April 9, 2012

A Moment for Your Marriage

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?


  1. I work four days a week outside the home. After some planning, I am able to have the same day off each week as my husband. Sometimes we take a day trip and sometimes do work around home, but we are together. If an invitation from a friend comes up for that day, I ask him first before saying yes to the woman.

  2. Because of ministry demands, we don't necessarily schedule a specific time, but we communicate throughout the day. My husband works across the parking lot (I work at home), and he's home a few times during a typical workday. Our children are school- and college-age, and so our lives are fairly unpredictable and hectic--schedules are never consistent. However, it won't always be like this, and we've just learned to not make marriage discussion a formal event, but a continuing as-needed conversation (same with family and church issues). Each marriage is different and I appreciated your comment regarding the other ministry wife as well as your experience with communication in your own marriage.

  3. I guess I should clarify that my husband and I DO talk more than once a year :) And we certainly try to solve conflicts and issues as they arise; our annual State of the Union discussion is just the can't-miss, can't-reschedule, take-as-long-as-we-need conversation.

  4. I know some women (not necessarily ministry wives) who budget in a weekly date with their husband. That's not really an option for us due to the needs of our children, so several months ago we instituted an "in-house date night". Just about every Saturday night we put the kids to bed early, because they need more sleep for Sunday anyway, right, and we eat together and have conversation. We don't usually have a specific topic, though sometimes we might have earlier stated "I need to talk to you about ______", and Saturday night is our interruption-free time.
    If we know that Saturday isn't going to work out for whatever reason, we try to shift to another night of the week. I do guard this time, though! And we do greatly appreciate those precious times that a friend has come and spent time with our children so that we can spend time with each other! :)
    I like the State of the Union idea, but with all the transitions in our family life, especially all the over-the-ocean traveling, I think we probably have those about every 4 months. I think, though, that I'm going to bring up on one of our Saturday dates that we should have a regular date for something like that rather than waiting until it's "I have to talk about these things with you or I'm going to cry for a week straight" types of things. :)
    Thanks for the article.


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