seemed doable. The work load of keeping up with laundry for five people, the food prep which Shel did alone most days, and then the school work their second grader was now bringing home was definitely taking a toll on their time as a couple. After finding out she was pregnant with their third child, she remembered Ben jokingly saying, “We’ll just have to plan to spend a lot of time getting to know each other again after the kids are grown.” Maybe he wasn’t really kidding, Shel thought.
Shel and Ben are like many Christian couples today. Two full-time jobs along with two, three and even four and five children is not unusual in the families of the millennials. Their calendars aren’t large enough to stretch to accommodate their busy, demanding schedules and the one thing that is almost always missing from it: time together, as a couple.
A recent study by the Barna Group shared results that in the church today, over 75% of married women reported being satisfied with their marriages. Another interesting study finding, however, is women admitted to spending most of their time and energy with their children. Not on their marriages. Not with their husbands. They admitted too they enjoyed this more.
What is going on here? As a woman, a wife and mom first, I think I know. Excluding what I know through my training as a marital therapist, I’ll tell you what I know personally to be the truth. Sometimes, perhaps often, it seems a whole lot easier to be with kids, as grumpy, demanding and unpredictable as they are, than being with that adult guy we are married too. Parenting, teaching, guiding, bonding, nurturing, playing, walking and talking – just BEING with our children – is a natural thing for us mamas. Women by our very DNA’s wiring are attracted to hanging out with our children equally, or instead of, hanging out with our husbands.
This is not good for marriages.
So women, we just have to do it. Get away with your hubby. Go on a date at least once a month. Talk with and listen to him patiently and attentively. Show him a little more affection. This is good for him. Good for your marriage. And, this is good for your kids. Time and affection are caring behaviors that result in stronger, healthier families that result from stronger, healthier marriages.
The Good Book says this: “Love your husbands.” (Titus 2:4-5) There’s a reason God had to tell Christian women to do this. It doesn’t always come naturally.