Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dating Your Spouse

The Hubby and me enjoying a picnic 
dinner at the beach
I realize 2 years of marriage does not make me an expert on relationships, but I know personally the power of dating your spouse. 

Let's face it. Life is rough. Life is demanding. On an average day, the average female has about 20 things going on all at once - more like 50 things going on at once if you have children.  I don't at this point, but between working full time and home responsibilities, not to mention taking a few classes... I'm pretty busy all the time.  Add the Hubby's grad classes and full time job to the mix and I wonder when we ever have time to see each other.

Many couples struggle with making their relationships work in the face of everyday stressors (like demanding jobs or a tight budget).  Add the constant time and energy drain of grad school and even fewer couples are keeping their relationships afloat.  If that's you, I feel your pain.  Been there! Am there!

Here's the good news... by making your relationship with your spouse a priority, you are investing in your future.
Building and maintaining a deep relationship gives you both the emotional boost necessary to inspire you need to accomplish and achieve in other areas of your life.  For the Hubby, he feels like he can conquer the world (his words, not mine) when he knows I'm there for him, supporting him, cheering him on.  For me, I feel safe and treasured when he takes time out to listen and cuddle with me.  Knowing he will set aside time for me on a regular basis gives me a sense of security and a knowledge that I am important to him. As a result, I can deal with the frustrating co-workers, etc.  During Date Night, we have the opportunity to communicate about our frustrations, hopes, dreams, etc. and get that emotional support we need, as well as spend time away from the pressures of every day life having fun and 'recharging our batteries', so to speak.

So what do I mean by "dating your spouse"?  When some people think of dates, they think of spending lots of money going out and trying to impress the other person. Ok, well maybe that's true in one sense.  But what I mean by dating is spending enjoyable time with the other person (without distractions) and communicating with each other.

Dates do not have to be expensive, but can be, depending on your budget.  Dates can be doing an activity that you enjoy (sailing, hiking, bowling) or just spectating (going to a concert or a drive-in movie, checking out a cool museum).  Dates can also be at home (if you have kids at home, this gets a little more complicated, but it can be done - I have friends that swap babysitting so they can go out or stay home by themselves twice a month) as long as you're doing something together that fosters communication and is outside your normal routine.  No sitting in different rooms or flipping through TV channels in silence while texting or checking facebook on your smartphone or laptop. I have several suggestions for home dates that I will be posting periodically, so check the Plan page every now and then if you need inspiration.

Some Date Night Rules we do our best to follow:
  1. No cell phones allowed. (If we're going out, we bring 1 phone in case of emergency, but leave it off unless we need it.)
  2. If the activity itself is not conducive to conversation (people don't tend to like it when you talk in the middle of a concert or movie), arrange a time for communication before or after the activity.  (For example, dinner or dessert in a quiet place where you can talk, or go for a walk afterwards.)
  3. Hold hands as much as possible. (This may sound a little weird, but it's amazing how this simple gesture can speak volumes, like "I care about you", "I want to be near you", and "I'm glad I'm here with you". It also puts you in a romantic mood. Try it!)
  4. There must be food.  (M likes this one.)
  5. No more than 10% of the conversation is to be about or related to your children.  (The point of Date Night is to spend time deepening your marriage relationship, not discussing your children.  They are very important, yes, but your marriage is priority during Date Night.  If you are struggling to come up with something else to talk about, try writing down a list of questions and talk about them - amazing what you learn about each other that way.)
  6. Make this Date Night different than the last 2.  (For example, if you did dinner and a movie last time, you can't do that again until after you've done something else together.  This way, you don't get stuck in a rut.)
  7. Alternate who plans Date Night (share the load!).
  8. Incorporate at least 1 creative element into the Date Night. (Invite your spouse to Date Night, plan a theme dinner or date, leave a note in his lunch box to build the anticipation, etc.)
 The point of Date Night is to get your relationship out of "survive" mode and into "thrive" mode by encouraging you to reconnect and remember why you fell in love in the first place, and to deepen and strengthen your relationship and emotional bond through communication. 

To those of you who say, "I don't have time", I say, "make time".  You don't have to spend 6 hours out... you can squeeze an hour in.  A Date Night every week is great, but not feasible for all families - try every other week, or every 3 weeks.  The point is, schedule time for each other and be committed to it. 

To those of you who say, "I don't have the money", I say, "prioritize, and get creative".  Most people (not all, but most) will find that they can cut an expense out (or down) and use those funds on Date Night.  Really, do you need cable? There's $30+ a month you could be spending on your relationship.  Do you need that data package on both phones? Most of us probably do not... Yes, those things are nice to have, but when you examine your expenses in light of the benefits of a great relationship, you may find that it's worth the small financial sacrifice.  Also, Date Nights don't have to be expensive.  How expensive is a walk on the beach (pretty much free - we live about 5 miles away)? Or, how expensive is dinner and game night at home?  Not much, depending on the food. Check thrift stores, Goodwill stores, or dollar stores for inspiration to make your theme date more interesting, or for puzzles or games to do together.

Ok, so this post has gotten pretty lengthy, so I'll stop there.  I encourage you - invest in each other - the benefits far outweigh the cost.

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