At the recommendation of Anne, we are starting a new series with our weekly marriage blogs. “Date nights” were of such an extreme importance for most of us before we were married. It’s where we learned everything we needed to know about our spouse before we married them. The problem: we got married only to find out we didn’t know as much as we thought we did. He snores, she makes a weird sound when she chews, he hums while he pees, she squeezes the toothpaste from the middle instead of the end…there’s so much of life we didn’t grasp in our pre-marriage date nights. For some reason, couples stop frequent dating once the honeymoon is over. I’ve heard all of the excuses, “We been married ____ many years, we already know everything about each other” or “he/she knows how I feel.” Oh if only, as we age, we stayed the same and our likes/dislikes remained unchanged.
Pre-marriage dating was meant to bring us together. Why do we stop dating once when we are married? Did we reach a point of knowledge saturation where we no longer have a need to be closer to our spouse? With the divorce rates, I believe circumstances demand post-marriage date nights.
I asked Anne, “Since this is your idea, what do I write…she said:
“Dates are good to have” (crickets chirping)
There…that saved me a couple of hours on my day off.
With that in mind…
Anne and I are going to commission you to date your spouse again. I’m not talking about a date here and there, I’m talking about a consistent dating repertoire. These series are designed to give you the tools needed to make “Date Night” the most enjoyable and productive night of the week.
Part 1 – Elevator Talk
You step into an elevator intending to go to the 5th floor. After a couple of floors, someone steps onto the elevator with you. What do you talk about? Most likely, the weather is the most common thought of topic of conversation and it lasts just 20-30 seconds…just long enough to fill the awkward silence till the 5th floor is reached. You walk out breathing a sigh of relief that the moment is done and you can get going about your day.
Sad to say…that just described the approach some people have with their spouses and one of the reasons they don’t want to go out on a date. “What will we talk about?” “We like different things?” “What if he/she talks about something I’m not interested in?”
What’s crazy: We didn’t worry about that before the ring. I want to restore your faith in your conversational skills. For couples who stopped talking, it’s not that you stink at communication, it’s just that communication skill has not been exercised and used. Just because I took German for 3 years in school 20 years ago doesn’t mean I’m fluent in it. I stopped using it and it’s grown weaker. You have to exercise your communication.
Of all the things that go on in a date, why start with “communication”? Because communication is the oil in the engine of the date. You can have any restaurant or atmosphere, but without any type of conversational connection, it’s nothing more than a “hang out”…and two strangers can do that. Let us help with a few things we’ve learned.
Dating Conversation Do’s and Don’ts:
Do keep eye contact. If you (like me) can’t handle ESPN being on the TVs and keep eye contact, don’t go to that restaurant. Your eyes reveal that your are engaged in the conversation. Your spouse wants to know that your attention is fixed upon them and your date. Proverbs 20:12 says “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” (from Anne) Lock eyes and show your interest. Learn to be a listener with your eyes.
Don’t unload. If you’re on a date, it’s time for you two to engage and interact. A date isn’t the time to unload anger and frustration. That should be taken care of in your home communication. If your dating is always filled with heavy “unloading”, either one or both of you will NOT want the date in the first place.
Do find ways to engage. (from Anne) That means you are other-centered. Find ways to interact in the stuff your spouse is into. They know you may not fully care about what they care about, but you asking and engaging speaks volumes. A verse I refer to a lot is Philippians 2:3 “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” For example, Anne doesn’t give a care about sports, she cares about me. So, periodically, we’ll be on a date and she’ll see something sports-ish and ask me about how my teams are doing. Deep down, I know she doesn’t really want a breakdown of the NFC North, but I means the world that she’d ask.
Don’t “one up” your spouse. “I had a rough day” get’s followed up with, “Your day couldn’t have been as bad as mine.” We, for some reason, have an issue with someone being happier, more talented, or even more miserable than ourselves. “I broke my nail today” is followed by “Oh yeah, I broke my finger.” It’s ridiculous. (from Anne) But so often we demean our spouse and what they are trying to convey by dwarfing their experiences with our prideful approaches.
Do practice “good” conversation. Make sure that every time you two go out, your conversation should be uplifting, edifying, and enjoyable. You don’t want it weighed down with gossip, slander, and bitterness. Again, dates are meant to deepen your understanding of each other not of someone else’s business. Proverbs 15:23 “Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful!” Ditch the heaviness of destructive conversation and walk away from your date healthy because you chose to practice healthy conversations.
Don’t let dating conversation be your only marital communication. Your dating conversations will be disastrous if this is the only time you talk to each other. It’s like saying, “We’re married, living together, but we ignore each other throughout the week till date night.” There should be constant, healthy marital communication being fostered throughout a normal average week. Good everyday marital communication will produce GREAT date communication.
Do truly listen. (from Anne) Don’t try to hurry your spouse up so you can talk about what you are wanting to talk about and tell “your thing.” Listen to what he/she is saying. What emotion are they invoking? What does their body language say? Does their tones tell you something different from the words being spoken. I love what James says in James 1:9 “let every person be quick to hear.” Be quick to step up your listening skills by being an active listener. Be in tuned to everything being communicated by your spouse.
Don’t stop trying. Everyone struggles with conversations. The more changes that you and your spouse go through, and we all change, it can get easy to take the other for granted and just, well, not date AND communicate. Keep talking. Keep trying.
Dating is huge in marriage. But it’s hard to date with ZERO to little conversation going on. Set the date. Get the baby sitter. Go out and enjoy an evening of ZERO elevator talk and engage with your spouse.
Thanks for letting me ramble…