10. Your attention
Put down the phone, for the love of all that’s good and holy. And don’t just put it down next to you where you know you’ll pick it up when it buzzes again.
9. A love note
My husband and I leave each other love notes from time to time. They used to be elaborate, written out on parchment paper or carefully chosen Hallmark cards.
Now? Two kids and two vocations and an almost-finished PhD later? They’re a Post-it. A note scribbled on the back of a bank statement.
The medium isn’t important. The message is.
In the middle of a nutso week, I found You’re a great mom! on my steering wheel, written on the back of an envelope in crayon.
When he flew to Nashville for exams, he found You’ve got this, Smartie. I’m so proud of you! written on the first page of his note-taking pad.
Be specific. Be brief. Be sweet.
8. Time together
One of the sweetest things my husband can say to me after a full-to-the-brim week is, “I miss you.”
Take time for one another, even if it’s just fifteen minutes between the newborn’s crying jag and the end of the preschooler’s nap. Go for a walk. Drink some coffee. Reminisce and laugh. Just be in the presence of the one you love without any agenda at all.
7. Time alone
I’m an introvert. I love being alone. Love, love, love, love, love. I’m pretty sure heaven is just Jesus and a giant library. (Of course I want to see my friends and family who have passed away, too. Just after I read all the books…) Between pastoring and mommyhood, I rarely get time to myself it unless it’s late at night and I’m too tired to enjoy it.
Some of the sexiest words my husband can say to me on our day off are, “Can I take the boys to the park?” OHMYGOODNESSYES.
Even extroverts need an hour or two here or there to recharge.
One of my husband’s love languages (thank you, Gary Chapman!) is physical touch. I know what you’re thinking, “Duh – almost all guys like sex.” Well, yes. But for Daryl, it’s the little touches throughout the day that really make him feel loved. A hug. A squeeze on the arm. A kiss. Snuggling up on the couch.
If you’re a parent it can be hard to remember to touch your spouse. After all, young kids are always touching you and you can start to feel tapped out when it comes to physical affection.
Yet these little connecting touches are sweet, simple, meaningful, and so easy.
That beautiful leaf on the sidewalk? Grab it and bring it home to her. The wildflowers growing by the mailbox? Pick one and put it next to his dinner plate.
Beautiful rocks, shells, sticks – they are small, thoughtful, free ways to say “I love you.”
4. Holding Your Tongue
When I was a senior in college, my laptop died. My then-friend Daryl saw my crestfallen self at the cafeteria and asked what was wrong.
“My laptop died,” I said. “I didn’t backup my final papers, and now I have to write them all over again.”
He looked at me and I could tell by his expression that he was biting back a phrase I’d heard him utter multiple times to others: You should have bought an Apple. But he didn’t say it. Had he said it, I don’t think we’d be married today.
When the garbage disposal backs up because she put the potato peelings down it again? She knows what she did. When he accidentally backs the family car into another car because they’re grumpy and in a hurry? Better to say nothing.
In that moment, you holding your tongue is the best gift you can give your spouse.
I’m still working to lose some baby weight, and I put Daryl in the world’s worst position the other day.
“How do these look?” I asked him, turning around in a pair of jeans I’d practically wedged my way into with a crowbar. I needed to know, but it put him in an awful spot. He hesitated.
“Um…I’d wear your other pair instead,” he said, as gently as could be.
For a moment I was mad. How dare he? Then I looked in the mirror and realized he was right, and he’d saved me from looking not my best.
Honesty is key in a marriage. Gentle, gentle, oh-so-gentle honesty is a tremendous gift.
2. A kind word
When you want to yell about the trash piling up or be passive-aggressive about the in-laws coming to stay (again…), offer a kind word instead.
I know you’ve had a long day.
I love the way you play with our kids.
I appreciate you.
Kind words cost us nothing, but most of us (I’m pointing the finger my way, here!) we don’t give them to our spouse like we could. And why not? They’re free!
There are nights when I’m just too doggone tired to pray. There, I said it. (And I’m a pastor!) On those nights, it’s Daryl who climbs into bed, grabs my hand, and says, “Let’s pray.”
Daryl freely admits that one of the reasons he wasn’t sure he wanted to marry me was because he knew I’d make him tithe (give 10% of our income to our local church and the work of God in the world). “I knew if I married you, you’d help me stay serious about following Jesus,” he told me. “I had to be sure I wanted that.” Ditto. And now that we’re stuck with each other, we just keep heaping on the Jesus. It’s awesome.
Jesus is the best gift you can give your spouse. If you’re married to someone who follows him, don’t be shy about encouraging the man or woman you love to turn toward Jesus in all that they do. If you aren’t married to someone who knows Jesus, give them over to him continually in prayer.
What’s the best gift your spouse has ever given you?