"What?" My husband looked at me across the restaurant table. The evening sun, streaming in through the glass-covered atrium, glinted off the sparkling silverware. A burst of rainbows spread over the white tablecloth as the sun's rays hit the glass tumblers.

"It's quiet. No one's interrupting us or wanting us for something. We can actually talk!" He grinned. As our eyes met over the menu, I felt a connection with him in a way that hadn't happened in a while.

After 15 years, Jim and I had managed to get away for a day—just the two of us. Even though we made sure we regularly spent time together during our work weeks, retreating from our hectic lives to Chateau Élan, a tranquil spot on the outskirts of Atlanta, was doing wonders for us.

The next day, we returned home to a cranky toddler, a frazzled grandmother, and a tired tween. I opened the refrigerator to discover that dark, sticky rivulets of a nondescript substance had oozed down the shelves and sides of the fridge, sticking to the fruits and vegetables to the bottom drawers.

As I cleaned each shelf with a toddler clinging to my legs, my euphoria disappeared. By the time I reached the drawers, dislodging and wiping off every fruit and vegetable, I was longing for our getaway.

That night, as Jim and I sat on the sofa after everyone was in bed, he murmured, "Lord, help us find a way to make this our Chateau Élan."

Homeschooling is a busy season in life. If we're honest with ourselves, we know that the husband-wife relationship can sometimes take a backseat despite our best efforts and knowledge. Jim and I are realizing that we have to be intentional about our marriage. Intentionality is more than scheduling time together. It's finding meaningful ways to connect. It's working to keep God and each other at top priority.

Intentionality is at the heart of each of the following areas.

Time to Relate

Given our schedules—Jim's two-hour daily commute, homeschooling activities, church commitments, etc.—it's challenging to carve out time for each other. Commitment-free weekends and evenings offer us larger chunks of time together. During the week, we grab little windows of time—a phone call, a couple of uninterrupted minutes around the dinner table when our tween catches her breath from regaling us with a minute-by-minute account of her day, or a few minutes while cleaning the kitchen.

But intentional relationship-building is more than taking time to be with each other: it's taking time to relate in ways that are meaningful to the other. I need to connect emotionally with Jim—to chat with him, share my day, ask his advice, and hear about him and his day. On the other hand, exhausted after his day, he is content to sit on the sofa next to me and watch TV.

Every day on his bus ride home, we chat on the phone. When he enters the house, I feel connected with him, and he doesn't feel the pressure to try to meet my emotional needs immediately. Some days we talk for a while; other days it's a shorter conversation. Even though the time may not come in ways we'd like and the setting may not be perfect, because our focus is on relating to each other, those tiny windows of time go a long way in building our relationship.

Communication

"You really hurt my feelings," my husband commented one evening when the kids were in bed.

I looked at him in surprise. "I did?" As he refreshed my memory, I saw what had happened. It had been a mad scramble to get dinner on the table, feed our toddler, remind my tween about chores, and see what my mother needed. All the while, my mind was on a writing project. When Jim offered to help, my response was unkind, even though I didn't mean to be harsh.

"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). It's hard to remember this truth while multitasking and feeling pressured to meet everyone's needs.