Connect with your spouse (without your phone!)

If you ask any one of your family or friends how they are doing there are two words far more likely to come out of their mouth than any others: Tired and Busy.

The expectation of our age is real. How many hours a week do you work? How many activities are your kids involved in? When was the last time you had a weekend clear and free of obligations? In our go-go-go culture it can be easy to take on too much and lose sight of what's really important. The temptation to put our relationships on the back burner is high, and sadly too many of us give in to that temptation. Either we are too busy to make the time for those around us, or we're just too tired. If we do get to the end of our obligations we're often too spent to figure out how to spend quality time with people. We quickly resort to easy answers like watching TV or scrolling on our phones while sitting next to each other.

Well, good news, friends. This article aims to help. I challenge you to put that phone away and carve out some time for the most important relationship you will have on this earth: your spouse. Yea, your Honey-Boo-Boo. Your Beau. Your Partner-In-Crime, your Better-Half... You get the idea. Here are ten fun ways to connect with your Beloved.

1. Read
Reading is an incredible way to connect with your Snookums because there are so many different books to read, and two main ways to go about reading them.

First, pick something to read on your own time and come back together to discuss. This is a great approach if you're reading non fiction such as a theology text, a Christian living book, a memoir. etc. Or, you know, your Bible. Sharing our insights with challenging material is a great way to process what you're reading both for yourself AND for the other person. I am sure you noticed something they didn't, and vice versa. This is particularly helpful if you're reading a book that requires a call to action. Reading apart and coming together later gives you the space to make a prayerful and intentional commitment about how to respond, instead of reacting in the moment. Suggestions: This Momentary Marriage, Crazy Busy, and Mere Christianity.

Second, take turns reading out loud to each other. This works better for fiction or humor. But also? Your Bible. Passing a book back and forth is a great way to spend a cozy evening or a trip to the park. Reading out loud is something that we tend to reserve for kids, and I think that's a shame. The chance is high that someone read to you when you were a small one, and I'm reasonably sure you loved it. I also am pretty confident that if you gave it a chance you would still love it as an adult. So why not give it a try? Suggestions: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Harry Potter.
(If you struggle with reading out loud this is a great way to practice with someone who won't judge you. Take the opportunity to get more comfortable in this safe environment, so it won't be so jarring when you're asked to read in life group or elsewhere.)

Whatever you chose, I am confident this can boost your marriage. My hubby and I have read several books out loud together, and it's created some incredibly sweet memories for the two of us. We also read a lot of the same books for our various ministries, and it's been super beneficial to be able to process what we're reading together. Pick any book you want, take turns picking a book, or ask a friend for a suggestion. It doesn't matter - just start reading!

2. Cook
Try something new to both of you! Not a chef between you? Embrace failing, and learning, together. There are so many places to find easy recipes that I won't dive too deep into resources for this. Whether you try an old family recipe, something you saw on the cooking channel, or if you turn to trusty Google - find something you'd both like to try and then let the magic happen. Loud music and dancing with your Sweetcakes as you wait for the next step is highly encouraged.

3. Serve
There is nothing sexier than seeing your S.O. show Jesus to other people. (You know I'm not wrong!) There are a hundred ways to do this. My suggestion is something where you can work side by side and share the experience. This doesn't even have to be a formal ministry - Know some friends who are moving, or are in dire need of a date night? Have a neighbor who needs some help with the yard? Have a family member going through a hard time? Show up together, love that person or people together, and get your hands dirty together. Of course, serving the church is also a wonderful way to go about this. If you can swing it, go on a missions trip together. Our primary purpose in life is to honor and glorify God. What better way to do that than with the love of your life right along side you?

4. Go on an adventure!
I'm not talking your average date night fare, here. Do something unusual, or special; something you don't get to do often. Something you've talked about but never actually made happen. Here are some Washington examples: hike to the ice caves or a ghost town, take the ferry to Kingston, go whale watching.
You could take a class at the community college, spend your Pumpkin's birthday mapping out every place that gives a treat or discount and hit 'em all. Exploring a new place can be a breath of fresh air, maybe literally, but also metaphorically. Break free of the status quo! Then take your experience and do #5.

5. Create a "good things" jar
At the end of the day, or each week, take turns writing the highlights down. Share why it stood out to you. Then put them in the jar. Watch the jar fill up and on New Year's Eve go through them together. This builds connection both immediately and over the long haul. Sharing what has gone well in your day/week helps you be present and aware of your Cuddle-bug's day to day life. Looking it over at the end of the year reminds you how faithful God is, and hopefully how much fun/supportive your Darling is.

6. Play a Game
The couple that plays together stays together. Here are a few suggestions:
Casino
Jaipur
Canasta Caliente
Niya
Cribbage
I encourage you to stay away from video games for a slew of reasons. Primarily, the goal here is connect directly with your Hottie-Biscotti. Video games usually have you connect simultaneously, but individually. A card or board game causes you to share the space and game objects and are typically played face to face, making them fertile grounds for laughing, flirting, and playing footsie under the table. So grab some snacks and have a game night!

7. Cross off an item on your bucket lists
We all have them. Do you know what's on your Sweetheart's list? This is a good time to learn your Honey, and then do something about it.

8. Make something
Anything. Try gardening, house projects, hobby projects like building a table or making a backpack. Get ahead of the game and make Christmas gifts: ornaments, soap, candles, or journals. Make a unique clock, write a short story together, re-purpose some glass bottles. Explore Pinterest for 10,000 other ideas. The goal is to spend intentional time together making a memory that results in a tangible object to remind you of said memory. You don't need to spend $100 of craft supplies, either. Get thrifty. Renew an unloved item you might otherwise throw out. Make art and put it up in the bedroom. Steep your house with the tangible reminder that God designed you to work together and make something beautiful.

9. Ask Questions
Brew a hot beverage, share a blanket, and get ready to get personal. Great for new couples and veterans alike - learn what makes your Heart's-Delight tick; what inspires them, encourages them, and what they hope the future brings. If you've been married a while use this as a barometer - ask your Sweetie "how have I been doing at encouraging you in this?" You also might be surprised to discover just how much things have changed since the last time you checked in. Pray together as you navigate these rich conversations, and keep track of what and how God answers.

10. Write letters to each other
Be it quick little notes left in strategic places or full on love letters, I encourage you to get poetical about your Cutie Pie. Love letters are a dying art form, but I believe in you. Here are some tips on how to get the ink flowing. Letters are a powerful means of expressing love - they are tangible, descriptive, intimate - and best of all they can be read and re-read as the years go on. Go on, grab a pen and tell your Baby-cakes how you really feel.

These are just a few suggestions, but do you notice a theme?

There are very few screens involved, and it would be possible to do any of these without any kind of device present. I'm sure you have heard this a hundred times, but here it is again: put your phone away. Step away from the TV. One of the biggest barriers to real relationship is the self made barrier of addiction to technology. That's another post for another time; for now, though, trust me. As long as that phone or TV looms in your peripheral vision inviting distraction you will struggle to connect in a meaningful way. Commit to your Huckleberry by meeting them face to face in the real world. Hold hands, stare longingly into their baby blues (or, you know, whatever colour their eyes actually are) and remind yourself of why you got married in the first place. You won't regret it.

Cheers, you lovebirds.
Close-up of couple's hands intertwined to create a heart shape
Photo by Kristina Litvjak / Unsplash