If you've ever read an article or list of tips for how to have a stable and happy marriage, you'll know that every last one includes something about regularly carving out some alone time together. I recently re-read something I wrote myself, several years ago, and cringed at my words. "Doesn't matter how busy you are!" I counselled. "Budget for a weekly date night, and make it special!"
Well, as someone who's waiting for seven W-2's to come in the mail, I can now attest that there is a big difference between being as busy as you want to be and being as busy as you have to be. It's true that date night, home date night, or even just some unplugged alone time together is very important. But I'm a lot less blithe, now, about how simple it is to find that time.
One thing we have going for us, though, is that we go to bed at the same time. And that means that there's no way we can wiggle out of admitting that, no matter how busy we are the rest of the day, we do have time to do one thing together . . . and that's pray. Things -- marriage things, parenting things, life things in general -- go better when we pray together.
Why wouldn't they? A married couple is like a pair of musical instruments. You may both have the same sheet music in front of you (even if you're playing different parts), but you won't make decent music together unless you're in tune. This is what prayer does: it provides the pitch we're supposed to tune ourselves to. Works much better when we do it together.
Or, to put it another way, marriage gives you a cup to share and places you next to the fountain -- but it's your responsibility to fill that cup up, over and over again.
Of course it's important to say grace before meals, and if that's the only prayer you say together, it's better than nothing! And all married couples should try to go to Mass together and to pray with your children, if you have them. But here are some other ideas for praying together as a couple, especially if you're pressed for time:
Times to pray:
- Just before or after you turn off the light at night.
- Before you turn on the TV in the evening.
- Before you part ways in the morning.
- Any time you're in the car together (being in the front seats is kind of like being alone together, even if there are kids in the back!)
- when you're fighting
- when you get some bad news
- when you get some good news
- etc., as long as it's a regular thing
Ways to pray:
- A decade or more of the rosary, scriptural or just regular (with or without apps!)
- A Memorare
- A lazy Catholic's "three pack" (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be)
- The Divine Office, or part of it
- St. Michael Prayer (good for when you feel weak or under attack)
- blessing each other (I'm not actually crazy about this one. Can someone point me to a blessing that sounds a little less generic?)
- novenas for specific intentions
- daily Mass
- Free form prayer. Remember A(C)TS: adoration, thanksgiving, supplication ("C" is in parenthesis because that's contrition, which is an important type of prayer, but maybe more appropriate for silent prayer!). Married couples who are very open with each other in every other way can feel very shy about praying aloud -- but it can be an amazing experience, sort of the opposite of the devastating "Who told you you were naked?" moment in the Garden. When you are side by side and showing your hearts to God, your spiritual vulnerability can draw you closer together.
So, what if your spouse isn't religious, or refuses to pray with you? Here's something I've said in the past which doesn't make me cringe (and of course you can substitute "wife" for "husband"):
If your husband doesn’t want to pray, then snuggle up to him in bed and pray silently. The Holy Spirit sometimes appears unable to distinguish between two married people, and may react as if you’re praying together.
You can also pray to each other's guardian angels or patron saints. That'll show 'em!
Do you pray with (or even just alongside) your spouse? When, and how? If not, it's not too late to make that habit your resolution for the new year.