It’s New Year’s Day (2019) and this is a picture of our new calendar. I know, it’s old-school, but, every Christmas I create a new calendar featuring pictures of my grandchildren. I saw it this morning, and I started thinking about how much calendars are a part of our lives.
They are in our phones and our computers. We hang them on our walls and put them on our desks. In them, we put things that are important to us. Things we don’t want to forget or miss.
So here’s the big question…Is your marriage on the calendar?
As a pastoral counselor and a husband of nearly 39 years, I believe a calendar is one of the most effective tools you have for strengthening your marriage.
But too often we treat the events on our calendars as if they are “first come, first served.” We fill our calendars with whatever comes up first, until the calendar is so crowded there’s no space or time for our marriage or our family.
I learned this lesson the hard way as a young husband, a new father, and a busy minister. The ministry placed a lot of demands on my time: speaking demands, conference demands, event demands, etc.
On top of that, I had a problem with saying “no.” I felt if the date was open on my calendar, I didn’t have a good reason to say “no.” Consequently, I crammed my calendar full and my marriage and family suffered for it. Things got bad enough I knew I had to make a change.
So at the beginning of every month, my wife and I would schedule marriage and family times on the calendar…BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE! We would schedule two date nights a month, then we would schedule a date night with each of my two daughters. Next, we would schedule a special family night for the month. Finally, during the really hectic seasons of marriage, my wife and I would even schedule sex…because if we didn’t, all the other things would crowd out our time and energy for this. (For more on secheduling sex, see my post “Schedule Time for Sex.”)
All this helped us to look at the month and see how well we were balancing our marriage and family time. It also allowed us to plan for those times – budget, babysitters, meal prep, etc.
Once we had scheduled our marriage and my family time on the calendar, everything else had to fit around them. This made it easier for me to say “no” when things came up. If someone called and asked me do this or that, my first response would be, “Let me check my calendar.” If I opened my calendar and found there was already a marriage or family time scheduled on that date, I could honestly tell them, “I’m sorry. I already have something scheduled on that date.”
Now I can hear some of you saying, “That’s too rigid. I don’t want my life to be controlled by a calendar; especiallly when it comes to sex! I would rather go with the flow.” I understand. Believe me, I am a lot like that myself. There will be times when you can “go with the flow,” but there are seasons of marriage where deciding to just “go with the flow,” will take you through some rapids and batter your marriage. You might survive it, but it won’t be pretty.
I can hear others of you saying, “All this is easier said than done!” And you would be right! My wife and I certainly had to work at it.
First, I had to work through things that I had previously committed to. I had to be patient until those things worked their way off my calendar, and I had to be careful not to replace them with more stuff.
Next, there would be unforseen and unavoidable things that would demand a date we had already scheduled for ourselves or our kids. When that happened, We had to dilligently reschedule our time so that we or our kids didn’t get cheated. Again, this is not always as easy as it sounds.
I’m telling you these things, because I believe something as simple as a calendar helped my wife and I navigate some of the most demanding and trying seasons of our marriage, while keeping us strong and together. And I believe a calendar can do the same for you.
As I said before, we put things on our calendar that are important to us and that we don’t want to miss. So tell me…on this first day of a new year, is your marriage on the calendar? As you look at the mostly blank dates of that new calendar, where will you put your marriage? Where will you put your family?
What you decide to do with this could very well determine how happy your new year will be.
If you’re interested in putting this into practice, here are some things you might do: (1) The two of you go out on a date this week, and talk about this idea over dinner. (2) If you decide to try this, start simple. Start with one or two date nights a month and one or two family nights a month. As you begin to see this working, you can expand it as you would like. (3) If your calendars are digital, work from a common calendar that syncs between your devices. You’ll be less likely to schedule over your marriage and family time. (4) Try using this method on anything you seem to have trouble keeping up with.