Have I told you lately that I love you?

On the 21st of each month, my dad brings my mom flowers to mark their “monthly” anniversary. On the paper around the flowers he writes the number of months they’ve been married. They were wed on October 21, 1967, and, as far as I know, my dad has never missed a month. “Happy 509” will be what he’ll write next month.

My husband and I aren’t organized enough to recognize our anniversary on a monthly basis, but five years ago, when Bill and I celebrated our tenth year of marriage, I decided to declare a jubilee year for our family starting on our anniversary date. I thought the church had an excellent idea with its Jubilee 2000 celebration, which included Masses and events throughout the year. Like the pope, I saw no reason to contain our celebrating to one day. (And like the pope, what I declare in our family tends to come to pass, though not always without dissent.)

Why a jubilee year for a 10th anniversary? Anniversaries, much as I love them, are like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve in terms of unrealistically high expectations for levels of fun and romance. After 10 years of marriage, romantic nights were not as easy to come by as they used to be. Especially with that crib in our room.

A yearlong jubilee celebration gave Bill and me a fighting chance. Our jubilee year made us consciously arrange dates together, sometimes events for the whole family. When we were teetering about whether to go on a getaway weekend or stay home and clean the garage, the jubilee year gave us an excuse to go. It was a year of putting the house and yard maintenance on hold as we worked on the marriage maintenance.

While the idea of nurturing a marriage sounds obvious, the irony is that the life a husband and wife build together with their children is often exactly what prevents them from spending time together as a couple. Whether it’s an interrupting toddler thwarting conversation, sleep deprivation that leaves you both dozing on the couch by 9 p.m., or driving to children’s sporting events in the next county, parenthood challenges even the most committed of couples to make time for each other. While no couple can claim to have it all figured out, here are a few tips from couples who have found time and space to work on their relationship:

Jen and Paul, parents of six children under 10, reserve Sunday night as their couple night. They feed the kids an early dinner, put the younger ones to bed by 7, and tell the older ones they need to read or play in their rooms until bedtime without coming downstairs. Then the two of them make a simple but grown-up dinner. “Some weeks I feel like I’m just barely making it to Sunday night,” Jen said. “But I know it’s coming. It’s our time to reconnect.”

“We’ve started setting the alarm for 5 a.m. to get up and have some time for intimacy,” said a mom of four who doesn’t want to be identified. “Now that the kids are older and staying up later, I wasn’t feeling comfortable with being romantic before bed. I felt like one of them would hear us, so this is our solution. I go back to sleep afterward. My husband gets up and starts his day. I like the idea that all these years into marriage, we’re trying something new. I think that’s what will keep it from getting boring.”

Amy and Mike, parents of four, say that attending eucharistic adoration has brought them together as a couple. “Praying together in the silence in front of the Blessed Sacrament makes us more thankful for each other,” Amy said.

by Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

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