[Today, I'm just addressing the married-status members.]
This home likes John Wayne movies. I caught the admiration from my dad, and my daughter has caught it from me. One classic, North to Alaska, has John Wayne spouting in frustration, "I'll never understand why a woman would choose to make one man miserable instead of a lot of men happy." We cringe and laugh, but that negative view of marriage labels wives as nagging hounds that suck all the lifeblood and happiness from their man.
I know some wives like that. Perhaps you do too. I was one myself not so long ago. With conviction, I've prayed and sought God's strength to release my controlling and critical nature. Still failing, I try to be a source of encouragement (putting courage into), not discouragement (taking the courage out of) to my husband. Trust God to be the Spirit in your spouse's life and seek to walk alongside in exhortation.
For years, I struggled to just have fun with my husband. Especially after we started having kids, our lives were inundated with the mandatory and "dates" were heavy with logistics and the concerns of how we were facing "the grind." My husband wasn't the instigator of these conversations, but I didn't feel the freedom to let go and enjoy our time together. My heart was focused on the have-not, and the how-to-fix-it.
I critiqued our relationship, I criticized him, and I chanted my mantra, "Relationships don't maintain without work. They either progress forward or they stagnate." What I failed to realize was the simple truth of joy in marriage. We didn't have to always be discussing heavy topics or working through a Bible study to grow together. Our growth could come (and often would more naturally) through intentional fun time together. Now, I do think struggles have the potential to strengthen a marriage more than anything else (as long as the couple is fighting the struggle as a team and not combating one another).
Why do we think all the fun should be pre-vows? Marriages stay cohesive when couples remember to treat each other as their best friend. What do you call your best friend for? Hopefully, you call her to share life, to discover more about her, and to just enjoy being with her. If you only call to discuss concerns or dump your complaints, she won't be your best friend for long. Likewise, a spouse needs to be treated as more than a home manager, a counselor, referee, and provider.
Dating does several things for your marriage.
1. First off, it realigns priorities. Our culture promotes child-centered homes, where husband and wife get replaced by just dad and mom--mobile transporters for the child's needs/wants.
Be sure your kids understand the importance of husband and wife before mom and dad. Date night is sacred and they know it.
2. Date night rekindles romance and those memories of "oh, yes, this is why I married you!" For my birthday last year, my husband surprised me with something he knows I love to do--ice skating! We hadn't been since college and sharing that experience together made us feel like kids again. I was almost giddy with delight.
3. Date night opens up possibilities and takes you out of the grind. For two or three hours you are separated (together) from the pressures of life. You are able to regroup and energize as a team.
Date Night Discussion
*Don't talk about money, children, work, or anything else burdensome.
*Do dream together, ask personal questions about thoughts and feelings, and laugh often.
Some of you may argue, we don't have time or money to date. The first argument is flimsy and just sad: you have time for what's important to you. Make dating a top priority.
I understand the financial question: how are we going to pay for this? You don't have to. Date nights can be free: go for a hike together, picnic in the park, take cards to a coffee shop and only buy drinks,
Have kids? So do we. Thankfully, we have grandparents close by. Some people don't have the luxury. But find a trustworthy couple in your church and swap babysitting nights. Or, if you can't find babysitters, put the kids to bed a little earlier and "date-it" at home. Play a game of Monopoly, prepare an International dish, watch a movie and cuddle.
So, as you see, there really are few excuses.
Deficient on creative ideas? Here are a few:
*take up a new hobby together
*watercolor paint together
*go on a hike
*play a game (we used to play Scrabble on Saturday mornings before we had kids--I know)
*prepare a multi-course meal
*go on a scavenger hunt
* find a photo booth and take crazy photos
*go out for dessert first and come home for dinner
*visit an art museum
*re-enact your first date
*take up clay shooting or archery
*plan a decade-theme date and dress up (50's, 60's, 70's, etc.)
*create your own version of "Chopped Challenge" at home
*got to Wal-mart and spend $5 on each other, picking items that remind you (or symbolism) of the other.
*get dressed up and dance in the living room to your favorite music
Get out there and have some fun!