1. Leave the phone in the car.Yes, some relationships need BIG changes (intervention, counseling, accountability, etc…), but some relationships can be dramatically altered by some very SMALL and doable actions.
When you come home from work it's too simple to get lost in texting, checking, and reading from the phone. Don't make the mistake of believing you are so critical to the world that you must be accessible at all times. Leave the phone in the car while you need to be focusing on your spouse.
2. Close your laptop.
Computers are wonderful. But, when the computer is on, I'd swear that it calls my name incessantly, "Hey Doug! Yoo hoo! I know you're there! Pay attention to me!" It's too easy to come home and "get lost" in the computer that's always on and calling your attention (blogs, email, Quicken, etc…). Turn it off and see if you can turn on some dialogue with your spouse.
3. Show up on time. If you tell your spouse that you'll be home by 6pm… get home. Not 6:30…not even 6:05. Here's an example that can serve as a cautionary tale for you.
My wife Cathy was (and still is) a very patient person. During our first weeks of marriage she would call me in the afternoon, asking about my arrival time and we'd talk about our dinner plans. She was always cheerful and flexible and didn't mandate a time to be home. I was always given the chance to pick the time. Typically, I'd say something like, "I'll be home at 6, so why don't we eat at 6:30?"
Things would have gone really well had I arrive home at 6 p.m. like I had said I would. Instead, as I was leaving the church office, I'd get a phone call from a student who wanted me to drop by his house and see his new drum set. "What a great ministry opportunity!" I'd think to myself, "And it's on the way home…" Or, as I was preparing to leave the office, a parent stopped by and asked if I had "just a minute." Or, while packing up to go home, I'd realize I had forgotten to call someone and that it was too important to wait until the next day (when I might forget again,) so I'd call before I left the office.
Anyway, all these distractions captured my attention, and I was always late coming home. But, I really didn't think it was a big deal since Cathy was asking me what time was convenient for me. And it wasn't like I was hours late. It was just minutes (20, 30, 45 minutes). No big deal because I could justify all the extra time as part of my youth pastor job.
One night while we were having dinner, I politely asked Cathy, "Do you mind if I heat this up in the microwave for a minute?" Little did I know that a simple question could lead to tears, screaming, silverware flying, words that I had never heard Cathy say before (to this day I still believe she may have been speaking in tongues), and a quick exit from the table. I thought, "What was that all about?"
After pulling the fork from my neck, it became clear to me that it wasn't about my question; it was about my nightly decisions to make everything and everyone in my youth ministry more important than my bride. It was about the disrespect I showed Cathy by not following through on my commitment to be home at a specific time.
If you make a commitment to your spouse, honor it. It's amazing what simple actions will communicate about love and respect.
4. Reduce TV time by half. I'm not asking you to become Amish and ditch all TV. I'm suggesting that you cut your viewing time in half. Many of us eat dinner while watching TV. Try shutting it off and engaging in dinner conversation. TV also can become background noise in our life that we don't really need. It's on even when no one is watching. It becomes like a noisy soundtrack to our lives. So, instead of the easy default of having the TV on, cut your TV time in half and spend that extra time engaging with your spouse.
5. Leave a short note. The emphasis on this is "short" I'm not suggesting two pages, typed out, double-spaced. What if you left your spouse a short note every day for a week? Short words of affection and encouragement can be powerful. And, if it's not a regular practice, these notes will become treasures.