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When was the last time you had a date? Not sitting on the couch watching Netflix, a real date. One where you weren’t distracted, you made each other feel important, and your excitement was noticeable? If you’re still having to think about it, it’s been too long.
All marriages move through ups and downs; however, dating can play a vital part in how long they stay on either side of the spectrum. “It’s almost never too late to start the process of falling in love all over again,” says James Córdova, Ph.D., chair of Clark University’s psychology department.
“One of the things that happens in long-term marriages is that the demands of everyday life steal our attention away from our partners — and paying attention to the other is crucial for happy relationships,” Córdova says. Essentially, if you want to make your marriage the best it can be, you have to spend time alone with your spouse.
What Counts as a Date?
People can have the tendency to get hung up on the fancy dinner date, but a fancy dinner is not essential for a great date. The main part of the date is not necessarily what you do, but how you do it. If you are going on a date, does it feel special?
The main part of the date is not necessarily what you do, but how you do it.
There’s a difference between making sandwiches, packing a picnic basket and blanket so that you can have a picnic at the park, and stopping by Subway grabbing a foot long and eating in the car together. Putting in the extra effort can majorly change your date.
“Relationships are work. That’s a fact,” said psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling. “And while so many of us are happy to work on our fitness goals or career goals or family goals, when it comes to our intimate relationships, we tend to neglect them.
“I think our relationships can seem to just ‘be there’ and it’s easy to take our partners for granted. We assume they will always be there, when in actual fact that relationship is an important project in our life that needs focus and attention.”
So how do we make our relationship a priority? How do we date our spouse successfully?
5 Ways to Have a Successful Date with Your Spouse:
1. Make plans.
Simply getting into the car and saying, “what do you want to do?” or “what should we eat?” does not count as a date. A date night involves forethought and planning. Make a reservation, plan a trip or some fun activities, put some effort into it. Frequently, couples say, “I shouldn’t have to work so hard,” in defense of their lack of effort, but hard work and effort are precisely what is needed.
2. Get away from the house.
There are too many distractions at home that keep you from giving your full attention to your spouse. The faucet is leaking, the light bulb above the table went out, the house needs to be cleaned, and the list goes on and on. A successful date involves the ability to check out of the issues around the house and focus on your spouse.
A date is about being together. It’s about creating a connection.
3. Get rid of distractions.
Get away from the TV, turn off the radio, and put the phone away. It’s impossible to have a substantial conversation with someone who’s distracted by their media device, and yet you don’t have to do much more than glance around a restaurant to see couples with their noses buried in their phone screens. A date is about being together. It’s about creating a connection. Make an effort to give your entire attention to your spouse while you are on your date.
4. Be affectionate — physically and verbally.
Don’t be afraid to hold your spouse’s hand and tell them they look amazing. A good date involves affection. Imagine a couple with their eyes fixed on each other; both are leaning in toward the other, they are laughing and smiling. Physically and verbally, they let each other know that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
5. Have fun.
When your dating life is the same thing over and over again, it’s not a date. It’s a rut. Mix up what you do and make it exciting. Dating is about enjoying your spouse, making memories, and building excitement in your marriage.
Ideas for fun dates:
- Go on a bike ride
- Go on a hike
- Go on a day trip
- Go on a picnic
- Go bowling
- Go to a museum or art gallery
Do things that allow you to communicate and enjoy each other.
At the end of the day, marriage requires work both individually and as a couple, and dating is only as beneficial to the marriage as both people make it. Dating is not a fix all to marriage, but if you want to know your spouse better, have a deeper connection, and enjoy them more, dating is a great start.