A few days ago my husband and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. Nineteen years of “for better or worse,” and believe me, we’ve had a lot of both.
We went out to dinner a week ago, just the two of us, to a nice fancy restaurant – no kids. This doesn’t happen that often because we’re cheap. Well, honestly, we just don’t have a lot of money to throw around. Mostly we do simple dates – little day trips and lunches since we both have Mondays off (pastors work weekends) – while the kids are in school. But every year a wonderful woman from church gets us a gift certificate to a nice restaurant as a Christmas present (we love her for this!) and we make a big night of it – a real nighttime date!
It’s interesting that, when left to ourselves, my husband and I initially have little to talk about. What I have found is this: for the first 30 minutes or so we have a hard time thinking of something to talk about that isn’t the kids or church. One of the rules we set years ago, is that when we go out on a “date” we try VERY hard not to discuss the children or work. So once we are seated at our table and order our drinks, there is usually “a little” silence and smalltalk about the weather.
A huge part of this is because our lives are SO revolved around parenting and pastoring that it takes us a while to stretch our brains. What else IS there to talk about? Restricting our dinner conversation, or rather, freeing it up can be difficult. We have to think! Now, normally I might be the one to say, “I don’t want to think so hard!” but this is a time when it’s important. It’s important for my partner and I to remember that we are individuals, and a couple, separate and apart from our roles as parents and pastors.
I love my children, and I love the Church. But there is also me, and there is my husband – the two individuals who came together and decided to become a team. It’s important that we remember how we started because it grounds us. It helps us stay centered to go back to the beginning. At our anniversary dinner we almost always spend time talking about our early days as a couple: the qualities that attracted us to one another, our early dates, our engagement, and our absence from one another when he spent two months in Germany (before the advent of decent cell phones or widespread email when we actually WROTE LETTERS!).
But nineteen years later, our lives are focused around church and kids, and trying to carve out times after they go to bed or after they leave for school to discuss schedules and parenting decisions and events coming up that we need to remember. Everything is so hectic. It’s important to reconnect with the reasons you chose to be with this person. It’s really a gift we give to each other to stop, and refocus on our relationship for a little bit, so that it stays healthy. Because if that goes bad, then the kids and the church, and the two of us will suffer tremendously. We’ve both been married before and know that marriages don’t just magically move through time. Relationships break if not tended to.
Sometimes we’ll talk about sports because that’s easy for hubby, sometimes we’ll talk about music because that’s easy for me. Sometimes we’ll talk about politics and TRY to remember we love each other! We’ll talk about the world, how much it’s changed, how much WE have changed, and how much we’ve stayed the same. At some during the evening I have an “Hey, I know you!” moment when looking at my husband, and also when listening to myself. And the conversation flows, and the bond is strengthened.