Today I'm going to talk about the importance of dates and more importantly, the top four things to do in each one you have. To begin our discussion on marriage and dates, let's discuss why they are needed. Dates are important for relationships because life is busy, stressful, and hectic. Whether you have kids or not, you have work, you have a house, and all sorts of things vying for your attention so your spouse probably gets the crumbs. So, if you are not having regular dates with your spouse, you're going to soon feel like roommates. You're going to be two ships passing in the night because your relationship does not have an opportunity to create electricity. In the beginning when you were first getting to know your spouse, you dated them all the time. It was nonstop dates and that is the behavior that helped you fall in love. But once you got married, you stopped dating each other, you stopped doing the very behavior that made you fall in love with each other. And then you wonder why you're still not in love. So if you want to fall back in love with your spouse and stay in love, having regular dates is a vital ingredient. The recommendation is four mini-dates per week that are at least 15 minutes and up to two hours each.
Marriage and Dating Tips
The first thing to do is cultivate emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy by definition is really learning what's going on in one another's inner world. One of the best ways to do this is to cultivate a habit called the head/heart check. Head is your agenda. What's on your day timer? What did you do during the day? What were your behaviors like during the day? Maybe you worked on this project for a few hours, then you went to that meeting for a few hours, etc. That's your head. Your heart is what you felt and why so mad, sad, glad or fear and why. Your feelings may be connected to the head items or they may be an undercurrent you've been feeling that has nothing to do with your agenda. The head/heart check is the glue that's going to keep you emotionally connected in your relationship. When you're doing your four mini-dates a week, spend an extended amount of time doing your head/heart check. Ask more questions, go deeper, share more, become more vulnerable. That's what will connect you for emotional intimacy.
Second, during the dates you want to cultivate a lot of affection. By definition, affection is any type of touch that's non-sexual, but you need to learn how to touch your spouse because everyone likes different types of touch. Normally we touch in the way we were touched. For example, growing up my mom touched me more firmly. She would grab me, hold me tight, and pat my back with gusto and since that's how I was raised that's how I tend to touch my wife and kids. However, my wife was raised with a mom who provided light tickles for affection. And that is not my natural tendency because I was touched differently. So for years my wife would say, "you're never giving me affection" and I would say "what do you mean, I'm grabbing you, holding you tight, and patting your back" and she would say "that is not the kind of touch I want, I want light tickles." She wanted the type of touch she was raised with. So you have to learn what kind of touch your spouse likes. Ask them what type of touch they prefer. Where do they like to be touched? Do they like their hair to be stroked, their arm to be tickled, holding hands, getting hugs, etc. Ask them those questions and then provide a lot of that type of touch during your dates.
The third piece to provide is recreation. You must do something fun together, such as going for a hike, a bike ride, swimming together, playing ping pong, darts, etc. Something recreational you both would enjoy. A lot of couples, unfortunately, have developed separate hobbies. So, it might be time for you to cultivate some similar ones. It doesn't mean you have to get rid of your individual hobbies, but you want the majority of your hobbies to be something you both like to do. You may need to do some research on the top activities for couples to generate some ideas on things you both would enjoy. Then you can pick from the list for your dates. Fun activity together is important for couples because those positive feelings will spill over toward your partner.
Fourth is some type of sensual activity. If you remember, the wedding cake model to married sex has sensual activity as the middle tier, which includes a bath together, shower together, a sensual massage, cuddling, etc. The requirement per mini-date is some type of sensual activity where you're enjoying one another's body in that realm. Once you're finished with the sensual activity it's optional if you want to take it to the sexual realm depending on if you both feel arousal or if you're open to getting aroused.
These four elements per mini-date are important because they're probably going to cover the top needs of both partners. If you're doing all four during each mini-date, both spouses will walk away saying, "that was a great time." If you're only doing two of the four or one of the four or three of the four, one of you will walk away saying it was awesome and the other will walk away saying it was just okay. So all four are critical for it to be a fulfilling experience for both.
Now, to have four mini-dates a week obviously can be tricky, especially when you have kids. Here's a couple of options to make it happen. One idea is to leverage the school day. If your kids are in school, perhaps one of your dates could be during the day. Another option is to put your kids to bed earlier so you have time afterwards together. If you have teens, you can go into your room each night while they have tech time. Another option is to hire a babysitter for a few hours a week. The key is to be creative until you find a way to make four mini-dates per week a routine. Also, be sure to take turns planning the mini-dates, including coordinating childcare and what to during them, so the responsibility is evenly shared.
So I challenge you this upcoming week to think about how you and your spouse could start having four mini-dates a week and hit all four elements, emotional, affection, recreation, and sensual. Your relationship will thank you for it!
Leave a comment below on what else you'd recommend for marriage and dating.