How To Make Time For Quality Time

The Sweetness of Our Marriage

At the beginning of our relationship, Tim and I didn’t have trouble spending time together. It didn’t take long after we started dating to make it a priority to see each other every day. Sometimes that meant a little sacrifice and inconvenience: I dropped by his house for a few minutes after youth group or he would get up early to see me at work before heading to school. Aside from trips that took us out of town, we continued this trend of daily face time into our engagement and our marriage.

Time is an essential ingredient for building any relationship. It takes time to get to know someone. It takes time to invest in someone. It takes time to produce intimacy. It takes time to maintain what you have worked to build. Marriage is one of the most important relationships to preserve and keep healthy, which requires time.

It seems like being married would make spending time as a married couple easier, right? I haven’t found that to be the case…

Being married does mean you get to live with your love, but it also means that real life is now inseparable from your romantic relationship. You can’t really escape into the fairy tale of boy-meets-girl when you also have to make your marriage exist on a practical level.

For me, that reality looks like bills making going-out dates less frequent, a messy house distracting me from cuddling on the couch, and our daily routines taking the place of intentional time together. We may have more time in the same place (does sleeping count?), but it takes purposeful planning to make that time feel like quality time.

I travel for work. (You can find out more about my work in this post.) This is immensely fun for me, but has been an interesting dynamic to navigate as a newlywed. Not only are we adjusting to life as a married couple, but I am gone a third of each month. My time away has not been detrimental (though it has the potential) to our marriage, however, it makes me very aware of how we spend our time when I’m home.

Even if quality time isn’t your love language, it’s necessary to give it and receive it for a marriage to thrive. (<– Tweet this!) For Tim and I, the actual quality time isn’t difficult to generate, it’s finding the time for the quality time. We can’t just let quality time form itself or it won’t happen as often as it should.

How To Make Time For Quality Time

Here’s how we make quality time an intentional part of our marriage:

  • Communicate! I get a detailed calendar of Tim’s schedule for the week on a regular basis. This helps me not to build false expectations of the time we get to spend together when I’m home. (Amy Lynn Andrews has a great post on how to create a weekly schedule using Google Calendar.)
  • Plan – Using that calendar, plan the time that you will turn into quality time. You don’t necessarily have to plan what you’ll do, but if you don’t plan on it, it rarely happens.
  • Just Say No – Once you have a plan, stick to it. This may mean you have to turn down other offers. No is difficult to say, but quality time with your spouse is worth prioritizing.
  • Evaluate – Sit down with your spouse and evaluate all the activities and groups you are involved in. Are they all necessary? Do they add to your quality of life or do they take away your valuable quality time with each other? Make the necessary adjustments.
  • Get Away – Sometimes you just need to get away from your everyday environment to secure that quality time. Tim and I have made it a priority to get out of town every couple months. Even if it’s just in a neighboring city, not having the distractions of home is really positive.

Quality time is important in every season of marriage! Each stage of life will come with different distractions and obstacles. While I’m still a newlywed, I want to make quality time a habit.

How do you make time for quality time in your marriage?

 

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{se} x marks the spot part II

sex marks the spot

After drafting much of this post, I thought it was really important to provide some context for my perspective on sex, which is why this is part II and not the original post for the How To Maintain Your High Maintenance Marriage series. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post, I’d start there and come back over here when you’ve caught up on the nitty gritty (not super gritty…).

Sex: The Newlywed Perspective

Sex as a newlywed is much like being a newlywed – It requires adjustment and time to get acclimated. Physical and emotional desire definitely do a good job at propelling you into a natural display of your love, but I would absolutely argue with anyone who said sex was like riding a bike or tying a shoe (people say that, right?).

Those people are implying that sex is easy, that it’s innate. I guess that’s partly true, but what about the hours you spent with training wheels on before you graduated to a proper two-wheeler, or the countless rhymes you came up with to remember that the right string goes under the bridge when tying your shoes?

Yes, sex is an instinctive, organic response to physiological and psychological prompts, but it takes work. There is definitely a learning curve and, from what I hear, the learning doesn’t really stop. Or at least it shouldn’t.

I spent the first few months of marriage distracted by perfectionism. I wanted to do it right.

The temptation when you first enter the realm of sexual intimacy is to hurry past all the awkward newness and fumbling. But, the goal is not to hurry it or rush just so you feel comfortable or, at least, average. The goal is to learn right alongside your partner and have fun in the process.

I learned that this was more easily achieved when I checked my pride at the bedroom door. I so desperately wanted to live up to Tim’s expectations which were really my own expectations. It felt like a sure sign of womanhood failure that I wasn’t the perfect, as-seen-on-tv lover for my husband.

After a couple post-sex moping sessions, I had to explain to Tim why I wasn’t basking in the afterglow of love making. This meant I had to actually verbalize all my fears about not being good enough and my disappointment with not being perfect at the whole sex thing. It was a bit awkward and uncomfortable to say those things out loud, but the learning and having fun part of sexual intimacy can only happen if you are totally OPEN with your spouse. 

OPEN – that means talking about the physical, emotional, and spiritual (how you view this in light of God’s purpose and plan) aspects of your sexual relationship. A willingness to broach these potentially painful, embarrassing, confusing topics may not come easily – it certainly didn’t for me – but the more you push past any awkwardness, the better it gets (the conversation and the sex).

While you’re being open and honest, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek help/advice. Mothers are a wonderful resource, but if you don’t feel comfortable talking with your parent about sex, find a trusted friend who will give you Christ-centered counsel. (If no one comes to mind, pray that God would show you the right person and right time to ask.)

I had several “Aha!” moments talking with my mom. She was the one that helped me see that it’s not going to be perfect. The less pressure I put on myself, the more enjoyable the experience will be. She was 100% right.

Books are also good resources. You don’t have to see someone face to face as they talk to you about sex. Admittedly, I was a know-the-basics type of gal. I didn’t take Sex Ed in high school (not for religious reasons, but because I already had enough credits and only wanted 5 periods), so my knowledge of specifics was based on educational videos I watched in fifth grade. Yeah, the kind where you were instructed to put your head between your knees if you felt embarrassed or laughter coming on.

I really appreciated these written resources that were recommended by friends and family:

  • Sheet Music by Kevin Leman – great for when you’re actually married
  • Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, MD – demystifies the whole process, perfect for the pre-married stage

I mentioned yesterday that I wondered if talking or reading about sex crossed the line of purity. No, I don’t believe it does. Having phone sex with your fiance would absolutely cross the line, but having an open and honest discussion about the past, future expectations, and any other concerns would be doing yourself a favor.

Two more thoughts about newlywed sex:

  1. Have a sense of humor! Sex doesn’t always go smoothly, which doesn’t always mean it goes awry, but it definitely means laughter is in order. That learning curve I mentioned earlier? It means that sex won’t always go how you planned and it’s best to just smile and embrace the imperfection.
  2. Sex is messy – physically and emotionally. Sex is so intimate, it can spark insecurities and past hurts as well as love and joy. I was rather shocked at the intensity of some of my feelings when sex became a part of our relationship. This is just another reason to have an open communication policy about sex.

Whether newlywed or 50 years down the road, sex binds two people together with an intimacy impossible to find elsewhere. It is a beautiful gift to enjoy with your spouse and everyone is different. Don’t judge your sex life on what you see in the media or hear from your friends.  Allow the uniqueness of your relationship to mold your physical intimacy as well.

{se} x marks the spot

sex marks the spot

Every Monday for the past four week I’ve been part of a collaborative series, “How To Maintain Your High Maintenance Marriage” {brain child of Kayse Pratt}. Some may say we’ve saved the best for last. Others may be appalled that we are broaching this subject on the interwebs at all. This topic may illicit blushing, unease, or a cold sweat – but please don’t click away!

You guessed, it. We’re talking about sex.

No worries, this post is far from x-rated, but I fully support having candid conversations about this often sensitive topic.

{It is taking a large degree of self-control not to attach the musical stylings of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass Band to this post and refer to “making whoopie” from here on out. Too much Newlywed Game. Back to the business at hand…}

A Little Background

I’ve been married for 10 months (rounding up a couple weeks here), so am quite the novice when it comes to physical intimacy. Tim was my first boyfriend so everything in the physical department was new to me as a 24 year old.

For everything, from kissing to sex, I had a fear of not being good enough. What if I was horrible at both things? It’s not like I could practice the sex aspect, since both Tim and I were committed to virginity until May 11th, 2012.

I also struggled with defining physical and conversational boundaries. I went into my relationship with Tim committed to not kiss until my wedding day. Whether I heard God’s voice correctly or manipulated His will for my own benefit, I eventually felt released from that commitment (which is a whole different post). So, that created new physical boundaries to establish. And with all of this, conversation was necessary, but I worried, like any good-girl, that discussing sex crossed the line of purity.

A note on virginity: Virginity doesn’t preclude you from having sexual sin enter your relationship. It’s easy to push physical boundaries. Realize that no one is immune to temptation and relying on your own self-control is not enough. God gives strength and grace. Lean on those.

{Now that I’ve launched in to this background, I realize the original content for this post will need it’s own separate day. My background, however, provides necessary context for my perspective on sex. So, definitely come back tomorrow for the The Newlywed Perspective on Sex.}

Another struggle I hadn’t anticipated was the ghosts of previous relationships. I may have never had a boyfriend, but Tim had been in a few relationships before me – a couple in high school that didn’t bother me and one serious girlfriend in college. Initially I wasn’t bothered by Jackie, Tim’s college girlfriend. Then, her history with Tim began to haunt me.

Jealousy, pride, and fear took hold. I hated to think of the physical and emotional intimacy they shared, even though I wasn’t in the picture back then. It felt unfair that I had to suffer Tim’s past relationship when I didn’t have one of my own. What if I was inferior in some way? Though I still wrestle with these feelings occasionally, I wrote Jackie a letter that gave me much freedom.

Pre-marital counseling also offered ample opportunities to revisit these issues. Surprisingly, it wasn’t awkward to discuss sex, and a myriad of other things with the single, male pastor/professor who did our counseling. {Our pre-marital was good, but after experiencing a couple sessions with a married couple, I highly recommend your pastor/counselor is married. The real life experience is invaluable.}

So, that brings us back to May 11th, the day sexual intimacy became an active component in our relationship, and the past ten months of it being a part of our marriage. Thanks for bearing with my mid-post decision to make this two parts! Come back tomorrow for my newlywed perspective on sex.

{se} x marks the spot part II

~~~

Don’t miss the much more experienced perspectives of Kayse, Kelly, Monica, and Jamie.

Check out the other posts in this series: CommunicationServiceLaughter.

Pure & Simple: Cherish

Sometimes you find a blog that feels just right.  It’s a joyful, uplifting, and beautiful. A couple months ago, I found a Pure & Simple and it’s that kind of blog. I was immediately taken with the soft, simple design that seems to echo the heart of the blog’s content.

Amanda, Becca, Natalie, and Meg are passionate about being who they are and embracing what they love to do. They are willing to take risks and accept grace.

Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 9.39.58 PM

Every month, these ladies pick a different topic and ask other women to reflect and share. I was so excited when Natalie asked if I would write about February’s topic: Cherish. All month, posts are focusing on how we can cherish the relationships in our lives.

Today, I’m over on Pure & Simple sharing tangible ways I cherish my husband. Pop on over to read the post and peruse this gem of a blog!

Cherish

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Less than a week until Christmas?  I still can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

Christmas is generally sunny, about 70 degrees.  Christmas is waking up, romping up and down on my slumbering brother (yes, I did this in my twenties – don’t judge), and opening stockings before breakfast.  Christmas is lights in Naples, gum drop trees downtown, and a post-meal walk up Big Dalton canyon.

None of that is happening this year.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’m stuck in the sentimental space between Christmases past and Christmases in the future.  For a newlywed, this space is called Christmas Present.  As the marital status implies, everything is new.  New spouse.  New lodging.  New responsibilities.  New life.

Christmas Present is new, and for a holiday built on traditions and memories, new can take the feelings of Christmas right out of Christmas.

8Ways

So, how do you get Christmas back in Christmas?  Since I am currently waist deep in Christmas Present, my advice is fairly raw and being tested as I type.  In any case, here are the ways I’m approaching my first married Christmas:

  • Know that your feelings are okay. Marriage is a huge adjustment and holidays are part of the adjustment.  You are simultaneously mourning Christmas Past, trying to make it through Christmas Present, and hoping Christmas Future is better.  Give yourself a break.
  • Be honest with your spouse. Your feelings effect them, too!  I hesitate to talk about Christmas feelings because I don’t want Tim to feel bad.  Withdrawing (which is my default) makes him feel worse. Communicate!
  • Be honest with God. If you’re not used to speaking candidly with your Abba about how you feel, let David speak for you.  The Psalms are full of his heart, mind, and soul in song form.  If David can ask God, “Why?” and “What gives?” (Emily paraphrase), then you can pose the same questions.
  • Let God work on your feelings. Trying to force yourself into Christmas cheer isn’t going to get you very far. If you’re not feeling how you want to feel about Christmas Present, ask God for peace and joy, even in the newness.  If you’re feeling like me, you can even ask Him to help you want to have joy and peace in the newness.
  • Embrace the new. Don’t try to replicate Christmas Past. I have a good imagination, but jacking up the heater to 80 degrees, importing some palm trees, and creating cardboard cut-outs of my entire family just wouldn’t be the same as Christmases past.  Trying to recreate a SoCal Christmas in Northern Idaho is disappointment in the making.
  • Transform traditions. Is opening stockings your favorite part of Christmas morning? Stuff a stocking for your spouse or family member.  Always decorate Christmas cookies with your mom? Host a cookie exchange for college gals who might also be away from home. Not Christmas without a ham?  Try your hand at tamales instead.
  • Make new traditions. They probably won’t fill the Christmas Past void, but overtime new traditions will be special.  In fact, they will become the new Christmas Past. I know I will look back with fondness on the first time Tim cut down our own  tree, the first year our tree fell over, the first time Tim and I made Christmas dinner together, and our first Christmas in Coeur d’Alene.

Newlyweds: What are you doing to make Christmas Present feel like Christmas?

Married folks: What did you do to make your first married Christmas special?