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Successful marriage must be cultivated

Timeouts from busy lives sustain relationships

Timeouts from busy lives sustain relationships

May 04, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

With jobs, two kids, coaching, working at concession stands and helping with church activities, Chewsville-area couple JoAnn and Chris Bolton try to have a date night once a month and go away for a couple's weekend twice a year.

Beth and Keith Allshouse of Hagerstown grab pieces of time together when they can - helping each other get ready for work in the morning and, on Sundays, when they take their two children grocery shopping.

Couples who don't find time together can become disconnected while they try to manage their responsibilities at work and at home, said Marilou Barratt, a Hagerstown clinical social worker who does couples counseling.

They lose context with each other. Then at some point they look at each other and wonder who that person is who they no longer know or feel connected to, Barratt said.

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The date nights and weekend getaways give the Boltons, married for almost 21 years, a chance to reconnect, said JoAnn Bolton, 45, a finance assistant for Washington County Hospital.

"We need to make times for ourselves," said Chris Bolton, echoing a sentiment shared by other local couples.

That time is important whether it's talking about grown-up matters or just sitting together and reading the paper, said Beth Allshouse, an assistant principal at Pangborn Elementary School.

"We try to get some alone time together so we don't forget why we got married in the first place," she said.

Since John and Abby Wilson added to their blended family with a baby six months ago, their date nights have been reduced from two or three times a month to maybe once every two months.

Still, even with busy schedules, the Martinsburg, W.Va., couple realize it's important for them to share quality time of their own.

"It's just going to be Abby and I 20 years down the road," said John Wilson, 32, a health and life skills teacher at Clear Spring High School.

They've heard stories about couples who didn't cultivate their relationship, and once the kids moved out of the house the couples ended up getting divorced.

"We don't want to get to that point. It's a balancing act. We definitely have to find time for Abby and John, but for the kids too," John Wilson said.

Karla and Skip Chambers of Williamsport said the connection they maintained through planning date nights when their children were still at home was important then and remains so now that the kids are grown.

If the couple hadn't planned ahead for date nights by securing a baby sitter, the dates wouldn't have happened, given the couple's and children's busy schedules, said Skip Chambers, 53, who teaches social studies at Boonsboro High School.

"He still e-mails occasionally, asking about dates. It's kind of sweet," Karla Chambers said.

Barratt believes in the language of love, a concept developed by Dr. Gary Smalley, a psychologist. Smalley points to five basic ways to communicate love. They are: quality time, words of affirmation such as telling your partner why he or she is important to you, acts of service, small gifts to show the person you've paid attention to what he or she likes, and physical affection, including holding hands or sitting together.

It's important for couples to understand that each partner might interpret these ways to communicate love differently or each partner might prefer different methods of communicating their love, Barratt said.

One partner might interpret going out to dinner and going to the supermarket together as quality time, whereas the other partner might prefer to be the beneficiary of a helpful act instead of quality time, she said.

Paula Moore, 34, of Hagerstown, enjoys the e-mail her husband, Doug, sends her almost every morning after the two arrive at their jobs.

Doug Moore, 35, a physical therapist at NMS Healthcare of Hagerstown, describes the daily e-mail as a "little love letter" to let his wife know he's thinking about her.

When one of them has a business trip, the other tags along or joins in later so they can make it a getaway, the Moores said. Sometimes their quality time is spent en route, either in the car or on the plane.

"We have to connect on some level just to keep our own relationship up," said Doug Moore, adding that it's just as important for their 5-year-old twin daughters that their relationship stay strong.

It's important for them to model good behavior so their daughters see a good healthy relationship and know what to look for in the future, Doug Moore said.

Moore credits his own parents with setting that example for him.

"They've always done a nice job of being each other's best friend as well as being married, which Paula and I are," he said.

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