Making time for your marriage in the summertime is hard because it can feel like there’s no time for us.
I love my children so so much and I love summertime so so much because we are all here together.
It’s a lot, though. 3 businesses, 2 grown-ups, 2 big kids, 1 baby, 1 dog, and 1 ministry. All operating out of our 1 house. Under 1 sun that is setting later and later in the evening. (Coincidentally accompanied this week by 1 upstairs air conditioner that is on the fritz, bringing 2 children downstairs to sleep.)
During the school year, we have some really wonderful built-in “us” time. We can both shut down for an hour or two in the afternoon to grab lunch or simply have an uninterrupted conversation. We get so used to those little touchpoints that keep our lines of communication open and our sanity intact.
Amid the chaos of all our summer togetherness, allllllll of that is put on hold.
I notice some danger signs when the on-hold music is playing. My bad emotional habits and even worse communication patterns start poking holes in everything we’ve worked so hard to build in our marriage and family.
When my world gets noisy and hectic, this mama retreats in. The external busy-ness turns me quiet and I go off alone with my thoughts.
When I do not make space and time for my real thoughts and feelings, or when I feel too frazzled to communicate them, I stuff them. And stuffing feelings sets my pressure cooker to “High.”
My mother asked me a simple question on the phone last week that pushed the “Pressure Release” button. The lump I had been ignoring in my throat for the last (how long?!!!) gave way and I burst into tears in what turned into an epic, snot-on-the-ground meltdown.
Thank GOD for moms, or spouses, or whomever your safe people are. They know the right buttons to push and they’re tough enough and soft enough to clean up the mess.
After I wiped my face clean and pulled myself together, I told Jack about my conversation with my mother. And I realized by the look on his wide-eyed, surprised face that I hadn’t told him ANY of it until that moment. Yikes.
I had bottled up that whole mess of toxic thoughts and worry and gone radio-silent. For a couple weeks, is my best guess. Not good.
Those periods of radio silence are typically when I start displaying my most unsportsmanlike conduct. Why? Well, because somewhere in that two-week fortress of solitude I had started picking him apart for not knowing I was upset (foul) and not doing more to fix it (yellow card) and not helping to give me a break with the kids so I could get my head screwed on straight (red card). It did not matter that he had absolutely no idea I was upset about something that had nothing to do with him. Then to make matters even worse I somehow managed to make it completely his fault.
Isolation is never good for me. I like to recharge in the quiet, but when I stay there too long things go sideways. Introverts, this is painful to read and accept, but too much aloneness is not good for us. Extroverts, we need your help. Pull us out of our cozy holes (or self-decorated pits of despair) from time to time. We need to see the sunshine and get a breath of fresh air.
So I unloaded all my stuffed-up feelings, and in the light of day they didn’t seem so impossible anymore. Funny. I bounced them off another human being, which brought me some clarity and perspective and humor (don’t underestimate it’s superpowers). I always leave those conversations feeling ridiculous for not speaking up sooner yet overwhelmingly lighter for having finally done so.
It’s counterintuitive, but the busy of summer – or any hectic season – can actually leave us feeling really lonely. When we all get hyperfocused in our own lanes, with blinders on, it’s easy to fall out of connection with the people we love most. Making time for your marriage during the summer frenzy means intentionally connecting with each other, because there really is a way to work and live and love and thrive in the middle of all the chaos. It looks very different but it is possible.
In order to find that sweet spot, we have to prioritize what matters in a more intentional way:
For the two of us, we need face to face connection with no distraction. So we put away the 92 loads of laundry covering our prayer chair and made that space special again. We’ve sat in our chair every day since, even just for half a cup of coffee or reading together after the kids have gone to sleep. Even if they’re awake and popping in and out of the room while we’re snuggled up there, it’s no less special, because we’re together.
We also need time for creative dreaming – both for our work and for our relationship. Fortunately we’ve found great pockets of time to do that when the kids have been invited for outings (thank you Grandma for swimming and Grannie for pickleball lessons!). The baby goes down for a nap and we make all the hay while the sun shines.
Do you value recreation? Playing together? Take a walk together or go bowling, or find inexpensive tickets to a local sporting event (high school or college teams are great too!). Even if the kids are with you it will help fill that need. Our children eat their way through the baseball stadium and we definitely have to watch a little closer for foul balls but it’s still really fun.
If you value quality time through conversation, that one has to be uninterrupted sometimes or you’ll start feeling really frustrated. Just get creative.
Don’t forget all those love languages – words of affirmation, gifts, touch, quality time, and acts of service. These are the easiest and fastest ways to stay connected during a wild season. A big fat French kiss in the middle of the kitchen for no reason takes 10 seconds (or however long you want it to) and costs you nothing. Plus it grosses out your kids and that’s fun.
Making time for your marriage is of double importance if you’re on vacation. We found out by accident last year that the date night we got so used to just doesn’t happen when you’re on a family vacay. Our favorite trick? Crack open a bottle of wine in the room/on the balcony/right outside in the hallway/in the bathroom after the kids have fallen asleep in the hotel room. With any luck they’re so tired after a day of vacation fun that they’ll sleep through just about anything. You know what I mean.
If a need is going unmet, or pushed aside, make time for it today. Child care is an easy excuse so don’t buy into it. Hire someone. Trade days. Pay in meatballs. It doesn’t matter. Women are the most marvelous magicians when it comes to making things happen. If you need outside-the-box ideas, here you go!
My best hard-earned advice on this one: set a regular date, and don’t break it. Or, set the next one before you walk in the door from the last one. Having that time to look forward to is sometimes enough to keep your head above water and your blood pressure down during the crazy of summer.
Another creative way to connect is to read something “together.” Buy two copies and agree on a chapter or number of pages each day. It will give you something to talk about besides work, or the latest gory news, or complaints about things that don’t matter. Check down at the bottom here for some of my favorite suggestions for easy, light, yet impactful books to read together as a couple.
If you’re so out of touch that you’re feeling resentful,
resist the urge to pick a fight during the fleeting moments you do have
together. If something needs addressing,
do it kindly and without using “you always” or “we never.” Extremes are
never rarely true. If connection is what you’re craving, use
your precious few moments together to actually connect instead of tearing each
other apart. You’ll come home feeling
worse than you did before you left, and then even worse when you hand a
babysitter cash payment for your hour of misery.
Similarly, save the logistics, mundane laundry list items, and scheduling reminders for the next time you’re washing dishes after dinner or brushing your teeth before bed. Dates are for fun!
Sometimes simply turning your phone off is enough to meaningfully connect, distraction-free, no sitter required. Both our careers lend themselves to late-night and early-morning communication from all portals which can become all-consuming if we’re not careful. If you’re constantly distracted by other people’s needs, how in the world can you recognize and fulfill each other’s?
Don’t miss what Brene Brown calls “sliding door moments:” quiet and subtle opportunities to enter your person’s head and heart space. If your face is buried in a screen, you’ll miss the invitations.
When you start to ask better questions, soon enough you’ll start to get better answers. In her Oprah Masterclass, Diane Sawyer shares that growing up, her father never asked her and her siblings how their day was. Rather, he always asked them, “what questions did you ask today?” Diane attributes her life’s success in journalism her to unquenchable curiosity and her desire to know more, always.
When was the last time you learned something new about your spouse? When your goal is to earn a PhD in the person you love most, no question is too small. (Remind me to tell you someday how “what’s your favorite sandwich” almost cost us our marriage. Not exaggerating… true story.)
There are some unrealistic expectations you’ll have to release, and some of the mania you’ll just have to roll with. However, there is one disclaimer: if you are feeling out of touch, out of sync, out of whack, out of patience, or out of your mind, SPEAK UP. There is no sense ugly crying over something with such a simple solution: making time for your marriage and for each other.
Related post: Releasing unrealistic expectations
In a case of divine irony, the baby just coughed up a mouthful of dirt from my living room plant and the big kids are arguing over a toy. Jack is out showing houses and I’ve got a pile of deliveries that we need to make before we stop off at the church. To close out the day’s whirlwind of activity, I bought all the fixins for hamburgers and we’ll grill tonight as a family with our phones off. Then we’ll put everybody to bed on time and watch the next episode of Stranger Things because I am addicted to it now even though it is straight up giving me nightmares. (Why do we do this to ourselves??)
Making time for your marriage may look as ordinary as the way we do it, or it may look completely different based on your lifestyle. The bottom line is: find the little moments where you can and claim them as yours. Your life is your own, every last crazy little second of it.
Our next date is on Saturday. I’m counting the minutes.
These are affiliate links! If you choose to purchase a book through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll receive a small commission that helps keep our little community up and running. <3
The Love Dare by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick (40-day study with a daily 1-2 page read, easy and fun action item to love your spouse well)
People of the Second Chance by Mike Foster (inspiring stories about using your broken self to serve broken people – my husband loved this book.)
Think outside the box and choose ANY book in a genre you both enjoy!! We are both entrepreneurs so we like nerdy stuff like:
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley PhD and William D. Danko PhD (secrets to creating wealth)
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy (how making better everyday decisions changes your life exponentially in the long run)
How Successful People Grow by John Maxwell (timeless strategies for personal growth and leadership)
I love historical fiction/non-fiction and biographies… he likes business and sci-fi… ask your spouse what they would like to read together and be willing to try something new. You will be amazed how your conversations change when you fill your minds with good and new stuff together.
PS: Join the conversation at our Heartfully Present Facebook community! I’d love to know what book(s) you decide to take on this summer.
Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.
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