Making the Marriage a Priority

How do you keep your marriage a priority in the midst of a busy season?…

There is no way I can share all of the marriage advice we have learned in one post. Most of our habits, tips and lessons have been passed down to us so we don’t take credit for much of it.

Prioritize what matters 

First of all, we don’t suggest keeping a “busy” pace of life. Everyone is busy, but people make time for what is important to them. Our marriage is important to us. After 3.5 years in seminary, Drexel and I know what the school semester requires to keep a healthy battle rhythm. He works a full time job, takes a full load of classes, leads various groups and among my many roles, I am growing our 10th child. This most important step is probably the quickest to be dismissed.  There are a lot of good things that we say “No,” to being involved in. Come together as a family and decide what is a priority for the family.  That may mean you limit the girls book club or the guys golf outings for activities that can be done together as a couple. Much of what matters for us stems from our family mission. We are happy to share that in another post.

Have touch points or connection points throughout the day

We are up most mornings at 4:45 a.m., then get a few minutes together in between workouts and our personal quiet time. We aim to touch base on any big prayer needs for the day and then Drexel leaves by 7:30 most days of the week. We have an informal daily check-in habit as well.  At some point throughout the day, usually after lunch, we touch base on the phone. We have another connection point immediately after work together. This often takes place at dinner, where Mom and Dad recap the day. Some nights the kids are expected to not interrupt until we’ve had a few minutes to connect with each other. It shows them that we are prioritizing us (the marriage) and they usually get the rest of the evening for us (the family). The kids need their daddy too. The majority of our evenings are full with family playtime, family dinners and family worship — which unites Drexel and I, but is also time with everyone. We are very particular about protecting our weeknights as a family. We have very few outside commitments and thus are typically not stressed about meeting extracurricular demands that tend to strain connections rather than build connection. After the kiddos are in bed, Drexel has homework most nights and I am usually ready to wind down by 8:30 or 9:00.

We have learned to become aware of the moments in which we have not had enough ‘us’ time. Instead of communicating something out of anger of frustration, “You are always…” or “You love X more than me.” or “You aren’t leading the family,” a simple, “I need more time with you” suffices and we usually are able to drop whatever we are doing to refill our cups. That may mean we are up earlier to make up for time, but it helps that we are in the habit of prioritizing each other.

The most impactful habit we commit to each other

Since we first got married we have made it a habit of going to bed together. I don’t stay in another room reading, working or doing something. And he typically won’t stay up doing schoolwork. If his work isn’t done, he schedules it during some other time. If I want to blog, lesson plan, scroll media or read — I get that done well before bedtime is approaching. This habit has instilled a natural detox time together. We will chat, pray and intimacy follows. This is an underrated habit that probably is hardest to implement if not already in a routine. This is also not for the faint of heart. Going to bed together at 10 may mean that you are up earlier than 6. The sacrifice is especially worth it.

Continue to date your spouse

You remember those times where you were overwhelmingly interested in learning, enjoying and connecting with your significant other. Yes…keep that going. We aren’t masters of marriage by any means so we keep studying each other, especially in this full season. We have learned {and are always relearning} what works well for us. He has learned what I prefer and I’ve learned what he prefers. For example, he has learned I like details, sharing details and catching up with words. Drexel could honestly remain silent at all times while I could talk all day everyday. There are times where we stay up later than normal talking and connecting, and there are other times we just pass out (but my mind is still racing). We sense and discern what the other might need in that moment.

Drexel prefers food and I always feel like I can’t keep enough meals or food ready for my family. I have all my reasons why feeding everyone is more challenging these days, but nevertheless I know my husband needs to eat. So Sunday night I help him think through food for school the next day, snacks and dinner. When we fall out of sync with one another, grace abounds. Drexel is great at giving grace to me and I’m learning to give it to myself and to him (like when he doesn’t feel like talking at 10:30 pm. HA!) He will pick up food if he needs to and always notices when I skip something I want to do for myself to get his food ready. We recognize the sacrifices each other is making to help one another. We are not perfect, but if we spend more time focusing on sacrificing for the other, rather than fighting for our own interests, we end up much more emotionally and spiritually healthier, and often with what we wanted in the first place. This is a mindset shift enabled by the understanding that we do not place expectations on one another to meet each other’s needs. We look to the Lord to show us how to love each other well. We don’t always get it exactly right and we greatly rely on the Holy Spirit to help us.

In the midst of a busy season we aim to die to ourselves and serve one another. I see him doing it and it motivates me to do the same. More importantly we both keep our individual relationship with Christ the main thing. When I’m growing in godliness, the overflow is that I want to serve my husband well. The same goes for Drexel. As he draws near to the Lord, he becomes a more exceptional husband and loving father.

It would be so easy for me to say “Oh I’m so tired I’m with the kids all day, I cook, I clean, I host, on and on…” And he could say “Oh I’m so tired, I had so many meetings, and a paper to write, and the kids want to wrestle, and you need me to pick up Sam’s Club, and fix the dishwasher, on and on.” What a selfish spiral that becomes! That mentality festers, blinds and ruins relationships. Cynical, bitter or angry become our identities and outlook. When either of us are even tempted to think that, we take that to the Lord who supplies our every need, including energy and strength for the day. When we are both dead dog tired we don’t look to each other for our needs to be met. We rest in each others comforts, our weaknesses and we look to the Lord together and we pray. This heart change cannot be resuscitated nor powered by anything except the gospel of Jesus. With Jesus, we are able to start a new day growing in grace and love for Jesus and each other.

With Love,

Drexel & Johnna

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