Some time ago, a couple came to my office, anxious to put their marriage back on course. They had been married in the temple and were active in the Church. Unfortunately, like many couples, they thought that their marriage would take care of itself because the Lord had sanctioned it in the temple.
The man was interested in bodybuilding, so I asked him how many hours a week he spent keeping his body in shape. “Two hours a day except for Sunday,” he answered. Then I asked them both how many hours they spent each week making their marriage more rewarding. “Less than two hours a week,” they said.
This couple hadn’t realized that marriage, like any other worthwhile activity, requires time and energy. It takes at least as much time to keep a marriage in shape as it does for a weight lifter to keep his body in shape. No one would try to run a business, build a house, or rear children on two to three hours a week. In fact, the more two people who love each other interact, the stronger their bond becomes.
Husbands often spend so much time with their careers and Church callings that they inadvertently neglect their families. This is spiritually and socially dangerous—the Lord has commanded our generation to put our responsibilities to our families first, after the worship of God. In many households, both spouses work outside the home. In such cases, if the husband is not willing to share fairly with the wife the responsibilities of maintaining a home, the marriage suffers.
I know one bishop who scheduled his evening meetings at 9:00 P.M. so he could spend the time between 6:00 and 9:00 P.M. with his wife and children. He made sure that he spent every other Saturday exclusively with his family. Over the years, he and his family have been rewarded a hundredfold for his investment of time, and his calling didn’t suffer in the least.
On the other hand, many women neglect their marriages in favor of their children. Evidence now overwhelmingly tells us that parents who want to rear happy, well-adjusted children need to concentrate first on their marriage. A couple’s love and service for each other will affect their children more positively than any other act they can perform.
I have asked couples in my marriage classes and at Church socials and conventions how many hours a week they spend improving their marriages. The couples may not count time they spend together unless both spouses see it as enhancing their relationship. Over 400 people have responded. Of 168 hours a week, the average time spent on marriage per couple is 12 hours. That number drops to 8 when we subtract those who are retired and spend more than 50 hours a week together. Many couples spend fewer than 3 hours a week improving their marriages, and several indicated they don’t spend any time at all with each other!
If we want our marriages to become celestial, we must be willing to devote time to our partners. Much of that time must be away from the children and must involve more than being in the same room together. Culprits like television can destroy the value of time spent together. Both quantity and quality of time are essential to successful, thriving marriages. If you feel pressed for more time, put your imagination to work and try some new ideas. Whatever you and your spouse do to share more time together, your marriage depends on it.
Dee W. Hadley teaches at the Institute of Religion adjacent to the University of Utah and is a marriage and family counselor. He is the Gospel Doctrine teacher in the Cottonwood Thirteenth Ward, Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake.