The Lifegiver Blog

Keep the SPARK in Your Service Marriage

It’s a new year! This is the perfect time to take your 2020 calendar and add 12 items that will help you keep your marriage full of life.

If your spouse is deployed or has travel dates, you may have to be creative in this, but it is absolutely possible to plan something every month of the year.


Three ideas for selecting the 12 dates on the calendar:

  1. Plan a date or special activity on the date of your anniversary. For example, if you got married on the 5th of May, mark that date each month to do something with or for your spouse.
  2. Look ahead at each month and select a date that works best for your marriage for that specific month.
  3. Set aside the 1st Saturday of each month (or 3rd Tuesday… whatever works) as an ongoing date, blocked off.


What to do on your dates:

If your spouse is not deployed, here are a few ideas for your monthly get-togethers, whether you are a military or first-responder family:

  • Pick a new restaurant to try each month (lunch dates while kids are at school are perfectly acceptable!).
  • Laser tag
  • Escape room
  • Museums (free in many cities for serving families)
  • Pick a new running (or hiking) route.
  • Read a book together (either at the same time or read separately and talk about it later).
  • Pick a social justice issue that you care about and spend one of your dates volunteering in that area.
  • Go to a local concert (or ballet, theater play).
  • Attend a painting class (or pottery, or glass blowing).
  • Take dance lessons.


If you are military and your spouse is deployed (deploying):

  • Get away for one or two nights before or after the deployment.
  • Select a book to read and discuss it when you are able to connect.
  • Pick a new show to watch (not binge!!) together one episode at a time.
  • Send a package or letter (deployed service members really do love to receive mail!).
  • Be creative in what you send. My husband sent me messages in a bottle, a pillowcase he wrote sweet notes on, and hundreds (literally) of letters that he wrote in batches and mailed sporadically. He was more creative than I was!
  • Mail a paper journal back and forth. You could use this for jotting down things you miss about each other, activities you look forward to doing together once the deployment is over, dreams about future travel destinations, or set goals you want to accomplish as individuals and as a couple.
  • Plan a phone call once a month while the children are gone or with a sitter so you can really focus on your spouse. (It is really hard to concentrate on the conversation when trying to keep a toddler from nosediving off the back of the couch.)


If you are a first responder couple and your spouse has an unpredictable schedule (many military jobs are quite similar):

  • Remember, lunch dates count!
  • Stay flexible. You well know that plans can change instantly.
  • If you had plans to do something together and your serving spouse is called in to work, use that time wisely (which will look different to each person!).
  • Look for a network of people who “get it” and can understand your disappointment when the job interferes with your plans, but…
  • Make sure the people you talk to don’t disparage your spouse or the job; high quality friends can listen to your disappointment and feel it with you without making matters worse.
  • Be in a habit of allowing your serving spouse to unwind from the hypervigilant state into a calm one and look into what toll that takes on a person.
  • If you are the serving spouse, recognize this process and find ways to mentally walk yourself from the hypervigilant state into one that is calm and family-friendly.
  • This idea is adapted from the deployed spouse list: Buy a paper journal and pass it back and forth. You could use this for jotting down things you miss about each other, activities you plan on doing together, dreams about future travel destinations, or set goals you want to accomplish as individuals and as a couple.


Practical ideas if you have kids:

  • Swap out child care with another family.
  • At-home dates are great to save money. Combine this idea with the swapping out of child care and you can drop your kids off at a friend’s house and head back home. Snuggle up with a movie or play a game uninterrupted. Be sure to return the favor!
  • Find a store with drop-off childcare and shop kid-free. (In Germany, both IKEA and Hofmeister have free, two-hour child care to let parents shop.)
  • Take turns letting each other sleep in. While not a “together” activity, this gift to your spouse can earn you major bonus points.


Ideas from Lifegivers on Facebook:

  • Attend a marriage retreat
  • Read through a marriage enrichment book
  • Occasionally, turn off all screens and sit together on the couch just catching up
  • Date like you did before you were married
  • Send sweet messages during the day
  • Show your appreciation for them
  • Go-karting
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood
  • Pray together regularly
  • Marriage counseling (even healthy marriages can benefit from counseling!)
  • Have an older couple mentor you
  • Dream together
  • Hug (not a passing but a lingering hug)
  • Spend a day like tourists where you live
  • Winery for wine tasting
  • Work on listening skills
  • Get away to a romantic cabin and don’t leave the cabin for a whole weekend
  • Chores can wait; be present in the moment
  • Have a job with flexibility so you’re available when your serving spouse is available

However you choose to make time, or whatever you choose to do, being intentional about planning ahead will give you and your spouse some much-needed time and space together and help keep that spark alive.