We were scheduled to lead a young couples event at a parish in eastern Iowa today. We’ve been defeated by the weather once again this winter and were not able to travel due to the snow. But all is not lost. We share with you, dear readers, a portion of our presentation titled “Strengthening the Mr. and Mrs. Once You’re Dad and Mom: The Beatitudes of Healthy Marriages.” Please keep in mind a few things as you read:
- The target audience is young married couples with one or more little ones at home.
- These points may seem obvious but are we truly intentional about practicing them?
- These suggestions are not listed in order of importance. God first, always. If you were to hear the presentation, our introduction would heavily address this point.
So here we go, The Beatitudes of Healthy Marriages.
Why hunger and thirst? If we want time alone with our spouse, we must be intentional about it. Once the children come, it’s not going to just happen. To keep the fire of love alive, we need to make the point to stoke the embers occasionally. Remember, our primary vocation is as husband and wife, not father and mother. Honor and serve that first; everything else flows from that.
Date night doesn’t have to be a big deal. Actually it might be easier and cheaper to squeeze in more often if it’s not. Maybe a lunch date works? Put the kids to bed and go out for dessert and coffee (don’t forget to get the babysitter first!). Trade babysitting with another couple. Mix things up and double date with friends. Take the baby if you have to, it still counts.
Sometimes in marriage we forget that each of us is a unique person created in the image and likeness of God. We have our own needs, desires, burdens, stresses … you get the picture. Parents, moms especially, can slip into a pattern of denying their individual needs in favor of being available for their family. We must occasionally be unavailable to recharge emotionally and spiritually. This will aid us in giving our spouses and families the best of ourselves.
In order to override our natural tendencies to be mom (or dad) first, spouses should give each other explicit permission from time to time to get out of dodge. For example, instead of saying, “Go anytime you want,” say, “I’ve carved out 8:00-2:00 this Saturday to be home with the kids so you can go have a Mother’s Sabbath.” This can take many forms: an hour in adoration, a coffee shop and a good book, a walk. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be alone. Grab some of your best spiritual friends and go have lunch. Just don’t go get drunk in a bar; that doesn’t count.
This doesn’t mean that every single household task needs to be a 50/50 proposition. Take the lead in areas that are natural, but leave room for your spouse to pitch in. For example, when it comes to family meals, there is much involved outside of the actual cooking. Menu planning, grocery shopping, chopping/slicing/dicing, etc. When both are responsible for the outcome, any perceived failures are less likely to result in nitpicking.
Whatever the task, it generally benefits from the perspective of both. Remember, men and women have natural complementarity which extends beyond the bedroom. Hey, speaking of the bedroom …
The bedroom is not a playroom. Okay, well maybe it is (#CelebrateTheSacrament). But not for children. Mom and Dad need a sanctuary, individually and collectively, in the home to regroup and recharge — a place where everything isn’t either broken or covered with snot.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t a missive directed at attachment parenting or co-sleeping. We have a 4-month-old in our bedroom right now ourselves. And please deal with sleepwalkers and nightmares as you see fit. Kids end up in the parents’ bed sometimes; we get that. However, children need sensible boundaries, and the parents’ bedroom is a good place to start. Our first two bedroom rules: 1) children’s toys are not allowed in the bedroom, and 2) children must knock or ask before entering.
This might seem harsh, but if bedroom isn’t kept sacred, what’s left? The garage? You don’t have to establish the same rules as we have, but your bedroom should be set apart, however you make that happen. The parents’ bedroom should be an oasis.
* * *
There are eight Beatitudes in the Bible, but our humble marriage Beatitudes stopped at four. Curious about the remaining four? How about booking us to speak at your parish or event?
What advice do you have to share?