(A RESPONSE TO THIS MONTH'S SURVEY QUESTION.)
Young men throughout history have nervously struggled with asking the "Will you go out with me?" question to the young women in their lives. We may think this is a product of our contemporary culture, but I'm pretty confident that some caveman many years ago got severe butterflies before he knocked his potential mate over the head with his club. I'm just saying.
It's a pretty simple question, but, since it is laced with the potential for rejection, we fear it like no other. Many times in our "courting years", we even pass up the chance to pursue the woman of our dreams because of the immobilizing prospect of having to actually speak to her face-to-face. Then, to lay it all on the line in a date proposal....well, it's just too much pressure for some of us to bear. (In my case with Jenifer, I used the foolproof "emergency exit" plan by asking her the following: "IF I asked you out, would you say yes?" I think it was brilliant, but Jenifer just remembers it as cowardly. Who cares...I got the girl.)
Anyway, all that should change for married people, right? Apparently it hasn't.
Our survey tool over there in the right hand column of the blog asked the following question this month: "How often do you go on a date?" The results: About 21% date weekly; 21% date every two weeks; 38% date about once a month; and 21% don't date at all. That's pretty sad, people. Staying emotionally and romantically connected to your spouse is essential to a satisfying marriage; and it doesn't happen automatically.
We can no longer use the "rejection" excuse mentioned above as most of you will probably respond favorably to a date offer from your spouse. So what's the problem? In my discussion with couples, here are the excuses I hear the most often (along with a few brilliant responses).
*Excuse #1: NO TIME - "We just can't find the time to do it."
This is probably what keeps most of us from getting alone with our spouse: work schedules, kids' activities, and everything else that sucks away at our time and keeps us from regularly dating. But the reality is that we are ultimately the ones who control our schedules. And we will make time for whatever is most important to us. Nobody forces us to sign up our kids for too much stuff or to over-extend ourselves in our attempt to climb the ladder. If our busy schedules preclude us from making time for our sweethearts, then something must change!
Action Point: Put a few "date nights" on your calendar, even far out in the future. Take a few moments to lay out both your work and family calendars to find dates that work; and then guard them with fierce tenacity. If you're busy and you don't schedule this, then you won't do it.
*Excuse #2: NO BABYSITTER - "We don't have anyone to watch the kids."
I get this. It can be hard to find quality caregivers for your children. But my experience is that most people who use this excuse haven't looked very hard. You have to use every avenue you have...networks at church, friends in the neighborhood, etc. Ask around until you find a solid recommendation. If you can't find someone completely to your liking, it could be that your standards are too high. Remember, you're not asking somebody to raise your children, only to watch them for a few hours.
Another option (and one that's cheap) is to look for a couple you can "kid swap" with: You watch their kids this Friday and they watch yours next Friday. Have the little rug-rats over to your house, make a simple meal and watch a movie together. You may have to move from "man-to-man" to "zone" coverage, but time will go by fast enough. And the trade off you have next weekend will be worth it.
*Excuse #3 - NO MONEY - "We cannot afford to go on dates."
Dating CAN be expensive, but for Jenifer and me, some of our most memorable dates are the ones where we spent little or no money. Have a picnic. Go out for coffee. Walk through a thrift shop together. Rent a movie and watch it on a laptop computer in bed or on the back porch. Try to think back to all the things you did when you were young, poor, and in love. That's the type of thing you should look for. An expensive dinner can be nice sometimes, but it's not a requirement to connect with your spouse.
*Excuse #4 - WE DON'T DATE - "Instead, we have chosen to focus on our children."
I have a word for people who use this excuse. That word is "morons." Kicking into martyr mode and choosing to deny yourself in honor of your kids is not only foolish, it is destructive. If the marriage doesn't dry up in the near future, it's scheduled to explode once the nest empties. Even in the here and now, the best thing you can give your kids is a strong marriage. And the best way to have one of those is to regularly connect. It also lets the kids know that your marriage is very important to you.
We must remind ourselves that kids are just for a season, but that marriage is for life. The time will soon come when our kids will all leave and Jenifer and I will be all alone again. I want to make sure that when that time comes, I still have a joyful, passionate love for her. So I have an ongoing responsibility to fan the flames of our relationship. I cannot put that off for a later day. I must do that now.
Fellas, ask your wife on a date. Pursue her, just like you did when you were first dating. And don't be nervous...she will probably say "yes." Your goal is to get her to feel what Solomon's wife felt when she said, "I am my beloved's and his desire is for me." (Song of Solomon 7:10) Convince her!
Ladies, if he's distracted (or not reading this), then YOU initiate it. Let him know that a nice night out and some quality time together would do wonders for your intimacy. He'll probably be motivated.
And make it something special. Note that I didn't say "expensive." I just meant that you need to put some thought into dating with a purpose. (And no, tasting all the samples at Costco on Friday night does not count as a four-course meal.) Whatever you do, let's try to improve on the data from the survey that suggests that more than half of us are barely getting by with dating once a month or none at all.
Give us some comments:
"What's your favorite "cheap date" with your spouse?"