The alarm went off with its shrill reminder that today was going to be busy — a big report was due, important out-of-town clients were coming, and I was supposed to begin training the new hire.
My wife, Pam, greeted me with, "Remember that Brock has basketball practice, Zach has to be at play rehearsal, and Caleb has his Bible club. We're going to have to divide and conquer tonight." That was followed with the kids shouting in unison, "Is breakfast ready?"
"Can you put the dishes in the dishwasher while I help the kids get dressed for school?" Pam called as she rushed off to the back of the house.
I guess I knew this would all be part of marriage, but it sure looked different from the dreams we talked about when we were dating. People tried to tell us before we married that it would be like this. They said things like, "You have to work at staying in love. Real love doesn't just happen." And they were right. But what people didn't tell us is that even on days filled with chaos and responsibility, it only takes a few seconds to make a meaningful connection with your spouse.
While I was doing dishes, Pam sneaked up behind me and laid a note on the counter: "I don't know what I would do without you. The kids and I are lucky to have you in our lives. I am praying God gives you a great day." Suddenly, the day seemed a lot easier to face.
Couples who pursue a productive life together can grow their love amid a demanding schedule. Much like our friends and family members in the following scenarios, couples who find the balance between a busy life and a growing relationship can further enhance their love with these simple, 30-second habits.
The Grateful Glance
Holly was preparing dinner while Brad was helping their oldest child with homework. Both parents were trying to keep a watch on the two preschool children to make sure they didn't dismantle the house. Brad looked up from his child's homework to glance at Holly. His gaze hung on just long enough for Holly to catch him looking at her. They both stopped for a few seconds to exchange looks of appreciation for each other. The moment was quickly interrupted by the scream of a child, but the connection lingered in their hearts for the rest of the evening.
A single, meaningful glance can instantly brighten the mood of your relationship. Your eyes meet and your hearts connect because nonverbal communication is powerful.
The Friendly Flirt
The thing you love most about your spouse often can be the very thing that irritates you. For instance, I love Pam's creative approach to life even though it can make her unpredictable and hard to understand. We were recently coordinating our schedules when she said, "I am off the radar until the middle of April, and then I'll be treading water until July when I'll be able to find my bearings again." I wasn't really sure what she was talking about, but it was so adorable. I could have snidely reacted with, "What are you talking about?" Instead, I just smiled at her.
"What?" she asked. "Why are you just looking at me?"
"You're so cute," I said. "I'm swimming in all those metaphors, but I would love to go off the radar and tread water with you." Her smile told me our hearts had connected in the midst of another busy day.
Couples who frequently communicate affection report high levels of marital satisfaction. Simple acts of affection release the hormone oxytocin, which increases emotional connection.
The Tender Touch
It was Valentine's Day, but Steve and Sarah were mildly disappointed. They volunteered to run the sweetheart banquet at their church, and although they were excited to serve, they didn't realize how much work it would be. As they handled the challenges, the night was shaping up to be a great memory for everyone but them. The crew set up for 50 people fewer than they were supposed to. The musicians and sound crew were late. The pace was frenetic.
Sarah remembers thinking, Why did I do this? I could have just had a nice date with Steve. Steve thought, All this work for Valentine's Day, and Sarah has been upset with me all day.
As he walked to the kitchen for one more pitcher of water to place on a table, Steve gently passed his hand over Sarah's back without saying a word. The warmth of his hand seemed to drain off just enough stress to calm her heart. Suddenly, a Valentine's memory was created as she entertained thoughts of how good it was to be married to such a hardworking, attentive man. When Steve passed by again, Sarah took advantage of a tradition they had started years before by silently squeezing his hand twice as a way of saying, "Thank you."
Simple touches communicate personal affirmation and help couples remember they're loved.
The Lingering Laugh
Jake and Melody had been training their 5-year-old daughter to be less bossy. In an attempt to get through to her, they often said, "You can be a leader but you can't be a bully."
Their 3-year-old daughter apparently had been listening. When Jake picked her up because she was misbehaving and began carrying her to her bedroom for a father-daughter chat, she cried out, "Put me down, you big bully!"
Jake immediately looked away so his daughter couldn't see him laughing. As he did, Melody looked up, and they both started giggling. God provides these moments to keep you laughing together in the midst of the responsibilities of life.
You may not be able to slow down to the pace you enjoyed when you were dating, but you can send lots of 30-second signals that will enhance your relationship as you build your life together.
Bill and Pam Farrel have authored several books on marriage, including The Marriage Code: Discovering your own secret language of love.
This article appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2013 by Bill Farrel. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
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