Learning to Say “No”: How Routines Help Protect Your Marriage

When my husband Jeremiah and I were dating and just on the verge of engagement, I noticed a difference in the time we spent together as we grew more serious in our relationship.

I started to see that how I spent my time and energy would be much different as a married woman. My priorities would change from a schedule revolving pretty much around me to now considering my husband and what worked best for the both of us.

Those last few months before our wedding day, we went through an extremely helpful pre-marital book that a mentor had given us called Preparing for Marriage. After reading a chapter that dealt with expectations, we agreed that one of our expectations in marriage would be to go to bed together every night as much as we could help it.

One particular night in our first year of our marriage, Jeremiah got a phone call from his mom late in the evening. I didn’t mind it at first, but the conversation lingered. He was out on the couch and I was in bed waiting for him to join me. I grew frustrated because it was getting late. A half hour went by and I was even more upset especially after I went in to remind him I was waiting. Besides, I couldn’t fall asleep without him!

Time reserved just for us
When he got off the phone, I drilled him needless to say. I felt like he wasn’t considering me. Plus we both had work in the morning. I remember him telling me he needed to be there for his mom. And I was all about that, but not that late at night!

We talked about the circumstance more after work the next day. Jeremiah saw where he wasn’t being considerate of our time. I confessed that I was wrong for blowing up and that I remembered times when I didn’t think of him in my phone conversations during other times of the day. We came to an understanding that longer phone calls should be made/answered earlier unless it’s something urgent.

We knew that the late evening needed to be reserved for just us. It would be our sacred space for connecting, resolving any conflict, praying, communicating, and being intimate. Since we both worked during the day and didn’t see each other, we knew that the best time to deeply connect was before bed—after working out, dinner, dishes, work preparations, and more.

Now, five years later, scheduling that time together in the evening as newlyweds really set a solid foundation for us today. It has saved us from a lot of conflict and has helped us grow in our intimacy. We cherish the time all the more now that we have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. And believe it or not, Jeremiah is often the first one to turn off our iPhones so there are no distractions when we connect.

Routines create strong marriages
I’ve heard it said once that,

routines create strong and healthy marriages.”

A routine is something that’s expected. You just do it without thinking. A routine is really what takes precedence and what we choose to fill our time with. And if something else attempts to trump that time, you stick to the routine anyway.

If you’re asked to go out with your friends on the evening you have a date night planned with your spouse, you say no to your friends and reschedule. If you’ve been away from your spouse several nights in a row and you’re pressured to commit to another night away, you choose to spend time with your spouse because they are more important.

Routines in marriage act as a boundary as well. Some couples get married and continue the same hustle and bustle lifestyle of going out like they did being single. This isn’t altogether wrong, but if the husband or wife is never around and always out with friends, then the relationship is being neglected rather than cultivated. Temptations for adultery or emotional affairs can creep in unexpectedly. I’ve seen it destroy marriages.

The danger with any routine is doing it simply because you have to, so it’s important to remember why you’re doing it and to keep the heart and joy in it all. It’s not about being legalistic or old-fashioned, but giving your spouse the time he or she deserves in order to protect your marriage from anything that could tear it down.

Deciding what will be routine
In looking over the past years, these routines have helped build oneness into our marriage:

  • Eat at least one meal a day together. For us, it’s usually breakfast. We strive to have a family meal each night, but my husband’s work schedule doesn’t always allow for him to be home when the kids are clawing at my feet to eat. There’s just something about eating together that bonds you.
  • Attend church every Sunday. Worshipping the Lord together and being encouraged by the body of Christ has strengthened our relationship leaps and bounds. At church, we’re honest about our struggles and we know people will be praying for us. Also, discussing our pastor’s sermon on the way home has helped us grow closer spiritually.
  • Schedule a date night every other week. We fail at this at times especially when it comes to hiring a sitter, forgetting to plan, finances, etc. but we strive for it and never regret when we get to go out and enjoy each other like we did when we were dating. It also shows our 3-year-old that our marriage is most important.
  • Plan for upcoming events. We usually plan trips, birthday parties, outings, any family coming into town, girls/guys night outs, etc. on a weeknight so we know what’s coming up on the calendar and aren’t caught off guard. It helps us stay on the same page with regular communication.
  • Create fun holiday traditions. Every year, we look at lights and get Starbucks one evening a few days before Christmas. We have a nice Christmas Eve dinner, open one gift, and read The Night Before Christmas to our kids. Every year, we look forward to revisiting those traditions together.

Obviously with routines, there’s room to flex and allow for spontaneity. Life just happens and some evenings we don’t have time to connect the way we’d like. But our goal is to strive for it.

The point of focusing on routines is to help protect the time you and your spouse have together. Routines help you say “no” so you can better keep your priorities in line. Open communication stems from spending quality time together and trust is built when you protect your marriage in such a way.


Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife, mom, writer and editor in rural Colorado. Through story, personal experience, and biblical insight she is passionate about helping others live out their faith in everyday life and relationships. She has been writing for leading Christian books and magazines for over 12 years and holds a BA in English and Master’s in Religion. Samantha and her husband, Jeremiah, have been married for a decade and have four young children. Samantha writes candidly about marriage, motherhood, and faith at samanthakrieger.com

  • Lindsay

    This is great, Samantha! I like the idea of having routines with the one (or ones) you love, because it fosters bonding, security, care, and commitment as you prioritize each other over all other people in your life. I know that I always enjoyed eating dinner together as a family when I was a child, and I loved that we had Christmas traditions with just the four of us, apart from extended family. I want to do these sorts of things when I have a husband and children someday. 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing Lindsay. It’s great that you remember and loved those family dinners. They are so important!

  • Right after my husband and I got married, we were super busy and found it hard to have time reserved for each other. We eventually decided that we would have at least one meal together, at the dining room table instead of in front of the tv, or on the go. It has helped us tremendously and those times have become extremely precious to us. Those are the times where we connect, talk about our day and communicate about anything we need to communicate about. And as anyone in any relationship knows, communication is key to a relationship and communication can’t happen if you aren’t regularly spending time together. I wholeheartedly agree with your message. Thank you for this!

  • I love hearing that, Bethany. That’s super encouraging. And you are right on about, “communication is key to a relationship and communication can’t happen if you aren’t regularly spending time together.”

  • I am a very scheduled person, and we had lots of those kinds of things when we were first married, and it really helped when the kids were younger, but as we got older, and the kids got older, and the issues we dealt with (the teen years are extremely emotionally draining) we found we had to often be very flexible with our schedules, because the schedule became more important than extending grace. For example, on the day of our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband had to be at work for part of the day even though the plan was to spend the day together. He had to be there; it was a matter of responsibility. Fifteen years ago, I would have had a negative attitude about it. He couldn’t help it; to harangue him about it would have been demonstrating my own selfishness. I didn’t say a thing. He came home later, and we re-connected. Grace. It’s all about grace. The secret to a good marriage is grace.

  • Jeralynn

    Great article!

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