Allow us to note a few of the most overlooked moments in marriage. Chances are that you already take advantage of some of them. You use them to tip the scales toward love. But ou may not always use them to full advantage.

1. Making a Moment: When You Say Hello

Fido may do a better job than you do of greeting your spouse when he or she comes home at the end of the day. If you have a family dog, you know what it means to be loyal, enthusiastic, and totally focused on the greeting ritual. But even if you don’t, you can still learn a lesson from “man’s best friend.” How you greet each other sets the tone for the time that follows. If your opening words to your spouse are about having left the garage door open or remembering to pay a bill, you’re missing out on a great moment. A loving greeting, a tender touch, a kiss, or an embrace are sure to tip the scales in the right direction. The key to doing this, as with all meaningful moments, is to prepare your mind for it. As you’re walking up your front steps, think through how you’d like to say hello and establish a connection.

2. Making a Moment: When You Say Good-Bye

Just as how we say hello offers the possibility of a positive moment, so does a good good-bye. Perhaps the most famous and loving of all good-byes was the one William Shakespeare created between Romeo and Juliet:

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Now that’s a good-bye. We’re not saying every good-bye is going to be this dramatic-at least we hope not. But it does underscore the value of how we say farewell. Whether it be in the morning before work or before an out-of-town trip separates you for longer, a good good-bye is another moment to tip the scales of time toward love. The key here is simply to be mindful of the good-bye. If you say, “I’ll miss you,” mean it. Allow your eyes to linger on your spouse for that moment. Leave him or her with a loving wink, if that comes naturally. But most of all, be mindfully present.

3. Making a Moment: When You Go to Sleep

Some of the most important minutes of your marriage can be the ones you spend together just before you fall asleep. But far too many couples waste this opportunity. They don’t give it a second thought. They doze off to late-night chatter on the television, a book that makes them drowsy, or maybe the sound of a machine that blocks out distractions. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but -couples miss out on one of their best opportunities to make a meaningful connection. They end their day stuck in a rut of simply falling asleep in the same bed, when by connecting, they could be dozing off to much sweeter dreams.

If you’re like us, you don’t always go to bed at the same time-one of you is a night owl and the other an early riser. But this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice pillow talk. Just take a few minutes before the first one of you dozes off. Lie beside each other and talk or pray. Even if one of you stays awake into the wee hours, you’ll at least have experienced that prime time of connection.

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4. Making a Moment: When You Have a Tough Day

We all have low periods-times when we are not at our best. And again, these are moments ripe with potential to tip the scales. To do so, it may help to know what recent research has discovered about the genders. After a tough day, women are more likely than men to criticize their spouses, while men tend to respond to daytime stress by withdrawing from their mates.

Whatever the gender dispositions dictate, don’t allow a tough day to come between you and your spouse. As your partner clams up or gets snippy, as the case may be, tip the scales in your favor by being mindful of the tough circumstances. Give your partner some grace, and you’ll recoup countless minutes that might otherwise be spent sulking. How can you do this? By letting her know you understand that her day didn’t go the way she wanted. By being accepting of a temporary bad mood, rather than trying to get him to instantly change or denying that he feels bad altogether. You can offer your spouse grace by loving him or her anyway.

5. Making a Moment: When You’re in a Routine

Believe it or not, most of the important moments in a marriage occur out of habit. These habits are known as “rituals.” Marriage and family therapist William Doherty defines marital rituals as “social interactions that are repeated, coordinated, and have positive emotional significance.”2 Basically, this is a routine time to mindfully reconnect as a -couple. It’s a scheduled moment, mutually decided on, that cuts a new groove in your day or week. A common example is a cup of coffee after dinner. “You tell the kids to go play and leave you alone,” says Doherty. “That is the clear sign that you are making the transition to -couples time.” Then you talk about personal stuff, like how you are feeling or what’s weighing on your mind. There is no logistics talk about the kids’ next soccer games. There is no problem-solving for the family. And you keep any conflict out of the conversation.

6. Making a Moment Last

Memories compound when they are experienced with someone you love. That’s why we want to leave you with one final thought about maximizing your moments. If you really want to get the most out of them, you’ll learn to turn them into a memory.

Most -people don’t lead their life; they accept their life. They wait for memorable experiences to happen, never giving a thought to creating an experience that will make a memory. However, some of the best memories you will ever have can come from making them happen-even on an otherwise mundane day.

Memories don’t find us; we find them. We make memories. Lewis Carroll said, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backward.” We’ve got to be on the lookout for them.

“Remember when we went to the top of Smith Tower?” Leslie asked me just the other day. “I’m so glad we did that.”

Taken from Your Time-Starved Marriage by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott.
Copyright © 2006 by Les & Leslie Parrott.  Used by permission of Zondervan.