I learned something from a friend a few months ago that I have been wanting to share. She called it 'happy hour', and it has been hugely beneficial to us in our marriage and our overall family life. Happy Hour is basically a weekly meeting with your spouse. I know that probably sounds boring or unnecessary, but it has become something we both look forward to every week. We have an agenda, which is similar to the one my friend and her husband use but slightly modified to fit us specifically, and we take turns each week leading the meeting (the leader is also in charge of drinks and/or snacks). Here is the basic agenda we use:
1. Schedule Updates [upcoming week's calendar, date nights, babysitting needs, weekend plans, time for each of us to relax or do something fun by ourselves]
2. Spiritual Direction [a time for each of us to share how God is working in our lives]
(The next three categories are only discussed once a month)
3. Short & Long Term Goals [first week of the month]
4. Financial Update [second week of the month]
5. Intimacy & Quality Time [third week of the month]
6. Mate Assessment [this is a time to give each other feedback on one another, both praise and constructive criticism]
7. Parenting [discipline issues, goals for the kids, fun stories to share]
8. Whatever's on your mind
9. Stuff to discuss next week
Maybe you've read through this whole thing and you're thinking "Well, we already talk about all those things throughout the week at some point, so we don't need to have a 'meeting' about them." I probably would have said that too, but the great thing about setting aside specific time once a week is that it frees up the rest of the week for conversations you may never have had before. When we start out the week by connecting with each other on all these levels, it changes the way we are able to interact with each other throughout the rest of the week. Instead of talking "business" all the time (schedules, responsibilities, issues with the kids, etc), we find ourselves just talking... the kind of talks couples have when their dating, but rarely have time for after marriage and kids.
No matter how much a husband and wife love each other, the external responsibilities and pressures of daily life -- work, children, church, activities, friends -- can make it difficult to maintain the friendship that is vital to a healthy marriage. For us, Happy Hour has been a way to keep our friendship strong, to maintain the close connection with each other, to know each other in order to be able to love each other well.