When I was in college, we referred to a serious discussion between boyfriend and girlfriend as the “DTR” or “Define The Relationship.” These talks took precedence over every school assignment and were concluded by a romantic stroll across campus.
At thirty-three years old and married, I might like a good DTR.
As married people, of course, my husband and I have permanently defined our relationship (until He calls or comes.) But we do still need time for planning, problem-solving, and dwelling with one another in understanding.
All marriage is hard work. God-glorifying, fruit-bearing, sweat-producing work.
But, in ministry marriage, one or both spouses is often so busy working on other relationships that there is little extra energy to work on the relationship closest to home.
Lots of people need my husband to help them with their marriages. Including me.
Over our almost-decade of marriage, we have tried to claim emotional territory for our marriage: we’ve turned off the phone, we've sought advice, we’ve read marriage books, we’ve dedicated prayer times. We’ve tried.
Most of these things have been a blessing for a month or three, until the next ministry crisis arises and neither of us has the heart at 9PM on Tuesday to make a list of our love language preferences.
Mostly, I can leave the DTRs to the college kids. Marriage is usually more about doing than talking, anyway.
But once a year, around the time of our wedding anniversary, we skip class and break curfew. That’s when we have our “State of the Union” discussion.
Calendars cleared, kids tucked in, coffee brewed---we sit down and survey the big picture of our marriage. We talk about our communication, finances, intimacy, parenting, and piety. We talk about our hopes for the next year, and the next ten years.
Because this is an annual event, and always at the same time of the year, it is an opportunity for us to take a step back. It’s not dependent on whether it’s a good time in the ministry. It’s not in response to a particular conflict or frustration. It doesn’t concern anyone but ourselves.
And, one year at a time, it’s an opportunity to depend on God’s grace to make our ministry marriage work.
Your marriage may be quite different. I remember one time I told another ministry wife about our State of the Union, and she said, “Once a year? My husband and I do that twice a day!”
How do you make time for your ministry marriage?