Falling in love can happen in a moment. Have you ever heard of love at first sight? Staying in love and growing that relationship takes time, attention and effort. Some might even say it takes hard work. Whether you are married, engaged or dating, being intentional in that relationship is the first step toward making it last a lifetime.

My husband and I have been married for 18 years, and we have found different ways to be intentional with each other over the years. What worked our first year of marriage when we were 23, does not work now that we are in our 40s and have five children. Our idea of a date night or quality time together has also had to change. There has been times when dates were written in stone on our calendar and other times we’ve had to be spontaneous. We also know that both are okay.

Through all of our years putting our marriage first, there are a few things we have found to be true.

5 WAYS TO BE INTENTIONAL IN YOUR MARRIAGE

Simply Connect with Each Other

Do you sometimes feel like you and your spouse are ships passing in the night? I hear you! Our days and nights can be busy. My husband and I try to find simply, easy and quick ways to connect with each other every day. We say good morning and I love you every day. (If one of us are away with work, we text or call first thing in the morning.) We make sure that we’re on the same page for that day’s schedules. We hug and kiss, because that is important too. We like to laugh together. The other evening when everyone was finally home, the two of us sat on the back porch for 15 minutes, without the children, and checked in. Simply connecting with each other are moments throughout your day, where you pause, listen and reengage in your relationship.

Eat Meals Together

This may seem obvious, but a huge percentage of American families, and couples do not eat dinner together most of the week. When we were first married, this seemed liked a no brainer. When we started our first “real” jobs, we found that at least two nights every week we would be at our jobs and not at home for dinner. Fast forward a few years and add five children, all of their activities plus our two jobs. It can be hectic to plan, but we still plan our weeks around eating dinner together. We make sure our dinners together are special. Sometimes I set the table nicely and we light candles, other times it’s hotdogs and macaroni and cheese because … 5 kids! No matter what the dinner table or the meal looks like, we always connect through our conversations.

Find Common Interests

What do you and your spouse love to do together? Are you sports fans or movie-goers? Do you love to be outside or cook meals together? My husband and I are huge baseball and football fans. We love to put on a baseball game and get loud cheering together. We love going to Costco together. We also love food and planning out what we’re going to cook and cooking together. There is usually music on in our house, and if music is on, someone is dancing. Many times our love for food and music combine as we make dinner. Find one or two things that you can enjoy together and put them on your calendar.

Date Nights

Keep dating each other. When we were fist dating and engaged, we went out on dates all the time. They were so exciting and fun to look forward to. When we were first married, we each had Monday’s off work, so those became our date days. As our jobs changed and we moved, so did our date nights. When there was little extra money, we got creative. We went on walks. Spent hours digging through books at Barnes and Nobles. We went to lots of free community events.

We were living in Princeton, New Jersey when our first daughter was born. My husband was at seminary and money was tight. Many of our friends were having their first or second child around the same time. We were always swapping free babysitting for date nights. Even before we had children, we watched our friends’ kiddos. We created this community of support so that our marriages were a priority.

Now, with our incredibly busy schedules, and five kiddos, we’ve had to be flexible in our date nights again. We have done babysitting swapping, day dates when the kids are in school, a late dinner after we put the kids to bed, walking during our during our lunch breaks. We’ve tried and failed at the date nights in a box that you can order, but we keep trying. No matter what it is, we do something together every week.

5 WAYS TO BE INTENTIONAL IN YOUR MARRIAGE

Support Each Other’s Dreams

I am a big supporter of big, bold and beautiful dreams for our future. Do you know what you spouse dreams about for their future? What 10-year goals do they have? Have you shared your dreams? My husband and I share our dreams, and then support each other as we reach for them. My husband gives me space and takes the kids so I can write, or he sends me off to a conference. He brags about me to others and helps me network. He encourages me all the time. Find ways to be the biggest cheerleader for your spouse.

Whatever you do, do it with intention. Relationships and marriages take a lot of work, but the bigger the investment, the greater the return. And the return can be wonderful!

Liz Smith is a passionate communicator and speaks to groups of all ages. With over 20 years of experience, Liz speaks from her heart in both large and small group settings. Over the years she has spoken to children’s ministries, at youth retreats, women’s retreats, marriage retreats, in small groups, and has preached in the church congregation setting. Her story includes spinal surgery at the age of 21, a modern-day miracle, family, marriage, and motherhood. She dives deep into the many names she has been called in her lifetime, and the only name that matters; the one God calls her: My Beloved. Liz has been married for 18 years and has five children. She writes at www.simplylizsmith.com.

Instagram – Twitter – Email: simplylizsmith@gmail.com

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