“I do what I want!” one of our daughters used to say whenever she thought she was being over-parented. But she was right. People generally do what they want. Most of the time, your life is how you want it to be. You are the reason your life is the way it is.
“No, it’s not,” you say.
Yet, you continue to life your life in such a way that causes it to remain the same.
People often complain about what life gives them. They say they feel cheated. But most often, people make choices that cause their lives to remain the same.
I want to quit smoking. But I don’t do what it takes to quit.
I want to lose weight. But I don’t do what it takes to lose weight.
I want a better job. But I don’t do what it takes to get a better job.
I want better friends. But I don’t do what it takes to have better friends.
I want to be less stressed. But I don’t do what it takes to be less stressed.
Most often, the quality of our life is a reflection of what we want. People are surprised to hear this notion because we’re constantly taught that our standard of living is the result of what happens to us.
"What does this have to do with dating my spouse?” you ask.
This principle has to do with everything in your life, including the relationship with your spouse.
What is of greatest importance?
Other than how you value yourself and your relationship with God, there is nothing more important than your relationship with your spouse.
I propose that your children believe there is nothing more important to them than your relationship with your spouse. They certainly put more value in your relationship with your spouse than they do in your career or your possessions. If you don’t believe me, ask them.
If your children believe you have an unhealthy marriage, then,
Why should it matter to them who they date?
Why should it matter to them what career they have if they’re just going to live alone anyway?
Why should they bother making substantial sacrifices and investments in their lives if they’re not going to have their own families?
Why should they work on improving themselves if they’re just going to end up like you in an unhappy marriage?
I heard the following question from Dennis Prager years ago:
“If your house is burning down and you have time to save
only your spouse or your children,
which do you save?”
Spend some time thinking about this before you answer.
His answer: You are to save your spouse. Why do you suppose that’s the answer? Perhaps it’s because:
Can you have a healthy relationship with your children if you don’t have a healthy relationship with your spouse?
You can have more children. You cannot replace your spouse.
I’m certain the second point is shocking. I hope you’ll never have to face such a decision. But what is the question’s message?
Why focus on dating your spouse?
I know very few married couples who date each other on a regular basis. While holding leadership positions in my Church, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many fathers. None of them who I’d interviewed dated their wives on a regular basis, even after repeated admonitions to do so.
None of my married co-workers in my profession regularly date their spouse. I know because I’ve asked them.
Life gets busy and parents have great demands upon their time. While most parents are good people, they sometimes forget they’re married and become conditioned to respond to whatever comes their way. Parents often say there isn’t enough time in the day to do one more thing. But every soul on Earth has the same 24 hours per day. It isn’t the available time that’s the issue. It’s the choice of how to use our time.
If you don’t have time to spare on a date with your spouse, then watch three hours less television one night each week.
When you show love to your spouse, you simultaneously show love to your children. They feel your love for your spouse. What do your children want more than anything else? They want security. Every time you date your spouse, your children feel more secure.
For those of you with young children, babysitting is a challenge.
May I suggest that instead of hiring a babysitter, befriend another couple with young children. Then, on one Friday night, one couple babysits both sets of children while the other couple goes on a date. Then alternate the next Friday night. Or every Friday, one set of parents babysits both sets of children, while every Saturday night the other set of parents babysits both sets of children.
There are a host of benefits from doing this:
Babysitting is free.
Children get to play with other children.
Both sets of parents get to share notes.
Both sets of parents get to date regularly.
Children get to find out what other parents are like.
Both parents participate when it’s their night to babysit, providing bonding within the marriage.
No one can disagree with these points. The issue isn’t the benefits of shared babysitting. The issue is: Do the parents really want to go on dates? That is what matters.
If you want lists, here are two. Lists are easy to write and easy to understand. But, apparently they're difficult to believe. We must deeply believe within ourselves that we choose the quality of our marriage.
Dating your spouse: Benefits to parents
Dating is fun.
Dating provides a more ideal environment.
Dating provides a chance to do new things.
Dating promotes relaxation around each other.
Dating reminds parents that there still is a marriage.
Dating provides better opportunities to communicate
Dating lets your spouse know that he or she is a priority.
Dating provides something to look forward to every week.
Dating provides a stronger sense of security within the relationship.
Dating provides opportunities to do things together the couple enjoys.
Dating your spouse: Benefits to children
Dating helps children feel more trusted because they are left for a time to manage themselves and the house.
Dating encourages children to learn responsibility.
Dating helps children feel more secure because the parents act like they love each other.
Dating helps children see their parents enjoying each other and will more likely want to be like them.
Dating provides children some freedom from parents.
If parents cannot carve out two or three hours a week for each other, then their lives are too overprogrammed; there is too much emphasis in the relationship on “getting things done.” Some people enjoy the stressful high-octane life. Such people are free to choose. But they must understand that they are the ones making the choices in their lives, and not their lives making choices for them.