Marriage first

Marriage first

Question: How do we keep our relationship in check?


June and July are usually the months we set for our mid-year family review. This is when we sit down and evaluate where we are relationally, emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually. This practice has helped in reminding us of our values as husband and wife. Through years of marriage, we realize that values leak.

When we don’t guard what is vital in our marriage, couples could go into default mode and let the daily operations take priority over our lives. To safeguard what is essential to us, we devised a plan to help us prioritize what is most necessary for us, to keep us in check.

Have weekly date nights.

We have decided as a couple that our date nights are sacred. These are the times that Dennis and I get to enjoy each other’s company without the kids. Our date nights have become times of realignment and fun. To maximize our time together, we have loosely adopted two nights a month for a couple’s talk—this just means we get to have discussions with no competing voices calling for our attention in the background. The other two nights of the month, we decide to do things we enjoy together, like movie nights or getting a massage.

Date nights do not have to be extravagant. The point is to realign and remain connected as well to enjoy.

Let our values dictate our calendar.

It is easy to mindlessly fill in the white spaces in our calendars. Since we tend to swing back to our default mode of keeping busy, we realize the need to be intentional in fighting for our values as a family. Every time we say  yes to something, we are saying no to something else. Having clear and well-defined values can help us direct our yeses and our nos, so we can put our efforts toward the things that truly matter.

Show me your calendar, and I will tell you what your priorities are.


Clock in, clock out.

There was a time when I let my work eat me up. I would come home tired and disengaged from my family. I knew that was not how I wanted to beas I grow older. When I came to the realization that work will never be “done,” I decided to learn how to clock in and clock out at work. This means that I have to be fully engaged at work so that I can be fully engaged when I get home. Prioritizing our families mean we don’t just give them our leftover energy.

Give veto power over your calendar.

This is something that Thammie and I had a lengthy philosophical discussion about because of the nature of our work. Both of us are in the people business—me as a pastor of a growing church and Thammie being a doula and childbirth instructor. Aside from our primary job, we get invited to speak in different organizations. Upon reviewing our calendar, we realized how much of my supposedly free time was changed to work time because I did not prioritize well. Through our agreement, I asked Thammie to have veto power over my calendar. Before accepting anything that is not in my job description (like speaking and training in organizations), I would ask my wife how she feels about it as well. It is not my calendar or my schedule anymore; It is our calendar, our schedule.

Slow down.

I could probably boil down all our answers to this: slow down.

It takes a lot of courage to stop, and say no to some good things. But doing so enables us to sort out, set right, and say yes to what’s best.