If you’re married, you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. Maybe 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.
The good news is, we can quickly overcome these times of disappointment if a marriage receives proper care and focus. Then, we can more quickly 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 seen too many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. The hard reality is, we can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.
No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.
When Schedules Don’t Mesh
One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came as we lived through 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, yet typical in law enforcement lives.
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 their caregivers, 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 determined to muddle through. We had amazing kids, great careers, and above-average income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. Truly, we believed 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 easily talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. We needed to discover how dating could transform our marriage.
It took us several years to get back on track. We had to make some significant change, letting 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—in addition to prayer—that had a monumental impact, it was prioritizing our date nights.
We had to make significant change, letting go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most.
It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you 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.
No More Excuses
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 baby 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.
How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage
After years of a very rough road in our marriage, a breakthrough came when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and romance sparked from there.
Dating remains one of our go-to marriage solutions. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. Our schedules remain untraditional and hard to manage, so we get creative with our time.
We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee. We squeeze in lunch together whenever possible. A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table and can occur at any time of day or night. When Mike isn’t due home until very late in the evening, I take a short nap during the day so I’ll have the energy to spend time with him. Part of the fun of dating is finding inventive ways to sneak away together.
Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. Investing time in each other 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.
I encourage you to get creative and break down the barriers that have quenched your old dating habits. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. You’ll find the investment will pay priceless dividends.
May you find God’s joy in your marriage,