Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

If you’re married, there’s a 100% chance that you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. You’ll sigh at the wrong time, or hold your eyebrows in the wrong expression, or worse. However it comes about, there is 100% certainty that you’ll disappoint your spouse. Since no marriage nor individual is perfect, disappointment is inevitable. 

In a marriage receiving proper care and focus, we quickly overcome these times of disappointment. We set aside suspicious or selfish thoughts with the assurance that there’s no ill-intent involved.  On the other hand, when TLC of marriage is neglected, challenging times can seem nearly impossible to conquer.  

I’ve witnessed many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. We can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. 

No relationship is protected 
from breaking down 
without intentional effort to build it up.  

One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came during shift work. As a patrol deputy, Mike rotated onto an annual 4-month period of swing shift (5 pm - 3 am) and our schedules were completely opposite from one another.  That’s tough on a young family.

When I’d get up for work, he was just reaching his deep sleep zone, so it was me, alone, getting myself and the kids ready to face the day. 

I’d arrive home from work after he was gone for the night. It was me, alone, picking up kids from day care, preparing dinner (often resorting to drive through), helping with homework, and getting ready for bed. 

Much of the time I felt like a single mom. It wasn’t fun, but we knew it was temporary so we muddled through. We had amazing kids. We had great careers and income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. We really thought we’d arrived. 

We didn’t know we needed to take time, 
just the two of us, 
to cultivate our marriage. 

And so we didn’t.

The more time we spent disconnected from each other, the more selfish my thought life became. Selfish thoughts bred more selfish thoughts that worked in opposition to a healthy married life.

And then, some of those relational mistakes hit us. Some big ones. While we used to find success talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. 

It took us several years to get back on track. We had to make some significant changes and let go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most.  Eventually, with the Lord’s help we brought friendship, trust and balance back to our marriage. If I can name one thing that had the greatest impact, it was making our date nights a priority.  

It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you really get to know your spouse? Did you have one 10-minute conversation over coffee and realize this was true love? Was a quick hello and kiss on the cheek enough to develop a longing for life-long commitment? We get to know each other by spending time together. By talking, laughing, planning and even dreaming together.  

Saying “I Do” shouldn’t mark the end 
of a dating relationship, 
but the promise to continue it. 

Sadly, dating our spouse is one of the first things that ends when the honeymoon is over. Pressures of life (careers, kids, finances, and many others) often distract us from prioritizing marriage. The reasons for NOT dating are many:  

  • I see him /her all the time.  I need some “me” time. 
  • We don’t have a good sitter.
  • We feel guilty for leaving the kids after working all day.
  • Who has time for a date?
  • Cash flow is too tight for entertainment.

These are valid concerns, but also easy to overcome. The value of dating is not entertainment, it’s the investment of time into our relationships. It’s growing closer in friendship, trust, and communication. It’s the process of showing that you value and esteem each other.  

After years of a very rough road in our marriage, we experienced the most significant breakthrough when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and the romance sparked from there. 

Dating remains our go-to marriage solution. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. 

We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee.  A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table. They can occur at any time of day or night. I’ll be honest, our dates almost always involve coffee but outside of that, nearly anything goes. 

Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. It breaks down any walls of ill assumptions. It helps us re-center our focus on what matters most: God and our family.  If Mike and I weren’t willing to continually invest in strengthening trust and connection, we’d have given up long ago. Instead, a series of dates helped (and continues to help) change our thought patterns and transform our marriage. I believe that with the right mindset and a focus on honoring the Lord, dating is effective enough to bring positive strides in any marriage. 

Don't let the hustle and bustle of the holidays stop you. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. 

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God. (HCSB)

Your Turn:

When you’ve invested time and communication in your marriage, what has been the result?

How has dating your spouse helped you deepen your relationship?

Tell me about some creative and inexpensive dates you’ve enjoyed.

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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