Many couples don't take enough time to talk, bond, and firmly connect with each other during the early days of their marriage. If you're a newlywed, you can apply the 24-5 Principle by doing the following:
- Establish a special, exclusive covenant for one year.
- Refrain from all extra responsibilities during that year.
- Focus on and establish your marriage before you move out into career advancement, ministry, and further education.
- Invest in and bond with your spouse emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and sexually.
- Bring happiness to one another; limit your time with others during the first year.
You can expect some resistance from family members and friends on this decision. But ask them to pray for your marriage throughout this first year together.
What if you're asked by your church to take on a major task during that time? One counselor advises his clients to say something like, "Thank you for thinking of us. We're so pleased with the church and so encouraged by all of you. But we've been strongly advised by our counselor to invest in each other this first year of our marriage—to really bond and connect with each other and limit our activities. We promised him we'd do that. But please ask us again in a year or so, okay? We really want to be involved."
What if you're past the one-year mark? You can apply the 24-5 Principle at any time in your marriage. Here are five steps to doing just that:
- Keep your promise. Many couples, at their weddings, light a "unity candle" and blow out their individual candles. That symbolizes husband and wife dying to themselves in order to give birth to something new and much more intimate, beautiful, and mysterious—"two becoming one." One of the best ways to become one is to spend time together, and that can happen when you and your spouse talk, celebrate special occasions, set goals, go shopping, pay bills, play tennis, or study a devotional book.
- Be intentional and selective. Everyone has the same amount of time—24 hours a day. Avoid being sloppy with yours. Manufacturing more time isn't possible, but you can make excellent use of what you have by allocating time to talk and do things together. When that time comes, make sure you're rested and not rushed or preoccupied. If talking really is a priority for you, you'll say no to time-stealers like sitcoms, reality shows, and the Internet.
- Be creative and perseverant. Talk about a variety of subjects—solving problems, overcoming challenges, establishing goals and priorities, your spiritual life, preferences, and just having fun. Start small and build. Some couples tend to have unrealistic expectations. This may result in discouragement, criticism, and blaming. Remember that bonding and connecting don't happen overnight.
- Enjoy and encourage uniqueness. You and your spouse aren't alike. Think of how awful and boring it would be to be married to yourself! Those conversations wouldn't be very interesting, would they? As you spend time together, resist the temptation to try remaking your spouse in your image. Let the Holy Spirit transform both of you into the image of Christ. Allow and encourage your spouse to be the person God has created him or her to be, and enjoy that person.
- Be loving, respectful, and patient. The gift God has given you and your spouse is each other. In the end, He'll probably be less interested in your professional success or how much money you made than in how you nurtured the gift He gave you in marriage.
Taking time to talk is part of that. Choose wisely how you spend those minutes, hours, and days—especially in your early years together.
Many couples enter into marriage with false or unrealistic expectations. Some believe that marriage will solve their problems. Some do not understand that strong and growing marriages are a result of hard work. Thank you to all of the supporters who make the work of Focus on the Family possible.