Many years ago, when we were newly-weds ourselves, we attended the wedding of friends of ours. At the reception we were chatting with the parents of the groom. He told us a very interesting story.
This couple had been blessed with children and the first decade and more had been taken up busily caring for the needs of these children and working hard to provide a roof over their heads. The children grew older and the day finally came when the father and mother could go out to dinner, for their eldest daughter was now old enough to baby-sit. Of course this was looked forward to preceding the event. Finally the big night came. They decided to make this night different by not talking about the children while they were out - just enjoying each other's company for the first time since they married. Guess what happened? They couldn't think of anything to talk about! The husband said, "Well, love, we can go one of two ways here. We can grow further and further apart or we can make an effort to grow closer." They decided to make a weekly date and grow close to one another.
This couple recognised the importance of spending time with your spouse to make a happy marriage. Later in our life when we had numerous little children and no chance of going out, a wise parishioner told me that when the children are little you put them to bed so you can get some time with your husband. When the children are older, this lady said you need to go to bed earlier so that you can get some private time with your husband. This is very true - as our older children stay up as late as we do, it can be very tricky managing to have some time to talk and enjoy each other's company as spouses.
A priest friend told me that the most important thing parents can give their children is a happy marriage. This means spending time together. I'm not meaning expensive dinners - although a nice night out is always fun. But a milkshake or a cappuccino and a walk in the park on a regular and frequent basis can go a long way to providing a happy marriage. Of course I do not believe these times need to have no conversations about the children - often it's the only uninterrupted time you have. However, it is good to also talk about hopes and dreams, projects that the family can work on, how to spend your free time in a fun way as a family etc... We are not abandoning our children or being bad parents if we leave them to spend short amounts of time with our spouses. We are making an investment in our marriage.
It is very easy, especially when you are busy homeschooling and your husband is busy trying to provide for the family, often on a single income, to begin to live separate lives. We must love and cherish our spouses. We must work on our marriages if they are to survive. We also need to give our children, particularly our older children, positive and attractive models of marriage. Just as happy nuns are attractive for religious life, happy couples are attractive for the vocation of marriage.
Let us ask God for all the graces we need to live in the holy state of matrimony and pray for our brothers and sisters who are struggling in their vocation at this time.