Friday, May 3, 2013

Don't Kiss Dating Goodbye

   I hope that this finds you all enjoying the fruits of your pursuits in companionship with your husbands! This month we'll be building on those concepts from our last discussion, and talking about the importance of dating within the marriage. Before we can realize the importance of dating however, we must understand the purpose.

   Why did you date prior to getting married? To get to know each other?  Spend time together? To see if you were compatible....??? Why not do all of this by simply spending time with your intended at their home surrounded by their family? Or maybe by exchanging visits at work or emailing,talking on the phone or writing letters? You would be able to accomplish much the same end by all of these options, so why bother spending the time and money on actually going out and dating? If you had a "suitor" in your single days who never took you out - ever, and only used the above methods of getting to know you, how would you feel? Why is it important to date and be dated? Below are what i feel to be the four main purposes for dating and the reasons why they are still relevant in our marriages today.

1) To show an exclusive interest 
Chances are that when you were dating you would have been pretty upset to find that your boyfriend was also dating several other girls at the same time. Any smart girl would have dropped that guy like a bad habit. You wanted someone who was interested in you to the exclusion of all others. Someone who considered you worthy of top priority. Our husbands need that same attention. Shaunti Feldhahn wrote a book entitled "For Women Only" - ("What you need to know about the inner lives of men") in which she reveals some enlightening truths about the way men think about and process the various aspects of a marital relationship. She and her husband conducted an extensive survey and one of the topics she highlights in the book is romance.  On the issue of priorities, she found that one of the most common concerns among men was that kids are prioritized over the husband. The following are actual statements made by survey takers;

"It's considered the christian thing to do, be with the kids all the time. But for me as a man there is this sense of  ' i've lost my wife'. It could sound selfish but it's not. And it's not too healthy for the kids either."

"She spends too much time doting on the children and not enough time on the relationship.

"It's not just the kids that steal a wife, it's the whole to-do list. Even helping others can get in the way."

We may not be having extra marital affairs, but are we giving our husbands priority the have a right to over the other "important" things in our lives?

Maybe you think your man isn't interested in romance anymore. He certainly doesn't act like it... well the answer to the following survey question may surprise you:

"Regardless of whether or not you are able to plan romantic events or whether your wife or significant other appreciates it, do you yourself desire romance?"

The results? A whopping 84% of men said "Yes very much" or "Yes somewhat" !!!
Now that you know, take some time out of your day to focus solely on your man. Show him that he rocks your world and is still worth your undivided time and attention. Be exclusive, even if it's only for a few minutes.

2) For Pursuit
Surveys done on women in the book "For Men Only " - ("a guide for lower life forms") written by Shaunti's husband Jeff revealed that almost 90% of women feel some degree of insecurity about their relationship at some point in time. He explains to the men that their "I Do" will always be followed by "Do you Still?" over the course of the marriage. He makes the analogy of a woman's emotional bank account, that when it gets low or empty, leaves us feeling insecure. The sense of still being pursued by our husband fills up that account and prevents this. So how is this important to our male counterparts aside from avoiding the inevitable but seemingly inexplicable female emotional meltdown? Men are hard wired with a drive to give chase and to conquer. Think about it; they're constantly doing it in other areas of their life, if more subtly. Work, sports, hobbies, working out; always striving to be better, faster, smarter, to get ahead, going after something. They need to pursue us as much as we need them to pursue us. The following was an actual exchange between a woman and her male friend on the topic of romance;

-"Romance is the sense that you're still being pursued."
-"Yeah, but we caught you. Hand me the remote."

Sound depressingly familiar? Give him something to pursue! Keep it fresh! Make him feel like he hasn't    seen everything yet - keep him on his toes! It will give you both a boost.

3) To continue to get to know each other and to develop a close singular bond.
As we talked about last month, we have to continure the process. Just being away and alone together does something - allows for a closeness that can only be achieved this way. During our meeting i asked if anyone had gone through the traditional "courtship" process as opposed to just dating. (Meaning that there was always a chaperone present for any kind of socialization between the couple.) One wife 
( hope you don't mind A.!...) said yes. ( with a dramatic eye roll i might add ;)   ) When i asked what her parents' intentions were in following this process and why they felt it necessary to be present whenever the two were together, (aside from the obvious " they might have sex if we're not here " of course ;)   ) her answer was exactly what -i admit- i was fishing for. More than anything, she said, they wanted to protect her from becoming too emotionally attached. Bingo. Now that we're married, this is the perfect formula for re-sparking that sense of intimacy. Mom and dad, you can relax now. ( although we are having sex...woot woot!...but more on that later...)  This leads into our last main purpose for dating-

4)  For Quality one-on-one time (key words here being Away. and Alone.)
Don't get me wrong, i love a good at-home date night every once in a while,  and sometimes, that's all that's available, but, being at home there is always a mindfulness of "other things". You know how it is, you walk into the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine and realize that you forgot to wipe down the highchair after dinner.You get on the computer to pull up a movie and there's your facebook account with  32 new messages and "friend" requests. You decide to change into something more "comfortable" and run into a pile of laundry that could wait, but it's right there...Then just as things start to settle down ( or start up, however you like it - sorry, i'm on a roll now!) somebody's dropped their pacifier or wet the bed..... Making the time to get out of the house for a proper date night can work wonders. It reinforces the priority/exclusivity factors, again - sparks feelings of intimacy, and gives opportunity for pursuit. A note here; ladies, grocery shopping or shopping for the children (with the exception of something like christmas shopping) does not qualify as a date. Here the focus is still outward. Shopping for the home however was brought up by one wife as a very endearing and bonding experience for her and her husband and i would consider this to be an exception as well, as your home is something that you build together.

Now that we understand why it's important and that our men really do want and need romance too, the big question for many wives is, why aren't they pursuing it?  In her book, Shaunti writes that when asked if they could plan a romantic event that their wife or significant other would appreciate, even though the majority - 56% said " yes, i could do it with style" the remaining 46% - a generous minority, were unsure or lacked confidence. The top reasons?
-"I won't do a good job." - Fear of humiliation. Most men would rather not try, than try with the risk of failing.
- Haunted by past romantic failures. - The story was told of a man who had spent a considerable amount of time searching for a very particular anniversary present for his wife, and was really jazzed about it. She opened it, said "Thanks sweetheart." with a peck on the cheek, and immediately began to talk about where they would be eating dinner. This anticlimactic reaction to all of his hard work and forethought was like a bucket of cold water, and next year she can count on a box of chocolates and a Hallmark card.

-It's difficult for them to change gears. - Imagine you've had an unusually long day - playing catch-up with the housework or dealing with difficult customers at your job, teething baby, headache, burnt dinner, car trouble, fill in the blanks. Your husband walks in the door and the first thing you want to do is.....strap on a sexy piece of lingerie and hop in the sack, right? You know, just "X" out all those little windows in your mind and put it in hibernate for a few. No? Ok, that's about how reasonable it is to expect most men to just drop their load at the door and jump into a romantic interlude. 

-"Yeah but we caught you.Hand me the remote" - oh yeah? read on ladies....

Here's how we as wives can help combat these stumbling blocks of insecurity and unleash the romantic potential our husbands hold.
-Help them to understand what you like, expect, want and need from them romantically so they are not left stabbing in the dark. Our project at the meeting centered around this point. (see below) Give them something to work with so that they can go forth with some amount of direction and confidence.
-Encourage! No teasing. Only sincere appreciation and building up. A great time to do this is in public. Brag to your friends about the wonderful dinner he treated you to. Show off the new piece of jewelry he bought you. Do it in his presence with a wink and a big smile. If he's not around, do it anyway. It's a  good practice. Then go home and tell him all about how you gushed about his romantic prowess to everyone who would listen and how impressed/jealous they were. This man put it very simply,

"Encourage me and affirm my efforts and i'll run through a brick wall to please you. But don't just assume i know you're pleased. I'm way outside my comfort zone. I'm willing to be a fool for you, but just tell me i did good. And give me sex. That helps too"

- Allow them to decompress. Ask how their day was and don't settle for just "fine." Think ahead of some specific questions to spur the daily detox. Practice patient and mindful listening. Allow them to vent and get the world off their shoulders before asking them to take on the needs of the home as well. Once they are freed up in this way they will be better equipped and more willing and able to meet your needs.

- Again, give them something to pursue. Flirt! ( For a fun resource on this check out Rhonda Rich's "What Southern Women Know About Flirting ") Get fixed up! One thing i have learned over the years is to dress for the occasion over the  location. I mean really, if we only get dolled up when he takes us to a 4 star restaurant, first of all you won't have nearly enough opportunities to wear those cute new heels that he loves to see you in (hint hint...) , but secondly, what are we really dressing up for? Even if it's just Taco Bell we still have the same date right? Do it for him. Don't think about looking or feeling out of place, nobody is going to know who you are and where you're headed or where you've just come from. Again, show him that he's still worth the extra effort.Want to see your husband puff up with pride over you like the alpha rooster in a hen house? Put on a little perfume and eyeliner, hang on his arm like a trophy and let him show off his "prize" to all the other men. He will work to be worthy of you. Plus, it's fun.

Now, there may be some of you who's husbands are in that confident 56% and you just don't realize it. Following the question about their need/desire for romance one survey taker who stated that it was very important to him added

  "but we have different definitions"

So the question was posed- "If you take sex out of the equation, which of the following do you find more romantic for yourself?"

They were given three options; the first being the traditional notion of a romantic event- for example, a candlelight dinner,a cozy snuggle by the fire, or watching a sunset on the beach; the second being the idea of getting out and doing things with their wife/significant other and playing together- for example, hiking together, golfing together, or driving around and exploring; and the third option being that neither of the first two seemed romantic. Again, the answer was surprising - 59% chose option one ,  the traditional notion.But, again, a large minority - 39% chose the option of doing something active or playing together. (2% said neither. um...ok....) Last month we talked about the importance of being playful and doing projects or new activities together. Is it possible that you have missed out on opportunities to enjoy a romantic time together because you didn't realize it was romantic? One man put  it this way:

"Most men don't want to abandon their wife to do guy things.They want to do "guy things" with their wife. They want her to be their playmate.It's no different from when they were dating. For a guy, a big part of the thrill was doing fun things together.The woman who is having fun with her husband is incredibly attractive. If you see a woman out playing golf with her husband, i guarantee that all the other guys are jealous. Getting out and having fun together falls of in marriage because of various responsibilities, but men still want to play with their wives."

Notice the terms he uses here; playmate...thrill...having fun...incredibly attractive... sounds pretty romantic to me! I can personally attest to the truth of this too, because lucky for me, Michael and i have very similar interests and i love being alongside him whatever he's doing. He has told me many times how he loves to brag to his guy friends about how we go snowboarding together, or rock climbing, or how i would rather be outside around a campfire than listening to soft music by candlelight. It makes him feel good, and makes me want to do those things even more. So find out what your man's definition of romantic is and be on the lookout for opportunities to engage him in those activities.

Now, last but not least, the issue of romance and sex. I don't think i can make it any clearer than these men:

"It is hard for men to delineate romance without sex. It's all a part of it. If men are romantic, they want sex. If there were no moral or societal constraints, romance would always lead to sex."

" I love setting up a romantic evening, but it is a lot of work for me.And i don't think my wife realizes that when i am being romantic, i've got a very specific endpoint in mind. So sometimes there's intense disappointment after all that work!" (A note here; ladies, your husband should not feel like he has to put an extensive amount of work into a romantic event to get sex from you. "Do not deprive each other...
1 Cor. 7:5 Just sayin'...)

"A guy wants romance not to somehow manipulate sex, but to re-experience the spark of dating, to reconnect after draining days of work at the office, to feel love and intimacy, to know he is wanted and enjoyed, and to utterly escape the crushing, non - stop pressure of life. And sex can be a wonderful part of all that.Romance is about being with the person you love and discovering to one's monumental delight that she too wants to escape - with me!"

And I love this one - 
"The guy is thinking, if romance is about feeling emotionally connected, and sex is my way of being emotionally connected, and we're already being romantic, then why not now?If we're going to have sex sometime in the next month, wouldn't now be a good time?"

Got it? ; )

A few final thoughts....
-Date night babysitting trade offs. This is one of the best ideas i have heard in a long time and i cannot wait to implement it . Having to hire a babysitter can easily double the cost of a date , not to mention the fact that there are the issues of availability, reliability, time frame, etc., and if you always use family members like we do, there's always the concern that you're overburdening them or that they might feel you are taking their availability for granted. If you can find another family that is close by, has similar family values, and is familiar with your children and vice versa, then it can become an even exchange where you are guaranteed a sitter, and it's free. Set up a monthly or bi-monthly date ( for example: 3rd Friday night,2nd Saturday afternoon) and commit to being available on that date, whether it's to spend time with your husband, or to watch your partner couple's kids so that they can get away. 

-Alternating date planning. Michael and i have been doing this for a while and it's really proven to be a lot of fun. There are several benefits; first of all it takes the pressure off of one person doing all the planning, all the time. It eliminates the "ok we have a sitter, we're dressed and sitting in the car, now where do we go and what do we do" scenario. (emphasis on date planning here.) It's a good way to balance different tastes and preferences - for example, Michael's top pick for cuisine is Japanese. Sushi in particular. His last choice is usually Mexican. This is one area where we differ. My preferences are the exact opposite. Now however, he doesn't have to feel guilty about taking me out to Sushi Thai this month because he knows that next month we'll probably be going to El Dorado. On the flipside of this it also gives you the opportunity to express love for each other in a selfless way and to show deference by planning something that you know the other would especially like, but might not plan for the two of you. It's also a really fun way to spring a surprise. 

Project : "How can you love me? Let me count the ways..."
Make a list of 10 things that you find particularly romantic and give it to your husband as a cheat sheet. Try to keep it general so that the ideas can be used more than once or in more than one way. Foe example, a couple of mine are:

-Outdoor activities
-Going to get coffee
-Dessert and movies in bed

If you'd like, and especially if you plan on doing alternating date planning, have your husband do the same for you. 

Challenge : Plan and execute a date with your man from start to finish (and i mean finish)
Hire a sitter or find a family to trade with, decide where to eat, what to do, what time, get fixed up and have a good time. Bonus points if it's a surprise.

 Creative Date Ideas                                                             
vineyard tours (childress,gregory,shelton...)
lakes (benson,jordan..)
hiking (raven rock,eno river...)
outdoor movies (koka booth, hillsboro street,raleigh art museum...)
motor boats on lake benson
live music
miniature golf
go karts
ice skating
dancing (triangle swing dance society,loafers beach club)

Recommended Restaurants
Oliver Twist
Peak City Grill
P.F. Chang's
2nd Empire
Irregardless Cafe

That's it girls, until next time, have fun ;) ! Can't wait to hear about your awesome dates! Our next meeting will be on Wednesday May 22nd, 7pm at my home.  Our topic, back by popular demand and in seemingly appropriate order, " The Proverbs 31 Song of Solomon Woman" . 
Hope to see you there!....Much Love, Georgia

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