The Frugal Catholic: “Making Marriage a Priority or Cheap Dates We’ve Known and Loved” by Martha Wild King–February 7, 2010

Over the Christmas holiday, Jane arrived at a neighborhood party, her petite, pretty self.  I wanted to ask her about her recent separation.  Although I knew it was prying, I wanted to know from her so I said, “Jane I know it isn’t any of my business, but I was concerned when I heard about you and Tom.  Is there anything I can pray for?”  Some part of her private heart broke loose then she looked at me intently and said, “Martha, Tom and I quit working on the marriage after the children came.  We just kept brushing our feelings under the rug, and didn’t deal with them.  We didn’t make our marriage a priority and make time to be together.  Whatever you do, work on your marriage!”

It isn’t often that someone you know only in a casual way shares such a deep part of themselves and her words hit me.  Not that Michael–The Good Captain–and I don’t work on our marriage of 30 years, but that she was verifying something which I know to be true, but so seldom hear.  Thus, dear reader, I pass this on: Take time to work on your marriage!

Looking through the eyes of Catholicism and frugality, what are some ways we can strengthen the sacrament of marriage?  Below are listed a few of which Michael  reminded me, and I will rate them according to restaurant symbols.

Remember: An investment in your marriage is like savings in the bank.  You dated before marriage and constantly reconnecting is a vital glue within your marriage now.  Dates don’t have to be expensive, but they speak to your children and the world that you make your marriage a priority!

$$$= OVER $50

  • Hire a baby-sitter and sail off to Seattle ( or any city for that matter) with your spouse for the afternoon.  Hit a hotel.  What fun.
  • Purchase season’s tickets to the symphony, ballet, opera, or a play series. These tickets will ensure that you get out periodically.  Michael and I have season tickets to the symphony at Benaroya Hall.  We go to six symphonies a year.  In the beginning, we bought these in the “nose bleed section” which is as high up as you can go at the cost of $15 a ticket.  On the first symphony, however, I had the feeling that I was going to faint and fall over the side (not a pretty site), so I told the usher.  He immediately got on his walkie-talkie and said, “Lady in the balcony with vertigo.  Need to seat her and her husband downstairs.”  He said to call the symphony and ask for the up-front same-price tickets which we did and have been sitting there with our $15 tickets for ten years.
  • Go visit a timeshare presentation, say at Whistler BC, and sit through the 90-minute event for the privilege of having two nights free.  Many couples do this but just don’t bring their checkbook.  We did, however, purchase when we went so this was not a cheap date, but it has proved to be a great family vacation investment which Michael calls “vacation insurance.”

$$=UNDER $50

  • Look on line and find coupons for dining out.  Heck, go to an expensive restaurant and order the cheapest thing on the menu.  Our favorite is cheeseburgers at an expensive seafood restaurant in Seattle.  Cost $10.  Or you can order one expensive entree and split it.  If you are looking for a reasonably-priced babysitter, check the Girl Scouts.  Often, the young girls take classes through The Red Cross, and they are looking for sitting experience.
  • For a dinner out without going out, try “dining in.”  Get two prepared meals from a caterer, Stouffer’s Lasagna, or a carton of grocery store soup (something you didn’t prepare); and when the children are down, enjoy a candle-lit meal with a $3 bottle of wine or sparkling cider.  The Breedens, parents of eight in Maryland, have taken this idea one step further.  Sharon purchased a little cafe table set for their bedroom, and they often retreat there for a “private dinner” while the older ones watch the younger ones.
  • Net flicks, of course, equals a movie at home.  So why not add to the event with some home-made popcorn.
  • And finally, consider family camping or even back-packing.  Dates work there also.  Some of my most precious memories are of sitting with Michael around the campfire when the children were asleep in the tent.

$=FREE or nearly so (these simple acts can truly add to your marriage)

  • Grad hands every time prayers are said at Mass.
  • Hold each other and pray together for the day before in front of your family crucifix before your spouse heads off for work.
  • Go for a long walk on the weekend.  We walk four miles on Sunday afternoons then have a cup of coffee and continue our walk.  This gives us a time to connect about family, finances, future, and get in exercise.  For the years we have done this, we have walked across the state of Washington in mileage at least twice–800 miles.
  • Read the Bible together at your dinner table which has been set with candlelight and place mats.  Dinner can be such a wonderful time to retreat and reconnect as a family.
  • Set up a place in the house for romance where you can light a candle, enjoy some wine or tea, and simply talk after the children are down.  Ours is in the living room and/or on the old wicker couch on the front porch.  Of course, now that the last remaining child is 13, she sometimes joins us on the porch as we all snuggle under the fleece blankets and chat.
  • Rent the first movie you ever saw together.
  • Re-read as a couple love notes or greeting cards you’ve given each other over the years.
  • Look through photos or videos of treasured times.
  • Write and share a list of 10 reasons why you love each other.
  • With a cup of tea in hand, recall the names of movies you’ve seen together, restaurants you’ve dined at, or vacation spots you’ve shared.

The greatest gift Michael and I can give to our five children besides our Catholic faith is our marriage.  Continue to “date each other.”  It is money well spent.

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