One of the more popular posts on the SmartLoving blog features Couple Projects. First published in 2014, our search data over the years shows that its title is a common search theme but the stats really jumped during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020.
Faced with spending an unknown amount to time in each other’s company, couples got creative about how to use that opportunity. It led us to write again on the topic, this time with a lockdown lens.
‘Couple projects’ are important for our relationship principally because they support us spending time with each other. Spending time together – especially leisure time – builds powerful attachment bonds. And attachment bonds keep us together in good times and bad.
When we look back on our early romance, we did a lot of shared activities as we explored each other’s interests and passions. From astronomy to water skiing and a common background in the Antioch youth movement, there was no shortage of things to do together.
Time to give
Time is a valuable currency in relationships, but it’s in short supply in a busy world and therefore a common source of arguments. Whether its work, hobbies or a social engagement that takes us away from each other, when we argue about the lack of time together, we’re really arguing about feeling neglected and disconnected.
Even universally acknowledged good things, like social causes, charitable works and Church commitments, can be a source of tension in a marriage if our spouse feels the cause is competing for our attention. If it also absorbs significant financial resources, it can be a double hit to our unity.
It’s hard to criticise a good cause, but if it comes at the expense of our primary vocation, it’s a ‘bad’ cause for us. We think we are doing good, but we’re unwittingly undermining our primary vocation and responsibilities – our marriage and our family life.
Volunteering together is one very practical way of countering these pitfalls. There are any number of worthy causes in which we can get involved, but we don’t need to invest in all of them.
We can, and we should, discern which of them we, as a couple, are called to support. There is no shortage of options – we can find one that enthuses both husband and wife.
The ‘marriage neglect’ risk has certainly been a challenge for us in our own volunteering over the years. We manage it by making most of our volunteering the work we do in SmartLoving where nurturing our relationship is part of the package.
We’ve been greatly enriched in our own marriage as well as having the satisfaction of seeing other marriages flourish as a result of this work. Of particular joy, are the many wonderful couples who join us in the Sponsor Couple project where couples support an engaged couple during their preparation. It’s a simple and powerful way to volunteer and nourish our marriage.
Let’s Stick Together
There are so many things in our lives that drive us apart. Modern couples need to proactively fight to protect their couple-time because the default values of the culture are individualistic rather than interdependent.
Our marriage vows demand that we be discerning about how we deploy our time and money. In a world of excessive stimulation, it’s easy to get caught up doing things in parallel, rather than doing them together.
Couple volunteering is one way to counter this. It provides a structure for spending time together with the added bonus of simultaneously doing good for others.