When Eric and I first started dating, spending time together was not a challenge. It was as easy as breathing. We did not think in terms of, “Will we see each other today?” We thought, “When will we see each other today?” We knew we would be getting married someday, so spending as much time as possible together seemed like the most natural use of our time. Or was it?
A New Love Pitfall
When love is new, you often feel like you are walking on air. You cannot believe how good you feel. Bad days at work are quickly forgotten when you see your beloved in the distance. Headaches, car trouble, and traffic do not deflate your love bubble. It is intoxicating. It also messes with your mind a little bit. This is not only true for teenagers and twenty-somethings. Even some of our US presidents have been distracted from life due to the all-powerful love bug!
Most of our former presidents entered the White House married and stayed married for the remainder of their term(s); but, sadly, a few presidents were widowed while in office. President Woodrow Wilson was one of the unfortunate presidents who lost his beloved wife while in office. Though completely distraught at the passing of his first wife, Ellen, President Wilson quickly fell in love with Edith Galt, the widow of a jewelry store owner.
In the History Channel documentary, The Presidents, journalist and author Kati Marton said, speaking of President Wilson, “The White House is not a good place for courtship. In fact, it’s a very dangerous place for that. A President in love is a President distracted.” President Wilson’s advisor, Edward House, said, “I am sorry the President has fallen in love at this time.” The First World War was in swing, and our then-President was in a new relationship. I can only imagine how nervous that made his right hand men! President Wilson even taught his new love secret codes and had her encode and decode messages from European leaders. In other words, he was not using his best judgment at a very critical time.
Many of us can probably relate. Young love feels so great, but does not always lead us to make objective, carefully, thought-out decisions. Perhaps this is one reason new couples tend to spend all of their time together and push the world away. It is a common pitfall, one into which I fell myself. So, I advise you to prepare for it if you are not currently in a relationship; and, if you are, take notice of how much time you are spending together and how much you are spending with the other important people in your life whom you love. ~smile~
Not Forgetting Date Night
And then the pendulum swings. You date, you get engaged, and then you get married. You caught him! You caught her! He is yours! She is yours! Time to relax? Not exactly. In fact, most married folks would probably tell you that dating after marriage is even more important than dating before marriage.
As I said before, it is effortless to spend time together when you are newly dating. However, fast-forward a few years, throw in the familiarity of marriage, a few kids, a stressful job or two, and (just for kicks) financial trouble. Suddenly, spending quality time together is no longer effortless. Some couples consider talking for an hour over the course of a week to be a gigantic feat! An hour! There are some couples who only seem to talk when they are fighting. ~frown~
Date nights, whether dating or married, give couples something to look forward to throughout the week. This is a time for couples to communicate, have fun, and get away from the craziness in their lives.
Eric and I went on a date a few weeks ago and I came armed with a pen and a pad of paper. There were several items I needed to discuss with him, so I did not waste the opportunity to have his undivided attention. ~smile~ When we left, I felt so resolved. Several questions were answered. I was able to nail down details I wanted. It was just great! But, as we were pulling out of the restaurant parking lot, Eric asked, “Did that feel like a business meeting to you?” It did. Perhaps that is what I wanted it to be, but it was not very relaxing and we did not do much connecting. In the future, he and I both need to remember to make specific time for relationship meetings and save date nights for fun and fellowship.
Summary: Date nights are extremely important in marriage just as they are in dating. Remember to keep them as a priority. ~smile~ Date nights are also important for premarital couples who are extremely busy and find it difficult to connect.
So, When Can We Have Time Apart?
Time apart helps couples unwind, get some “fresh air,” connect with family and friends, and miss each other! When I hang out with a friend, or a small group of friends, I come back refreshed. It gives me a chance to change up the scenery a bit, to stretch, and to look forward to coming home to Eric. Just like a mommy needs to get away from her kids a few hours once in a while, spouses need a break too. When a mom gets a break, she is ready to come home and hug her babies. The same is true of spouses in a healthy marriage. When they get a few hours away from each other, they are ready to come home and reconnect.
Have you ever felt smothered by someone? Did he or she want to be with you all the time? Did it not seem like the walls of the world were closing in on you? You do not want this to happen in your marriage. If the guy or girl you are dating is not comfortable spending any time away from you, consider it a red flag. You will want your future spouse to enjoy time with you, but also appreciate some time apart – that is healthy.
So, kiss your sweetie on the check, spend a few hours with some quality friends, and then reconnect with him or her later. Spend an evening or two away from your boyfriend or girlfriend. You will not die of heartache. I assure you. ~smile~
Living with Balance
Prioritizing too many dates with each other can push the world away; but, prioritizing too much time apart can drive a wedge between you and your sweetheart. If you are seriously dating, I would suggest spending at least two evenings per week apart from each other – either with other friends or alone. Depending on your needs, and the stage of your relationship (say, if you are not yet seriously dating), you may want to have more than two nights apart per week.
If you are married, I would suggest having at least one date night a week (two a month at the extreme minimum) – and, if possible, one night a week out with friends or alone. Once you have children, this may change a bit. Once your kids are old enough for babysitters (i.e., when you are no longer nursing every two-to-three hours), try to make date night happen each week. You will need it! And at that point, having a little family time each night around the dinner table and/or before bed will be important for you, your spouse, and especially for your little ones.
Strive for balance. If you find that your relationship is not getting enough emotional nourishment, take steps to change it. If you find that your relationship is fine, but your social life is not, take steps to change that too; and, once you have little people, be vigilant about spending time with them. They come, they grow, and they leave so quickly!
Have you and your sweetie had a meaningful date night recently?