Every Friday is date day for my husband and I. It’s his day off and I keep my calendar open to allow us to spend the day together. And it’s an advance decision we intentionally make to keep a priority in place.

Learning to make advance decisions can be one of the best strategies for protecting your marriage and keeping it a priority. In 24 years of marriage, Mark and I have learned that we need to decide in advance how we will give time, protection, and investment to our marriage. If we don’t make those decisions, the frantic pace of life will eventually erode the love and commitment we have.

Scheduling dates is one advance decision every married couple should make. If you have dates on your calendar for the next three to four months, you are assured that you will take time to play together, have fun together, and carry on a conversation on a regular basis without the interruption of your children. If you’ve never done this before, sit down together with a calendar and put a big heart on the days you will plan for some time together. If your children are young, arrange for a sitter about one month in advance. And don’t worry about dates needing to cost a lot of money, we’re not talking dinner and movie every time. A date can be something as simple as walking on Constitution Trail together. It can be a picnic in the park or ice skating at the Coliseum. What’s most important is that you take time to laugh, talk, and play together.

Scheduling getaways is another advance decision every married couple should make. Once or twice a year, set aside time for a 24-48 hour getaway for just the two of you. Can grandma watch the kids? Can you trade childcare with another couple? With a date on the calendar, the details are ready to be determined and the plans are put in place. This time away is essential for couples to remember what it’s like to sleep until noon together or to spend the day hiking trails. This is when you take the time to do things like bike trails, museums, or taking in a ball game together like you did before you had kids.

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Scheduling intimacy is a third advance decision married couples should make…especially couples with kids. Too often we expect physical intimacy to always be spontaneous, but in a life with children the pace is frantic and the exhaustion is constant. Spontaneity happens occasionally, but not often enough for a healthy love life. Smart couples who make a commitment to a regular schedule of intimacy find this advance decision is one of the best decisions they make for their marriage. For the person with a higher desire for intimacy, it assures them sex will happen and when. For the partner with a lesser desire for intimacy, it builds anticipation and helps them prepare mentally and physically for the time together.

Finally, setting boundaries for interacting with member of the opposite sex is a fourth advance decision every couple should make. This is one of the most important decisions we need to make because it protects the marriage relationship. Temptation often happens when we least expect it and if we haven’t put boundaries in place — advance decisions about interacting with the opposite sex — we may find ourselves drawn to someone other than our spouse. Smart couples agree to refrain from being alone with someone of the opposite sex. They agree to draw some lines that recognize the possibilities of temptation and intentionally place distance between someone of the opposite sex.

Too often, we move through life without much intentionality and then we pay a hefty price down the road.  What goals do you have for your marriage? Do you want it to last a lifetime? Do you want to enjoy the season of raising children together? Answer those questions and then make advance decisions that will turn your goals into reality. A little bit of planning and intentional investment can go a long way to make our dreams of life-long love come true.

Copyright © 2009 by Jill Savage.  Jill (www.jillsavage.org) is the founder and Executive Director of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org), an organization designed to encourage, educate, and equip women in the profession of motherhood.  Jill and her husband Mark have 5 children and make their home in Normal, Illinois.