A marriage counselor in Minnesota is encouraging couples to spend time together, the StarTribunereports. Findings are that spending at least 5 1/2 hours a week interacting with your spouse can strengthen your marriage.
Now this is interesting. Spending time together strengthens a relationship. That is vague and positive enough to be in a fortune cookie. And maybe it seems so intuitive that it's unworthy for print. But here's the catch: there's more to this spouse-interaction than mere time. The counselor explains, "I mean talking to each other, really paying attention to each other, the way you did when you were dating."
The way you did when you were dating.
It's the same observation made by Justin Buzzard in his new book, Date Your Wife. He writes, "Most men think the mission ends after they marry the woman they love, that the most exciting and rewarding work is over" (57). Marriage is somehow viewed as the destination, the payoff, the final credits after "the beauty is rescued." But this view can only exist within a cultural straightjacket. The Bible tells us different.
"Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church" (Ephesians 5:25). Far from the journey ending, marriage is actually where it just begins. "Like when you did when you were dating" and even more so. Here is a new calling for men, a new mission to ongoingly pursue our wives in sacrificial love. Or as John Piper explains, marriage is a biblical mandate to "seek your joy in the joy of your spouse" (Desiring God, 205).
Husbands are told to love their wives the way Christ loved the church. How did he love the church? "He gave himself up for her." But why? "That he might sanctify and cleanse her." But why did he want to do that? "That he might present the church to himself in splendor"! (206)
The joy set before Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) was his bride presented in splendor. His joy was her joy. And so it is in marriage. This is how husbands are to love their wives. As Piper writes, "Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved" (207).
Marriage isn't a time for coasting. It's when we gear up, when we pursue our wives in love, when we seek our joy in their joy... and yes, when we spend time together.