Karen Kingsbury, New York Times bestselling author, states that there are three primary things our loved ones needs from us. These are: time, touch, and testimony. The recognition that these actions are important to any relationship is not new or revolutionary. They are, indeed, truths that grow out of our common human experience. Let’s take a look at each of these truths and see how they apply to marriage.
Nothing spells love as clearly as time spent with a loved one. For a marriage to thrive, husband and wife must set aside time for each other and for their relationship. Married couples easily forget the excitement radiating between them during their courtship; they want to be together every moment. Once married, they cannot go back to those intense days of courtship. But the excitement of sharing time with the other should not get lost in the busyness of daily life. However insistent the demands on their life, the couples must not lose focus on each other. Each couple will need to work out their own routines, but making time for each other is of the highest priority. This may simply involve an evening out to dinner or a show (without the children). It may be an occasional weekend to the mountains or a day window shopping. It could be no more than sitting side by side on the sofa sharing key points of the day with each other. Even if time together is only an hour or two, such time away from the demanding pressures of daily life helps refresh the relationship and rejuvenate the person. In the marriage ceremony the spouses agreed to take each other for better or worse—but not to take each other for granted. To take each other for granted poisons the relationship and leads to a sense of loss resulting in hurt and uncertainty.
During the early years of our marriage, Veronica and I, like so many young couples, found ourselves pulled in multiple directions by the demands of starting a new career, parenting young children, household chores, volunteering. In time, we would feel the daily stresses chewing away at our relationship. We desperately wanted to preserve the intimacy and integrity of our marriage at all costs. Our solution: Realizing that we both had a lighter schedule on Thursdays, we made a decision that greatly enriched our marriage. We agreed to routinely and permanently scheduled Thursday lunch with each other. We continued this practice for years and only the most urgent matter was allowed to interfere with this time together. We did not use this time to problem solve but it was a time to focus on each other and our love. Now as a retired couple, our life has gone through many changes; but we still recognize the importance of time together. While we now no longer share lunch every Thursday—we can have lunch any day now. We now begin every day with a cup coffee morning as we plan our day.
As a most natural element of human existence, touch remains a potent force through all the stages of life. Studies of infants and children have shown repeatedly that few things are more important to early physical and mental growth than touch. We know now that such touch is not just important to children, it is important at every stage of life. Nothing comforts a crying baby like a cuddle in familiar arms. A frightened four-year-old naturally seeks the hand of the father. Sexual love is consummated in intimate body contact. A hug or friendly pat from someone who loves us is appreciated at any stage of life.
More happens in a touch than we realize. At the right time, a touch can almost magically dissolve barriers between people. It can break down the emotional walls we build between ourselves. Touch is an exchange between people in which they give some of themselves to the other. Few things enhance the joy of marriage more than a hug and a kiss. I once heard a psychologist say that good sex began in the kitchen in the morning with a hug. This simple act of affirmation would pay dividends by evening.
We hardly need to prove the importance of dialog to healthy human relationships. The ability to put ideas, feelings, and requests into words is uniquely human. It is a most powerful tool in communicating our affirmation or lack thereof to each other. Two primary elements constitute the heart of this verbal communication: speaking and listening. We affirm equally through what we say as well as by how we listen. The very act of speaking to another acknowledges his or her existence as a person. Lonely, hurting adults often seek some place where they can hear and be heard. They are lucky if they have a friend who will listen. It may be only an informal chat at dinner, but the need for dialog is met, and such seemingly inconsequential meetings make a difference. Words of acceptance, appreciation, and encouragement can make the difference between survival or failure in someone’s day—or in their life. I have made it over hurdles in my own life because someone—a friend, relative, a teacher, a coworker, or spouse—gave me a word of affirmation at the right moment. The actual words one speaks are important, but just as important is the simple act of speaking, of dialoging with another. Words of acceptance, appreciation and encouragement can make the difference between survival or failure in someone’s day, or in their 1ife. After decades of marriage my wife knows that I love her. But still she wants to hear me say in my own voice “l love you.” every day. This brightens her mood and reassures her sense of womanhood. I have made it over hurdles in my own life because of someone–a friend, a relative, a teacher, a co-worker– at the right moment, gave me a word of affirmation. The actual words are important but just as important is the simple act of speaking, of dialoguing with another.
Pay attention to time, touch and testimony. Your marriage will thank you.