At 25 I had given up on finding someone I could live with for the rest of my life. After nine years of dating, I believed there was no “one.” I was disappointed with the men I met who kept trying to change me into either their mother or their mistress.
Then I met someone who changed that. On our first date, before starting the car, he gave me a book about teaching poetry to children, which wouldn’t be romantic to most people, but to me it was golden. Here was someone who had listened to what I did for a living, and he supported it with a gift. What a welcome change from the lawyer I dated who told me I should give up teaching and do something important that made more money.
Over dinner we talked about the latest research in left brain/ right brain theory, something I was investigating for teaching my sixth graders more effectively. He was interested in it because he designed buildings and wanted to understand more about how to design spaces to fit his clients’ needs. Doesn’t sound romantic, but it was to us because we were exchanging our passions and interests.
Then we danced until 2:00 AM and closed the place down. He walked me to my door and gave me the best goodnight kiss I’d ever had—soft, warm, exciting—undemanding, yet promising.
We had so much fun together and had so much in common that we kept on dating for three years. I was deeply in love and wanted to be married, but he was skeptical about marriage since his first wife had passed away after one year and his second marriage ended in divorce. He had a son I loved very much, and I wanted to form a family and maybe have more children. I wanted more, and he wanted things to stay the same because he didn’t want to make a mistake.
So I started dating other people to see if I could find someone who had the same qualities and was willing to be married. I was miserable.
After three months of dating other people, “my guy” proposed at dinner on an impromptu Valentine’s date. I was supposed to chair a meeting of the Young Business Women of America, and we were going to dinner later, but something made me decide to do the unthinkable and skip the meeting to go to dinner with him at a decent hour. So there I sat in my three-piece pinstripe suit eating French onion soup when he asked the four words I’d been waiting to hear for so long. I said, “Yes!” somehow avoiding spitting the soup all over him and myself, and we were married three months later.
We’ve been married thirty-six years now, and we are often asked how we have managed to work together and stay happy for so long.
Here are two action items that are part of our long-term success:
- We give one another a twenty-second hug every day.
- We have a date night every Friday night.
Our secret is that we treat each other as if we are still dating. We still want to know everything about one another and how to make each other happy with each year that goes by. We want to keep the thrill we had so long ago even as our bodies change, our goals change, our finances change, and our tastes change. We want to feel like we got a great deal when we chose one another.
What if you treated one another as your best customer? Whether you own a business or are an employee, you need to be sure your customers are satisfied so they are loyal and happy with your product. Taking care of customers is a lot like dating. You have to find out what makes them happy and then try and fulfill their wants and needs. You can’t take them for granted. You can’t ignore them. You can’t make huge changes without considering how it will impact them. You have to communicate with them so you know what they are thinking, and they know what you are thinking. You can’t expect them to read your mind.
The Twenty-Second Hug
Stimulating desire in marriage requires more than flowers and greeting cards and even sex. It is about listening, encouraging, tolerating, respecting, empathizing, and sharing interests, values and goals, plus a lot more.
A University of North Carolina study on hugging found that touching, holding hands and hugging releases the “bonding” hormone oxytocin into the bloodstream causing feelings of elation and affection for you and your partner.
One of the most difficult problems with maintaining your caring attitude, and showing your spouse through your actions that you care, is complacency. It is too easy to take your spouse for granted, and feel that they are doing the same to you. But don’t worry about them. If you do your part, they will reciprocate.
If you don’t like to hug, because your family has never been into hugging, do it anyway. If you have read Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, and you decided that physical touch is not your primary language, fine, but the best spouses learn to be multilingual, so start communicating by holding each other— the way you did back when.
Begin immediately by holding each other close for twenty seconds at least once a day. Time yourselves. You’ll find that 20 seconds is a lot longer than you’d imagine. Give yourselves time to lean in to one another and feel one another instead of just giving a quick body bump.
And talk about how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel uneasy, talk about why. Showing love means sharing your fears as well as your joys.
Date night is a treat and a goal. No matter what is going on in your lives, date night is that oasis you create together to shut out the rest of the world.
Our usual date night consists of a movie and dinner because we both love sitting in a theater in the dark, holding hands, and watching a movie. At dinner we talk about the movie and anything else that we want to share. Sometimes we are so tired that we just look at one another and smile, but at least we feel connected.
Date night doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a movie at home or a shower together or anything else that makes it special for the two of you. It’s a chance TO BE together.
The 2012 National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia Date Night Opportunity Study found that “husbands and wives who engaged in couple time with their mates at least once a week were approximately 3.5 times more likely to report being “very happy” in their marriages, compared to those who enjoyed less quality time with their spouse.”
Here are the five benefits of date nights cited by Brad Wilcox and Jeff Dew:
The advantage of date night is being sure that the two of you are alone. That means you either talk to one another or become one of those couples that sit in a restaurant and forks food into their mouths without even looking at one another. It means you can sit together and say whatever comes into your minds without interruptions from children, in-laws, siblings, or friends. It’s a time to discover what is different and what is the same, what is good and what is bad, what happened during last week and what may be coming.
You may want something more exciting than a Friday night movie and dinner. The research says that date night can give you the novelty you crave and allows you to participate in something new and exciting together.
Having a chance to focus on one another the way you did while dating gives you a feeling of deeper connection and can bring back that spark you felt early on in your marriage. That excitement can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and perhaps create an afterglow that continues through the week.
By letting everyone in your world know that you have set aside a night for one another, you demonstrate your love and commitment to one another. It makes it clear that you aren’t interested in looking elsewhere for a partner because you love the one you have.
It’s up to you what helps you de-stress. If it helps to talk about something on your mind and your partner is willing, then date night can be a forum for engaging in talking about a difficult topic. If you know that talking about re-decorating, finances, religion, the kids, parents, or politics will end up in an argument, then have those conversations at a different time when the focus isn’t on escaping the world’s cares for awhile.
We created a card that can help you with a theme for your next date night. It’s called Where Could I Love You? Click on the link and let your imagination take you away.
The bottom line is that people are never perfect, but love can be. Don’t waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead create your perfect love.
We would love to hear about your best or worst date night. Please post your story in our comment section.