Remember with me, if you will. The man of my dreams shows up at my door, on time, freshly shaven and fragranced, holding pink roses-my favorite. We’re going out to dinner and exploring a trendy area in our city. Dinner is fun and funky with dim lights and intimate conversation. After dinner, we walk hand-in-hand along a creek-side path. We watch the stars twinkle, feel the spray from a wind-swept fountain, and smell the enticing flavors from food vendors. We are so in love, but just dating right now. Fast forward 18 months. We’re snuggled on the couch watching television. It’s a Friday night, but we’re just watching TV in our two-bedroom apartment. It’s perfect though, as we make sure our two bodies are touching as much as possible while sitting together. We’re sort of watching TV, but far more interested in watching each other. We are so in love and we are newlyweds. Who needs excitement or dates, when we have EACH OTHER! Fast forward 13 years. I’m working on the computer. He’s playing a video game. Our daughter is watching TV. We are all in different rooms. We are so in love with each other. We are married. We are committed. We are comfortable. We are content. Well, mostly, if you catch my drift.
This story may sound like a bad joke on an anniversary card, but it’s true. The longer we’re married, the easier it is to “forget” how to date each other. As I read books and blogs about maintaining a happy Christian marriage, time and again I am reminded that we must keep dating our spouse. But my husband doesn’t see as much of a need for dating anymore, until I make a big deal about it. Then I just feel like a nagging wife. So what’s a girl to do?
Food For Thought Please do not misunderstand what I’m saying about my man! He is a wonderful husband. He does a lot for me, he’s a great father, and he helps out at home quite a lot. But in the midst of our daily lives and busy schedules, it’s very easy to forget the excitement, that “rush” from the dating experience. Those are the feelings that make us so attracted to our spouse. They’re also the feelings that help us remember we are desirable and attractive, too. I have really tried to focus on improving my marriage and becoming a better wife, especially in the past few years. I know a lot about the spiritual side of maintaining a strong and faithful marriage. I work hard on the “big stuff”–prayer, patience, communication, etc. But you know, sometimes I just want some plain ol’ girly romance. I certainly have made efforts in this area, although not always well-received. Just check out my post of Epic Wife Fails! So why is dating my spouse so hard?
The struggles are going to be different for every couple, but I think I found five key issues in our own relationship. The first obstacle is responsibilities. These include responsibilities for parenting, jobs, and family. Many couples put their own relationship on the back burner to meet the needs of their kids or aging parents first. Work demands also infringe on our time together. This was especially true when I was teaching full-time, including going in on the weekends to work in my classroom. The second obstacle is finances. This one seems to be an issue for us for the first time since we first got married. While we don’t regret the decision for me to work from home and pursue a different career path, we are beginning to notice less finances for the “extras,” like concerts, sporting events, and, let’s just say Valentine’s Day this year lacked “sparkle.” I guess it’s a good thing that my love language isn’t “Receiving Gifts!” The third thing I notices is our level of comfort. Being comfortable with one another is actually a perk to being together longer. We no longer worry about hiding our true selves, which helps us tackle issues in a more honest fashion. But sometimes, being comfortable with each other might mean we stop trying to impress our mate. We know that we have each other for better or worse. We’ve communicated loud and clear, “I’m not going anywhere!” So, we get a little lax in our dating efforts. Time is another big issue. It seems like when we want to do something, there are other factors to consider. Can we get a sitter for our daughter? What if someone gets ill, how can we make up the missed date? Our daughter is also involved in several activities, requiring a lot of weekend time. We want and need her to participate in these things, but it limits the time her dad and I can plan for dates. Finally, and I’m sad to say this, but my own expectations are one of our biggest obstacles. I get grand visions in my mind of how our dates are supposed to look. I am guilty of letting outside sources control my perspective of what romance is supposed to look like and I get let down. Then I project my disappointment onto my husband, who likely finds it to be less hassle to do nothing than to deal with me and my emotions. Obviously I have some areas I need to work on to improve the dating relationship I have with my husband.
One of the books that helped me understand this better was The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. I even persuaded my husband to take the love languages quiz! It was no surprise that my primary love language was “Quality Time.” This explains why having one-on-one time with my husband is so critical to my emotional well-being and the health of our marriage. I shared this with my husband, hoping he would understand that these dates are really important to me. My husband’s primary love language is “Words of Affirmation.” This means I need to not be critical or voice disappointment in his attempts or efforts for dating me, even if they fall short of my expectations. He needs to know that his efforts are appreciated, which leads to more attempts at dates and romance. By knowing each other’s love language, we can support each other and meet each other’s needs, even when it comes to our dating relationship.
Today’s DIY My husband always says that I’m better at coming up with date ideas than he is, but I constantly worry that I’ll want to do something that he doesn’t want to do. When we were dating, he was happy to accompany me to an art gallery and I eagerly joined him at the local Renaissance Festival. We did what the other wanted to just because we wanted to spend time together. Why has that changed? We can still do what each other wants to do, I think. A while back I asked my husband to go for a walk with me, which is as a good as a date in my book. He flat-out told me No! The weather was nice and he wasn’t sick, so I was a little hurt. But then I realized how many times he has wanted me to sit on the couch and watch TV or a movie with him, and I’ve given a similar response. We both need to keep in mind that it’s not so much about the activity, as it is about spending time TOGETHER. Cue today’s DIY craft project: The Date Jar. When I’m getting a little restless without date time or my husband is having trouble coming up with an idea, we can reach into our cute little jar and pull out a card with an idea. Sure, we could have used any old empty jar or a plain ol’ cup for our cards, but why? This project is CHEAP! The most expensive part of the project was the yellow paint pen, because I wanted a color to match the other pieces I found.
Everyone knows I love Hobby Lobby and everyone knows I love a bargain! As a side note, I am not affiliated with this store or any of the brands mentioned in this post, as of writing this post. I got the best of both worlds to create this adorable date jar. This small lidded craft jar was normally $4.99, but I used my 40% off coupon from the Hobby Lobby app and got it for $2.99. Then I found the cutest yellow flower on clearance in the gift packaging aisle for only 50 cents! This is a huge savings over the similar blue flower I had found in paper crafts for $8.99! It was also a good reminder to check all the aisles because I never know what treasures I’m going to find! The decorative yellow cards were on clearance for $1 and I already have lots of black fine point pens for writing on the cards. I loved how the yellow matched between the cards and the flower, so to complete the theme I bought a yellow paint pen from Tree House Studios that cost $4.69. I’ll get a lot more uses from that pen anyway.
To make this easy project, I used the pen to handwrite “The Date Jar” on the side. This pen works so well with a smooth flow and no drips. Of course I needed to add a few little hearts too. The flower was a peel-and-stick gift topper, but it’s a heavy-duty adhesive block, so it’s not coming off that lid! My package of yellow cards had 25, so I wrote out 25 different ideas on the cards, keeping in mind things we both enjoy doing, inexpensive options, and things we don’t do often. The whole idea is to stretch and grow our minds in how we go about dating our spouses. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
The Book Store Date-explore a local book store finding books the other may enjoy
The $5 date–each of you gets five dollars to spend on the date–get creative!
The Coin-Flip Date–Designate a number of coin flips. Flip the coin and turn right for heads and left for tails until you have reached your designated number of coin flips. Make a date out of the destination you have reached. Be sure to have some cash on hand and a sense of adventure.
The Play Date–Go to an amusement park, arcade, toy store, park, etc. Act like kids again.
Chopped-Married Couple Edition–Give each other a basket of four ingredients and challenge each other to make a dish for your meal together. Make sure your both cooking in the kitchen together.
Movie Marathon Weekend–have a variety of movies that both of you enjoy and plenty of yummy snacks
Video Game Challenge–each of you challenge the other to a video game you think you can beat them at and see if the outcome is as you predicted
The Creative Date–make something together
Today’s Scripture There are so many passages in scripture that offer great advice for life together as a Christian couple and having a God-centered marriage and home. However, if I want to look at romantic scriptures, I turn to Song of Solomon. Here’s a passage from that book today: