We just bought an
ancient old older gently-used car. The car has over 140,000 miles on it, which ordinarily might have made us fear that it would soon have something very terrible (and very expensive) go wrong with it. However, the car was regularly and carefully maintained: it had its scheduled services, regular oil changes, minor issues addressed as they came up. 140k later, and it’s humming along smoothly. Regular, small maintenance does a lot to avert big mechanical crises.
This got me thinking about our
getting older gently-used marriage. We have not had the money or much time over the years to do big, radical relationship-repairing things: we have taken very few vacations, and probably have an average of less than two “date nights” a year. However, with nearly 4000 days of marriage under our belt, we’re humming along smoothly. Even in marriage, regular, small acts of marital maintenance can do a lot to avert crises.
Marital maintenance doesn’t require any money, and often takes less than a minute. Here are some 60-second habits which we have found make a difference:
One Minute of Listening
Life gets busy and there are lots of competing noises in our house. It is often easy to ask a question and half-listen to the answer. However, one minute of dedicated LISTENING to my spouse’s answer when I ask “how was your day?” goes a long way.
One Minute of Eye Contact
We spent so much time looking at things together (our kids, our dinner, our screens), that sometimes we forget to take time to look at each other long enough to read one another’s facial expressions, see the laughter or tiredness in their eyes. Taking the time to SEE each other is so important for feeling, well, SEEN.
One Minute of Restraint
When angry, my instincts are often to speak quickly, and my first instincts are seldom my best ones. If we are facing something and I find myself feeling particularly angry or frustrated, sometimes just a few moments of restraint before answering saves me hours of regret.
One Minute of Prayer
I confess I am not a very faithful pray-er. I know I should devote serious time and attention to lifting my spouse before God, and when I don’t have a chunk of time, I often don’t pray at all. However, just one minute of prayer that he would be encouraged, helped, grown, useful, and fruitful in life goes a long way.
One Minute of Touch
We are at a stage where we have more children than limbs, and usually my arms are engaged in elasto-girl type endeavours to restrain my children from certain death in the road/on a counter/in the bath tub. However, when we remember to hold hands for just a minute, to extend our greeting hug and kiss just slightly longer (with no expectation of it Going Somewhere, although sometimes that happens), it does a lot to keep us feeling connected. Literally. The few moments my husband holds my hand just before I drift off to sleep are often the most contented of my day.
Our marriages need maintenance, but life is demanding and our schedules are hectic. And I will get to that to-do list… in a minute. Those little investments in maintenance are needed if we are to go the distance.