Our Best Habit

I got an email from a friend today, and it started me thinking about the things we do that build relationships, particularly marriage relationships. We’re in that stage where kids and careers are stealing away time from just the two of us, and we have to be more “on purpose” with almost everything in our lives.

So, here’s the big questions: what’s one thing you do, one habit or ritual, that builds up your relationship with your significant other.

Gretchen and I have struggled for years to figure out how to get regular time together. Date nights are great, but they end up being more expensive than we can really afford right now. Instead, we do a once-a-week “Late Dinner”. We feed the kids crap food at 5, let them have a movie night until 8, then one of use gets them to bed and the other starts cooking. We cook good food, we relax with no time pressure, and we talk in the kitchen while we do it. We sit down at maybe 8:30 or later, and we have a slow dinner. No kids, no distractions, just time to sit and talk.

It’s a new ritual, but so far, I think it’s our best habit. And it’s on my mind because I’m missing it tonight for a crap gig. Sorry, love.

What’s your best habit?

12 thoughts on “Our Best Habit

  1. JC

    Michael, how good of you to care enough to try to figure something out. When we were in LA, we used to have time after the kids went down and we would light a fire up in our bedroom and just sit and talk, usually with wine or other adult beverage. I loved that time. Sounds very similar to what you do. I loved that time because I really like talking to my wife. Sharing thoughts, wild ideas, reflecting on our lives, hopes, kids, etc. Incredibly important time.

    Now that the kids are older (12) they go to bed almost the same time we do, so we don’t get that “free” time any more. We still find time, but not as much. We, too, need to figure out something else.

  2. JC

    Oh…and I like the idea of feeding the kids crap food once per week. Didn’t know that was OK to do. That will definitely free up some quality time.

  3. Daniel Semsen

    Christy is nearing the completion of her master’s degree in Theology at APU. One of her classes spoke quite a bit about the idea of the Sabbath–and how we routinely break this commandment in our culture today. So once a week we pretty much take an entire 24-hour period and rest. This is actually more difficult than it would seem…and I’m not the best at following through all the time.

    SO–our Sabbath usually starts Thursday at dinner and goes until Friday-dinner. The kids are both at school on Friday from 8:30-2:30, so we get about 6 hours to be together and do whatever we want. Hang out, walk around town, sit at home and read…or whatever.

    We’ve been doing it for several months now and it’s been awesome for our family–for our marriage AND our kids. They LOVE the Sabbath. They don’t have to do their chores…we eat a restful dinner together…and we usually play a game at home that night. It’s cool.

  4. Cerise

    We don’t have kids and work jobs with very simple schedules, so we don’t deal with anything like the time suck other couples have to work around. But we’ve been going through some fairly major personal changes over the last few years – therapy and mid-30s self discovery and whatnot – and it takes a toll.

    I’m not sure how to classify this as a ritual, but we’ve found that the little loving habits make for a good deal less trauma when we make the big messes (I’m talking about fighting here). We always kiss and hug and say I love you coming and going from work. Ramon gets up with me and makes coffee before I leave. Etc. Nothing new or original, but I learned the hard way that little unkindnesses can ruin the strongest love, so I’m glad it works both ways.

  5. june

    We’ve been doing the late dinner with better food and just the two of us for awhile now. And, to make for cheaper date nights, when weather permits, we hike instead of going to a movie or whatever. No matter how you slice it, it’s a demanding chapter of life, but the later dinner has been our best habit so far. We have friends who do “e-free” days or weekends, with nothing electronic, except for lighting, being used by any of them. I’m aiming for such a day at least once a month for our whole family. We’ll see how it goes…

  6. sharolyn

    If I may brag, my husband refuses to let the romance die. I shan’t reveal all (oh, yes, I am getting proper!), but, for example, one Valentine’s Day he came to my classroom wearing a tux with blue hydrangeas (our wedding flower) and a CD I had been wanting. He is always more indulgent with me than I am with myself, which is a helpful (time to self or money, for example). I hope he would say the same. He often reminds me how much easier I make his life (at least that’s what he says), on a day-to-day basis, which I love.

    We laugh together a lot. Mostly at the end of a long day, and at The Daily Show.

    More for the “daily grind” – I’ve found that when we need to talk to our parents about details, I talk to my parents and he talks to his. It keeps our parents liking the person their kid married, I think. We each have a lifetime of negotiating and logistic-izing with our parents, so it is more natural to do it with our family of origin.

    Here’s one of our goals: Communicate explicitly. Don’t expect the other to be a mind-reader. Easier said than done, when you just want to be “understood”. However, if at work you would say “I’d like this said in three pages by Thursday,” you should give your spouse the same chance at success as your co-worker and not just expect them to “know” what you are hoping they will do. Sounds obvious, but it’s an ego game we all play sometimes.

    Jason does his own guy’s Bible study during the week, but he’s also game to do mine. We have great discussions and I don’t feel like I have to “get it done” OR spend time with him – I can do both. I feel prepared, and (surprise!) he is more genuinely interested afterward how my evening was with my girls. My Bible study is not chickish, it’s just written by a female, and he gets that.

    I’ll stop there. Keep sharing! I enjoy reading.

  7. michael Post author

    JC, I think once-a-week crap food for the kids is an absolutely essential part of the ritual.

    They eat really pretty well most of the time – fresh veggies, lots of fruit, they are better than most other 3 and 5-yea-olds I know. We figure one night of frozen pizza or chicken strips or taquitos isn’t going to kill ‘em.

  8. JC

    ..and wash it down with a light beer and we’re good to go…I’m all over that Michael. Oh wait…were we still talking about the kids?

  9. Stephanie

    We don’t have children yet, but our work schedules are somewhat opposite (I work on his days off and vice versa). For a while, he was working evenings as well and it was really aweful. We had to purposefully schedule time together. One thing we would do is on his day off, he would still get up early and drive me to work. My commute is about 30 minutes, so it gave us some good time to talk and be together before the day got crazy. Even though our schedules are a little better now, he still does it occasionally and it’s really special to me to know that he chose to give up sleeping in to spend time with his wife.

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