By Emily Osburne
After interviewing over 350 couples, asking, “What makes a difference in your marriage?” one piece of advice stands out. Eight years ago, my husband and I interviewed phenomenal couples, ranging in age from twenty-five to ninety-five. We were impressed by the spiritual wisdom, theological insight, and thoughtful quotes from these amazing men and women, but one piece of practical instruction still affects our schedule and positively influences our marriage every single day.
When we heard the advice, we didn’t realize how impactful it could be. It was so simple. David and Kim, a couple who had been married for twenty-seven years, told us to set aside fifteen minutes every night to sit on the couch and have enjoyable conversation. They called it Couch Time because they reconnected each night on the couch, even if only for a short time. They laughed and enjoyed a mini-date in the middle of the chaos of a regular day.
Clay and I interviewed David and Kim eight years ago, and even now, we rarely miss Couch Time. Although we have adapted it to each stage of life we have encountered this far (Couch Time was longer before the kids came along) it has become a happy ritual that has made a tangible difference in our relationship. Although date nights (usually on Fridays) are great for reconnection, we have found that we can’t wait until Friday night. We need “fall-in-love-again time” daily.
Here are a few rules we have come up with over the years to implement this strategy:
1. Keep this time short. Set a timer, if necessary. Life is busy, and you will ditch Couch Time if you try to make it longer than 15 or 20 minutes.
2. No ranting, complaining, or bringing up shortcomings during Couch Time.
3. Honor this time, and your children will learn to honor it as well. We recommend Couch Time while your kids are awake so they can see Mom and Dad putting one another first.
4. Turn off cellphones and computers. Unplug from the world and look into your spouse’s eyes.
5. Do whatever it takes to make this a positive experience for both people. If your husband hates to talk about finances, don’t talk about money during this time. Include dessert, massage, wine, or all three. Both parties should look forward to it.
When you see your couch, imagine it as an island, a place of respite from the world. It is the place to hold hands and smile at the person you love. The world will keep spinning, but you can stop for fifteen minutes each day to love the most important person in your life.
About the Author: Emily Osburne is the author of Everyday Experts on Marriage. She and her husband, Clay, have been married for 13 years and they have two sons, Shuler and Easton. Emily has been featured in publications such as Focus on the Family, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, and Relevant Magazine. Her latest book, GUSTO: Energy for Your Life, is scheduled to release in Fall, 2014. Emily loves to learn ways to improve life and marriage, so if you have tips or questions, feel free to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Emily at www.emilyosburne.com.
I Don’t Know How I Did It!
By John Overbeck
I am a teacher, and there are days when I am very frustrated – not because I have been unable to help a student understand a certain concept or develop a certain skill, but because I’ve succeeded.
Yeah! I helped “make it happen” for a student and I’m upset.
I am, of course, happy for the student, but I’m left with a desperate feeling of “I don’t know how that happened, and will I ever be able to make it happen again?” After all, it’s my job to help students succeed, and a part of that job is to know which buttons to push and when.
I remember some years ago in an American History class, I was in the midst of explaining the colonial Triangular Trade Routes when I heard from one of my students, “Oh, now I get it!” I have no idea what I said – or rather what that student’s fertile mind processed – that caused this particular economic concept to suddenly make sense. The student walked away with a piece of knowledge and I was left with a “How’d that happen?”
Another student I worked with had great difficulty writing. The thoughts just would not come together coherently when it came time to write them down. Two of us worked with this student and eventually the writing came. But, doggone it, how?
Then there was the student who told me, several years after I had taught class on African-American literature, “I hated every book on that class reading list – except one. Thank you so much for getting me to read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.” And while I am on Ralph Ellison, another student of mine, a ninth grader as I recall, left to wander the library stacks, found Invisible Man, read it, and liked it. In that case I didn’t do anything but “allow,” and it worked. Go figure.
But what’s the teaching process in all this? How did I make this happen? What is the miracle elixir, and how can I bottle it and dole it out by the tablespoon full each morning?
I have come to understand that those are the wrong questions.
First of all, it’s not “I.” It’s “we.”
Second, it’s not the day it happened, not the day it all came together for the student. It’s all the days that went before, the days of symbiosis – the days spent working together, learning to accept and trust one another, exploring the learning process together. That’s where the “mojo” is. And when it is time…
It’s a skill thing, this teaching. But the skill is only a part of the process. It’s a relationship thing, and like parenting or any other relationship, it’s an art.
About the Author: John Overbeck is a writer with a background in journalism and freelance writing, and a teacher with a quarter of a century of experience. For seven years he taught at a K-12 school for the gifted, two of those years as a teaching principal. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.
An invitation from Pastor Eastman
Any time you think that some one-on-one conversation might be useful in strengthening your marriage, contact me, Pastor Eastman, at OurChaplain.com / MarriageChaplain.com. We know many counselors and healers who provide great support to couples, and my job is to help you connect with someone who is a good fit to help you move forward in your loving and working relationships. Calling me is best because you will get a quicker response: 513 853 6180, but Pastor@OurChaplain.com or text 513 703 8196 will also work.