The Marriage Discovery

If you've been married for any length of time, you've probably discovered that there is one area in which you and your spouse are completely and totally incompatible. For some it is finances, for others the kids (discipline), or levels of intimacy, or spirituality...the list is probably as infinite as there are people. For John and I, it is what to do with our free time. And as innocuous as that may sound, it can really screw up your life.

I was recently interviewed by an author doing a story on couples who have been married for over 20 years. The first question was one I've heard a lot. "What's the one ingredient needed for a happy marriage?" (Good thing the interview was via e-mail so she didn't see me roll my eyes.) My response was that there is no such thing as "the one thing" and yet there is something I wish I'd learned a lot earlier.

Sybil MacBeth articulated it well in her book Praying in Color. (BTW, Sybil, if you ever Google yourself and find this, I am so completely enjoying your book! And I absolutely LOVED it that there was a Chapter negative 5. Fabulous!)

"I need quantity (time) and regularity. Quality is not something I can predict. My husband, Andy, and I might schedule an elaborate evening out with candles and a gourmet meal, but there is no guarantee that we'll have a wonderful time. Much of our intimacy has been created in the daily-daily of spending time together--chopping onions and peppers side-by-side in the kitchen, reading together on the couch, sitting on the front step watching our sons ride bikes and making plans for our life together."


You have to know that nothing in this world is scheduled for couples to be successful. Demanding jobs (sometimes with transfers required and travel a given), sports leagues, kids school activities, church activities, social and family obligtaions ...nothing about this life is conducive to couples getting to spend quantity time together.

Add to that John's and my particular malady of being wired completely differently in the area of down time and it might not surprise you that we were deficient for a lot of years in the "quantity time." Something we have only recently corrected.

The audit to our schedules has been profound in its results. Cooking dinner and running errands together, putting a couch in John's office, taking walks--heck even just going to bed at the same time has made an amazing difference in that sense of intimacy.

And for all the promise of happy-ever-after, John once sagely pointed out, "If marriage were easy, the divorce rate wouldn't be 50%."

I just wish someone had told us in the beginning that quantity time mattered, and that we'd given ourselves the permission to take it.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall