This is the constant query of a sweet old lady who lives on our street. Just about every time she sees Brittany or I, we receive this question in one form or another. What a blessing this is! First of all, because it is a great reminder to us. Secondly, because the follow up question is usually, “When are you going to go on a date, so I can babysit Grace?”
Now, you may be wondering what dating has to do with a blog about fatherhood and faith. I believe that one of the greatest things you can do to parent your children well is to date your spouse. Dating ought not to end on the wedding day. Rather, in one form or another it should be a regular practice throughout your marriage.
Well, I think of the words of a buddy of mine. We’ll call him Pete. Pete turned to me one day and said, “You know, I’m not sure if I really love my wife anymore. The years go by, the kids are moved out, things change and we’re different now. She’s nice and it’s not that I don’t like her. It’s just that I don’t really care to be with her. There’s nothing really left to talk about. It’s all been said.” Pete sighed as he resigned himself to living the rest of his days with a wife who was not his enemy, but certainly no longer a good friend.
Pete has recently entered the “empty-nester” stage of life. After 20 years of their marriage revolving around looking after the kids, it now feels much more like a dull business partnership than a life-giving friendship. When I mentionned to Pete that perhaps dating in marriage could have prevented this and could now be a helpful solution, he smiled at me, stated something about being naive and idealistic. Pete concluded the conversation with a smug “You’ll see.”
Dating your spouse is part of good parenting. It might seem selfish. It’s not. Even though a good general rule is to avoid talking about the kids (focus on each other!) while on a date – it’s still very much about the kids. Your kids will be thank you in twenty years when they know that mom and dad still love one another.
After hearing me mention how good it is for Brittany and I to occasionally get out of the house without our kid sometimes, another couple vehemently disagreed. “No way, man!” He said, “It’s all about the kids.” He went on to explain how he and his wife both came from broken homes, where the kids were neglected. This fellow was bound and determined to not let that happen in his own family. “When we go out to do something, the kids come along.” He concluded, “It’s all about the kids.”
I can see where this fellow is coming from, based on his own childhood experience. I also think he misunderstood me. I think he thought I was speaking from a selfish, “let your hair down and party” perspective (I am a real party animal 🙂 ). But getting away from the kids to date your spouse is not selfish at all. Rather than being an act that deprives your kids, by dating in marriage you are investing in them.
Why? Because as my neighbour lady suggests, a marriage needs to be watered. It is like a plant. It will wither and and decay if it is not watered. If it is not nurtured and tended to. You cannot leave a plant be for 3 weeks, much less twenty years and expect it to flourish. Likewise, if your attention is devoted soley to chauffering kids, bedtime stories, home renos, meeting work deadlines and preparing Sunday school lessons – with time your marriage will wither. If it does not die completely, it may wither to the point of being a “putting up” with each other rather than a healthy, life-giving friendship. Your kids will notice, and it will affect them. A marriage must be watered.
Now, I surely can’t speak from experience about the long-lasting effects of dating while married. But I pass this on for three reasons. I’ve received this advice from others who have time-tested, healthy marriages. After 5 years of dating while married I’m delighted to report that Brittany and I are still good buddies. And third, I’ve seen the effects of my parents living it out for over 30 years of marriage. I am very thankful for this. For these three reasons, I am convinced that this topic matters.
Dating in marriage doesn’t need to be anything fancy, or terribly time consuming. It doesn’t mean fine dining and hiring a babysitter once each week (although you’d better do that once in awhile!) It can be a night out to the theatre or it can be playing a board game together after the kids go to bed. It can be a romantic weekend getaway or it can be just the two of you going out for a walk. May I suggest that watching t.v. together does not count?
Water your marriage. Keep dating your spouse!
Do you have any words of wisdom to share on this topic? Post a comment. Any good date ideas? What’s your favourite date ever? Pass it on.
Here are a few links to sites with date ideas.