Several years ago when Mrs H. & I, did the 'Marriage Course', we realised that the thing our marriage needed most was ... time. Before we were married, we had loads of it, we were students with long holidays, we had few commitments, no children, no house to maintain etc etc etc. Several years later and with the hours in the week disappearing under ever-deepening layers of things-to-be-done, we realised how much we missed the time we once had for each other. The Marriage Course recommends setting aside 'marriage time' for each other on a weekly basis. This involves switching off the computer (for me), switching off the TV (for her), and doing something different that will enable us to talk at length. Our usual is a nice French coffee shop in the town.
In addition to that, the recommendation for those with small children is to try and engineer a few days away without them, once a year. Thankfully, my parents volunteered (or did we volunteer them - I don't remember!?) to look after Boris, Norris and Doris to enable us to escape. The sad truth about the UK is that the fastest growth in separation, divorce and marital breakdown is amongst the age-group whose children are leaving home. The analysis suggests that swamped by the rigours of parenting, many couples lose their close relationship, setting instead for a functionality masked by busyness - which unravels when the parenting pressures ease.
With 4/5 days to play with, we grabbed some cheap flights (Ryan Air stinks - but hey, it was cheap) to Carcassonne in southern France and booked into the wonderful Chateau du Cavanac, a haven of sunshine, and glorious French Cuisine. We were most entertained to notice that our room was entitled "Amour en Cage" (trans: "The Love Cage")... ! The chateau, is the centre of a wine-making estate, and they are very keen to let guests sample their wines as well as enjoy their amazing food. One of the things about France is that they appreciate that a good meal should not be rushed. Instead of serving one massive course, as so many places do here, we loved the way that a series of smaller courses was brought to us over the space of a couple of hours. This is perfect 'marriage time' stuff, hours to sit in the chateau courtyards, in the evening sunshine, sipping the local wine, and talking.
Marriage is much on our minds today. We have friends getting married far away - and sadly for us, too far for us to get to. We would just have loved to have been able to be with them. Alongside the obvious message that faithfulness, both to each other and to God is the foundation of a lifelong marriage; our experience has been that the investment of time for each other is essential, vital, and actually really enjoyable. It's easy to let it slip, its hard to carve out space in ever-filling diaries, and there are pressures from work, kids, church, and other responsibilities all of which are important but all of which can rob marriage of the time it needs to breathe. We've been back a week from France - and I am shocked by how little we have seen of each other in the frenetic busyness of everyday life. Making sure that marriage time happens, will require ongoing commitment and planning! We're already looking forward to a few days away next year!