I met my husband 20 years ago this winter. I saw him across the lobby of the student center at our college campus. I hoped he would notice me and when he did I shook his hand and smiled the warmest smile I could muster on that cold January evening. He asked me out a few weeks later and I was excited to get to know him. From that moment on, we enjoyed spending as much time together as possible. We studied at the library, took walks around campus, visited the art museum where admission was free. We didn’t need to do anything fancy. Time together was all we wanted.
Fast forward two decades, and eight children, later: We still love time together but it’s a little harder to find than it was in the beginning. The desire of our heart is to still be together even after our nest empties. The deeper truth to that statement is that we may have some that never leave the nest. Raising children is hard on a marriage, but raising children with special needs makes finding a healthy balance even more difficult. Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years about protecting our marriage:
- Schedule time together. Scheduling time together isn’t as romantic as impulsively whisking your loved one away for a weekend trip to the beach, but it is necessary. Sit down with your spouse and schedule time together. Plan a movie night, a dinner out or even a walk around the neighborhood after the kids are safely asleep at night. Put it on the calendar. Write it down. Plan for that time together.
- Get Creative. Time together doesn’t have to be a vacation to Hawaii. Time together can be meeting up for a cup of coffee on your lunch break or putting a puzzle together at the kitchen table. (side note: I hate puzzles so that is not something I would ever do). Time together can be taking a walk, reading the same book and talking about it, watching a movie together and sitting next to each other on the couch. One of our children requires constant supervision so we can’t often get out of the house. We have to get creative in the time we spend together.
- Don’t cancel date night. I’ll admit I’m guilty of this one. When we make the date night plans, it seems completely feasible, exciting even. By the time we’re home from work, however, and dinner dishes are cleaned up, the kids are in bed and the 10th load of laundry is in the dryer, my PJ pants and a frozen pizza are looking pretty good. Just the other night, Mike made the loveliest campfire in the backyard. I tucked the last kiddo into bed and the lure of my slippers was almost too much. I almost turned down a glass of wine and time with my husband but I didn’t. I was exhausted and so was he but what we both needed to reset our day was some time together.
- Seek out respite. This is the most difficult part of finding time together for us. Finding someone who is comfortable and equipped to handle the unique needs of our children. It is worth it to put the time and effort into searching out someone who fits the bill. Ask around your church, school, or community center. Get recommendations from your child’s resource or special education teacher. Interview and do small trials to see if a provider is a good fit for you. Depending on your child’s level of need, you may be able to hire a teenage sitter or you may need to find someone with quite a bit more experience. You may even be able to trade babysitting with a friend who has a child in a similar situation. It is worth it to seek out the very best respite possible. Your relationship will thrive when you can share the care of your child with a qualified provider.
We’re committed to staying married, and we desire for our marriage to be healthy and strong. It is our hope that through intentionally making our relationship a top priority, we will be able to thrive as a couple.
What has been your biggest struggle in spending time with your spouse, in the midst of this journey? Share your story in the comment section below.