Part 2: The Ground Rules
Now that you’ve created space for a date, you’ve got to lay some ground rules. Agree upon these rules before you ever start your date. Set expectations up front. If you have to, put them in writing and sign them! Hold each other accountable.
Rules for Dating Your Spouse:
Turn off notifications and put all devices away, out of sight. The only call or text that should get through is one from the babysitter in case of emergency (unless you have someone close by who can handle emergencies or you’re staying home, then turn off your devices altogether). How many dates have we spent just staring at our phones half the time? Unplugging may be uncomfortable at first, but we absolutely must do it if we are going to be able to connect on a deeper level with our spouse. We have to make this time count.
2) Avoid the Grocery Store!
Unless your idea of a fun date is shopping with your spouse, DON’T get sucked in to using your child-free time this way. We’ve been guilty of this many times–until we made the conscious decision that our time together was much too important. The only time we go to the store together now is on a whim when we want to buy fresh ingredients to make a nice dinner at home (kid-free) instead of eating out. Now that’s fun.
3) Expect It to Take Effort
Mick insisted I let him write this one to the guys:
“I know these blog posts are not *our* ideal date night. Let’s face it: we’d rather just go get a pizza, watch a ball game, and sneak in after the kids are in bed with just enough energy to enjoy sex before falling asleep. About the last thing we want to do is sit around and talk about our feelings. And that’s fine at times, but here is the harsh reality: relationships are not static. You’re either moving toward one another or apart. If we don’t engage in the process of continually discovering each other, we inevitably lose our close connection. In short, she needs you to step up, be a man, and talk about your feelings. So suck it up, Buttercup.”
4) Quick Debrief, then Move On
We all have pressing business:
You won’t believe what happened this morning…
What do you want for dinner this week?
Child #2 is having trouble with school…
How’s the budget looking?
Child #1 needs new shoes…
Set a timer and get it all out of the way. Jot it all down on a notepad before you start if it’s hard for you to stay focused. Do whatever you have to–just don’t spend your whole date having “housekeeping” conversations.
Instead, make time during the week (ideally every day) to debrief these surface issues, because they are important. But a relationship needs more. Which leads me to…
5) Make Intentional Conversation
Use date night to go deeper. Talk about your hopes, your struggles, your dreams. Open up to one another the way you did when your relationship was new. Align your vision for the future once again and dream together about possibilities. Think creatively about how to make those dreams a reality. Brainstorm ideas for overcoming the challenges standing between you and the dreams you have for your marriage and your family.
It’s easy to envision deeper conversations, but it’s not always easy to get there, especially with someone you know really well. This is where conversation prompts can be helpful. In the next posts, you’ll find resources for getting to know your spouse better. Some are fun, some are serious, but all of them are guaranteed to get you talking…