Latest update: June 3rd, 2012
Our marriage has gotten stale. It’s not that we don’t love each other but with the kids and everything else there seems to never be any time for my husband and me. I’m sure we’re not the only ones but we need some real help. What can we do and how can we go about making time for our marriage. Everyone says just make time but that never seems to work.
Answer (Continued From Last Week)
Connection Plan #3: Have a Weekly Date Night. One night a week, no matter what, you and your spouse should go out alone to enjoy each other’s company. You can do anything, go anywhere and talk about anything, except three things: money, children and work (unless it’s exciting stuff – I got a promotion, our child has been selected as valedictorian, let’s plan our trip to Europe). Many couples laugh and tell me there’s nothing else to talk about. I reassure them that they’ll find something – they didn’t fall in love because of scintillating stressful conversations about kids and money. You fell in love discussing what was interesting to you. On your date nights, it’s time to return to that place in yourself where you are interested and interesting. It is on this night, the same night each week, that no one plans anything else without first clearing it with the other.
If you have young kids, make a standing arrangement with a babysitter or family member for that night of the week, or swap babysitting with a friend, if necessary. And if you must miss date night because you have to attend an event on the assigned evening, you must make it up on another evening that same week. The date must last a minimum of two hours. If a date day works better for you, go for it. If you have a newborn and are uncomfortable using a babysitter, take the infant with you, if you must, but get out of the house. Avoid meeting any other couple for at least the first two hours of your date. The date night is about one thing: enjoying each other’s company. It’s about kindness and tenderness. Talk to your spouse about the things he or she loves to talk about. Be quiet and listen. Enjoy your spouse’s voice, perspective and life energy. Tell a joke. Laugh at yourself. Hold your mate’s face in your hands and smile. With every giggle comes a deeper love and bond.
Take turns planning the date night, or create a “grab bag” of ideas for dating fun: Each of you writes on slips of paper, to put into a “grab bag”, three dates you would like to have. Pick one slip of paper out of the bag three or four days before the date and start planning it together. One couple’s grab bag ideas included painting, reading comic-strip books together and bicycling – three things they had never done since getting married, 17 years earlier. This way you avoid that stale moment in the car when both of you look at each other dumbfounded and say, “Whaddya wanna do?” I dunno. Whadda you wanna do?” which is another way of saying, “I’m not taking this date thing too seriously.”
Get yourself a little charged-up about spending alone time with your lover and soulmate. Make some nights a surprise, and don’t tell your spouse what you’ve planned until you’re already on your way out together. Every time out doesn’t have to be dazzling, just thoughtful enough to say, “I put some effort into this and wanted to find something different to do. Let’s find some new fun together.”
Your date night doesn’t have to be an extravaganza. Sometimes my clients tell me, “I live in a town that closes at 10 p.m.” But walking is a wonderful way to connect or having a drink at a hotel somewhere with music in the background – it lessens the intensity of a dinner out, where couples have to face each other and come up with fascinating material. It’s best to have somewhere to go, something to look at and to chat along the way. If it’s cold, walk in a mall and have fun people watching and window-shopping. Cooking is a creative and sensual experience, research recipes and purchase the ingredients together. Many megabook stores are perfect places for exploring. Have a cup of coffee, play some Scrabble and scan books together. Even a small bookstore offers a wide variety of reading. Sit on the floor between the aisles and share interesting points on many topics. Read each other some jokes, as well as some tips on making your marriage special. Spirit comes from inside: focus on fun and you’ll find the perfect play activities to enjoy together, with laughter.
Ideas for Dating Fun: Following are some ideas for dating fun – doing or learning – that you can find (even in some “boring” towns). Look for classes in some of these areas at your local school or college.
Cooking/baking (really fun and sensual); Cake decorating; Dancing; Massaging; Bicycling; Boating; Fishing; Playing instruments; Listening to music – going to a music store and listening to CD’s together – find “our song”; Art/painting; Photography; Swinging on swings at the park; Drinking cocktails at a club – learn how to make them together (with or without alcohol) at home; Creating with clay; Swimming; Walking; Playing a sport (where both of you are equally talented); Planting a garden; Writing a short story together; Reading; Going to a comedy club (ask in advance how clean the jokes are); Visiting a bookstore; Flying a kite; Eating ice cream or snow cones; Playing board games; Roller blading; Buying a camera, and enlisting strangers to take an entire roll of pictures of the two of you on your date night.
Getting to Know You: On your date night, use the following two lists to take a “crash course” to learn about your spouse. Each person can ask two questions from each list.
Getting to Know Where You’ve Been: Who was your closest childhood friend?; What was your favorite adventure or act of mischief?; Who was your favorite teacher and why?; Who was your worst teacher and why?; What is one of your saddest memories?; What is one of your happiest memories?; What was your favorite holiday? Explain.; Who was your most loved pet and what did you love about that pet?; Where were the most exciting places you’ve been and what was so wonderful about them?
Getting to Know Where You Are Today: What was your high and low of the day?; What are your dreams and wishes?; Name three qualities you like the most about yourself.; What is romantic?; What is passionate?; Name one thing you’d change about yourself.; You could feel closer to me if I…; Describe your perfect day…; Where’s the place you want to visit the most and why?; If you were an animal, you’d be a… Explain.
This connection plan is meant to encourage the two of you to gaze into each other’s eyes and speak of your undying love for each other. If that seems like an impossible goal, remember that it doesn’t happen just by speaking the words on cue. It comes with the ease of relating to each other. That ease begins and ends with time spent together and can take a while
RABBI NEUMAN is a Florida licensed psychotherapist and author of two books, Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way (Random House) and Emotional Infidelity, How to Affair-proof Your Marriage and Other Secrets to a Great Relationship (Crown). He and his work have been featured many times on The Oprah Show, Today, The View and in People, Time and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and five children in Miami Beach, Florida. For more information on his work, visit www.mgaryneuman.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: M. Gary Neuman is a psychotherapist, rabbi, and New York Times best-selling author. He is the creator of NeumanMethod.com video programs for marriages and parenting.
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