My husband and I started having regular date nights as a married couple when our oldest was 6 months old. Our pastor strongly encouraged the husbands to set up dates with their wives to be intentional in spending time together. At the time, we were in a college church and there were only 5-6 married couples. Fortunately (for us) he also encouraged the single students to babysit for free as a ministry.
At first my husband didn’t really see the need. But being the good submissive man that he is, he was willing to trust that there was something in this he was seeing and we made it a plan.
When we started, we were in grad school with a new baby. Kevin worked 12-16 hour days 7 days a week, so he was gone ALL THE TIME. I began to feel that we were drifting apart; that he no longer knew who I was. God was teaching me things but I never had the time to share with Kevin. Date nights were a wonderful blessing for us!
We spent the first 6 months doing, what I call, Working Dates. We took our bible, our notebook and pen and the $.69 we had in our monthly date budget!! That paid for a small soda at Burger King (with free refills and 2 straws) WHEN we splurged for a treat (which was not often).
Mostly we went somewhere that we could talk privately and do the WORK of building our marriage.
During the week I would write out all the IMPORTANT THINGS that were going on in my life and heart. I seldom had time during the week to talk about the important things because the URGENT things crowded out the important.
If you have never read The Tyranny Of The Urgent, this is a MUST READ for everyone! I read this book back in 1978 and it changed my life.
Back to our dates. I would write out the things going on in my life. The concerns with the children, with my walk with the Lord, with things we were miscommunicating about in our marriage. Some of the things I wrote out were positive things, some were negative, some were neutral but important to me.
On our dates, we would start at the top and work through what was in the notebook until our time was up. We usually didn’t get through everything, but I knew it would get addressed the following week(s). It’s amazing how much you can put up with when you KNOW the time will come for your concerns to be addressed!
This went on for 6 months. We didn’t do *fun* stuff, we didn’t do *activities*. Not that we could afford it anyway; we simply worked to BUILD our marriage. We talked and we talked and we prayed and we prayed and we made plans on how to deal with concerns. We put issues on the calendar so we didn’t forget to revisit them. Sometimes we had to postpone something that was stressful for us to discuss. This would be so we COULD PRAY and have God’s heart when we next discussed it.
Those early years of Working Dates set the tone for our marriage.
We didn’t want to allow things to go unresolved – at least not without realizing we were putting it on a back burner TEMPORARILY. We used the calendar as our reminder of when to bring something back up.
- We worked hard not to have any *delayed bombs*. You know, those things that REALLY bug us but we stuff and stuff until one day it EXPLODES and the spouse has no idea why it was such a volatile issue. We worked to discuss right away when something bothered us. It didn’t always work, but having it as a goal really helped to keep them to a minimum.
- We worked hard not to discuss deep things during a confrontational time. For example, if I was bugged by something Kevin did or said, I wouldn’t bring it up while we were in the middle of a heated discussion. I would wait and discuss it during a calm Working Date, making sure it was in The Notebook so I could discuss it without emotional charge.
- We worked hard to avoid saying: “you always”, or “you never”. These are not helpful and usually not true! We tried to say, “I felt” or “my emotional response was”. This put the emphasis on ME (and my response, whether right or wrong) rather than on HIM (and what he might – or might not – have done wrong).
- We worked hard for me not to boss him around. I’m a strong and decisive personality. He is not. It is easy for me to just plunge right ahead and make a decision without consulting or considering what he wants. I worked hard to adjust how I said things so I didn’t come across as bossy.
Because I can be abrasive, I worked hard to come up HOW I could say things to Kevin that was neither nagging nor pushing his button. I would often ask him, “How could I say this without irritating you or without coming across as a nagging wife?” That actually became a GREAT tool for our marriage! It helped Kevin think through what I said that irritated him and still give me the voice I needed to express things to him. And it was a protection for me. He couldn’t very well get bugged if I said what he told me to say! 😉
All-in-all, our Working Dates really set our marriage on firm footing. Starting this early on helped us avoid some serious pitfalls and from building harmful habits. And this pattern helped us learn while we walked through some of the hard trials in our marriage.
What do YOUR date nights look like? Are you more centered in eating or playing than in actually building your marriage? Do you have the equivalent of our Working Dates? If not, do you think that your marriage could benefit from a time to work through your personal struggles? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
A Handful of Heart, The Better Mom, Sharing In His Beauty, Monday Musings, Domestically Divine, Time Warp Wife, Encouraging One Another, Women Living Well, Winsome Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Wise Woman Builds Her House, Marital Oneness