DATING YOUR SPOUSE ON A BUDGET
Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor
At the end of the marriage ceremony, the pastor says, “Now you may kiss your bride.” That kiss is the seal on the promises just spoken. The man has found the woman with whom he wants to build a life, and her heart is filled with joy at the prospect of making a wonderful home for them to share. As they walk arm-in-arm down the church aisle, they smile into each other’s eyes knowing their love will last through many tests.
Ten years later, this same couple can’t agree on what breakfast cereal to eat, what kind of car to buy, or where to go on vacation. They have become angry and distant without knowing why. They wonder what happened to the life they had planned.
One reason couples get angry and grow apart is because the romance they once shared is dead. Their lives now revolve around the children. Even if they could find time to spend together, there’s no money. The mortgage payment, car payment, orthodontist, groceries, etc. take all the money they earn. That can be discouraging, but there are solutions. It simply takes time and effort to develop them. And men and women are equally responsible for finding creative ways to infuse the marriage with romance. If they don’t soon work together to find answers to their problems, dissatisfaction will become boredom. They will continue to seek ways to avoid each other, and the further apart they become, the harder it will be to rediscover each other again.
In their book, Traits Of A Lasting Marriage, Jim and Sally Conway say, “A boring marriage is like putting on weight. It happens gradually, and at some point you say, ’Hey, I’m fat!’ A dull marriage may exist for many years, but at some point, one of the partners will say, ’Our marriage stinks.’”
I know what it’s like to be part of a stinky marriage. Several years ago, my husband, Larry, and I found ourselves in one. We didn’t realized how bad things were until others began to comment on the changes in us. One Sunday morning, the pastor of the small town church in Maine we attended, said, “Suzanne, what’s wrong with you? You don’t smile anymore.”
“Just tired, I guess,” I said as I walked away from him.
Pastor didn’t wait long to get to the truth. The next morning he called and said that he thought Larry and I should meet with him. I gave the pastor a vague answer about being too busy and told him I’d get back to him later. It never occurred to me that Larry might want to talk with the pastor when he wouldn’t talk to me. But when I told Larry the pastor had called, and what he said, he called him right back to set up a meeting.
“When would you like me to come out, “ Pastor asked. And minutes later we were all sitting under the apple tree sipping coffee and talking.
After a time of prayer, Pastor asked us several questions about what we thought had gone wrong with our relationship. Neither of us could think of how to answer him. Then, as he probed deeper, we began to see what had happened to us. Health issues that were expensive to treat had drained us emotionally and physically. Then problems with the family placed an added burden on our finances. And because of Larry’s disabilities, getting things done around the house was difficult. Since neither of us wanted to add to the other’s concerns by complaining about things we couldn’t change, we began to build a wall. We talked less, and the less we communicated, the higher the wall got. Instead of becoming comforters for each other, we became another burden to carry.
Larry and I counseled with Pastor three times. After the third time, he said, “Larry, you and Suzanne have a great marriage. You’ve just let life get in your way. I think all that’s needed to restore this marriage is a little romance. You just need to date again.”
We looked at each other in astonishment. We had dated every week since the day we married. We went out to dinner, took long drives in the surrounding countryside, and went to church suppers. When had we stopped doing these things together?
On the way home from the parsonage, Larry and I discussed dating. We agreed that our marriage was too precious to risk losing. Although our finances were still tight, Larry pledged to squeeze $20.00 from the budget whenever possible to be used for dating. I pledged to create “free” dates for those weeks when money just wasn’t available.
The following week I began to ask other couples what sort of dates they planned for each other. I included people from all income levels, expecting to get different answers according to how long they had been married, and how much they could afford to spend on dating. It shocked me to hear four out of five couples say they had no time to spend together.
Stacy, a thirty-something wife and mother of two, asked, “Do you mean before we were married?”
“No I mean now,” I said. “What kind of dates do you and Hank plan for each other to keep the romance alive in your marriage?”
Stacy laughed, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “We don’t have time for dating.”
Several ladies I spoke with were resigned to the fact that they have nothing in common with their husbands. “He goes his way, and I go mine,” they said.
Many men I spoke with, said, “When I get home from work, I’m so tired all I want to do is flop down on the sofa and forget the world.”
More men than you’d expect had this to say, “I married her so I wouldn’t have to bother with all this romance stuff. Anyway, we have everything right here, so why should I want to spend money dating?”
Apparently these marriages have become classic, “stinkies.” The couples get up early in the morning, and they go through their day doing the same old things. There are no surprises to relieve the tension. They have nothing to look forward to. It doesn’t have to stay that way though. With a little bit of work and imagination, they can change the situation. The following date ideas can be applied as is, or modified, or just used to jumpstart the imagination.
RELAXING AT HOME
Most people have food in their cupboards or refrigerator. That’s the first part of your date plan. And since you planned to use that food for a meal anyway, there is no extra out-of-pocket expense. Just be sure you have all the ingredients you need for a particular meal of your choice. Making the meal your spouse likes best is a great beginning to your evening of romance.
Begin by writing an intriguing invitation to your spouse. Word it anyway you like, but remember to mention that the dinner is for two. If you have children, make arrangements for them to spend the night with Grandma or Auntie.
When date day arrives, drop the kids off early enough to give yourself time for a relaxing soak in the tub. After your hair and make-up are done, spritz on some of his favorite scent and dress casually. When your man walks through the door, greet him with the same passion you did when you were first falling in love.
After your loving embrace, lead him to the living room and select the music for your evening together. Then take some time to sit and talk awhile before dinner. When he’s ready to eat, serve him with all the care and attention you would use for someone special. After all, who’s more special than the man you love?
Once dinner and dessert have been served, don’t fret about the dishes. Rather, pour him some coffee and lead him back into the living room where you can snuggle on the sofa; maybe have a dance or two, and “dream-talk” about what you both want from your future together. Relax with each other and allow the evening to reach its natural conclusion. You can bet your spouse will wake up with a smile the next morning. And he will anticipate your next romantic encounter.
THE ROMANTIC PICNIC
All men desire to rule their castle, and this is a sure-fire plan to get you on the throne. For half the year God brings forth flowers from the earth. These flowers are natural, fragrance-filled free expressions of love and should be used to set a romantic tone to your date. Pick a lovely bouquet of flowers for your wife, and you're on the path to a great date.
Next, search the cupboards and refrigerator to find some of her favorite foods. Pack them into a picnic basket along with napkins, flatware, something to drink, a radio, and a soft blanket. Whether or not you have told her about the date, knock on the door and wait for her to open it for you. Take her into your arms and kiss her passionately, then lead her to the car. Open the car door for her, and once she’s seated, present her with your floral expression of love, and kiss her again.
Drive to a place where wildflowers grow and you can hear the musical tinkling of water cascading over rocks. What can be more romantic for a woman than laying on a blanket in a field of wildflowers, having lunch as she listens to water trickling over rocks while the man she loves holds her hand? Add a little soft music in the background and you will definitely rule your world.
Although few people gave me date ideas, this idea for a romantic date that includes the children was provided by Karen Soule of Putnam, Connecticut.
Karen’s husband, Danny, takes the boys outside to gather the fishing gear from the shed. They gas up the boat, make sure the life preservers are onboard, and stow the fishing gear. While they’re busy doing that, Karen is inside packing hot dogs and Kool Aid into a cooler. “I pack marshmallows for roasting, too,” she said. “Then I gather beach towels and sun screen. Once all that is stowed on the boat, we tow the boat to the launch ramp a quarter mile from our home and get the boat into the water.” They then cruise over toward a small island in the center of the lake. Danny and the boys fish from the boat for a while, and Karen reads her Bible. When everyone is ready, they dock at the island.
After docking, Karen and the boys gather wood, and Danny makes a fire. They set up the tent together, then relax for a while. “While Danny and I soak up the sun, the boys play tag, swim, or fish from shore,” said Karen. “After a while we all scatter to find the perfect stick to spear our hotdogs with. Everyone has to cook his own.”
After dinner, Karen and Danny play hide-and-go-seek with the boys, then they swim for a while to cool off. “By that time it’s getting dark,” said Karen. “So we roast marshmallows and tell scary stories. We then tuck the boys in for the night.”
Once the boys are settled in the tent, Karen and Danny have the rest of the evening to swim, walk around the island, or just lay under the stars snuggling in each other’s arms. Now that’s romantic.
ROMANCE UNDER $25.00
This is a date that melts the heart, and it’s equally effective regardless which spouse plans it. Begin this date by calling your local florists to see if they sell boxes or bags of rose petals. If you are fortunate and find a flower shop that sells the rose petals, order one package and one long stemmed rose. Remember, red is the color of passion.
On the way home from the flower shop, stop at the grocery store for a bottle of sparkling cider, a box of strawberries, and a romantic movie. When you get home, leave everything in the car. (Keep the flowers out of the sun.)
Once the needs of the day have been met, and your spouse is in the shower, retrieve the goodies from the car. Spread a soft blanket on the floor, scatter the petals all over it, and place the single rose on your spouse’s pillow. Now wash the berries, put the bottle of cider in a bowl of ice, and get the movie ready to view. If you have candles, light a few, or just have soft lighting in the room. When your spouse comes out of the shower all steamy and smelling sweet, lead him/her to the living room. Pour the cider into pretty glasses and get the movie going. As you lay there beside each other nibbling strawberries from each other’s hands, don’t neglect to nibble the finger tips. As always, allow the evening to reach its natural conclusion.
A YARD SALE DATE
Guys, I don’t know many woman who can resist a yard sale. This is a date you must plan together so your schedules won’t conflict. Study your calendar and pick out a free Saturday, then mark a large X through the square. This will be your Saturday.
The morning of your date, get up early and prepare breakfast together. After breakfast, pack a lunch and some drinks. If you like, take a few minutes to plan a route to follow, or do like Larry and I and take your chances.
Drive slower than usual. Take time to observe God’s creation as you go along. Sing to the radio, talk, tell jokes, or tell funny stories about the kids, work, or friends. If you see a yard sale that appears interesting, stop. Hold hands as you walk around looking things over. Whisper comments about the silly items for sale, and laugh with each other.
At some point, stop at a quiet rest area or park and have your lunch. You might even take time for a short nap. When you resume your trip, decide if you want to continue with yard sales, or if you’d rather do something else. Perhaps you could drive into the nearest city and window shop for a while. If you can afford it, you might even buy each other a little present.
On your way home, find a quiet restaurant where they serve your favorite foods, and treat each other to dinner. Talk about your future, and what you’d like to accomplish in the next months. Make sure to encourage each other with positive feedback.
There are so many dates you can plan. If your budget is fairly non-existent, walk around your neighborhood holding hands, greeting the people you meet along the way. After your walk, go home and give each other a back rub.
If you are blessed with an unlimited dating budget, take a weekend off and go to a hotel near a large mall. Shop at the mall during the day, walk around the city, and eat lunch at a fabulous restaurant. After lunch, return to the hotel, take a shower, and have a nap together, holding each other closely.
In the evening you might take in a show or a movie. Whichever you decide, make it a dress-up night. After the show, take each other to a fancy restaurant for dinner. Flirt across the table, feed each other, and talk. After dinner, walk back to the hotel, and, yes, allow the evening to reach its natural conclusion.
If these ideas have sparked your imagination, make some notes. If your first date will be a quiet meal at home for two, check the contents of your cupboards for the items you will need. Whatever date you plan on, make sure to give yourself some time to get things ready. Spur of the moment dates are fun and romantic, and should be used, but planning a date carefully can bring great joy to your spouse as he/she realizes the depth of your great love. There will be no “stinky” marriage for you two.
Remember, communication is a vital link in your relationship. Romance is right up there next to it. If you and your spouse are not communicating romantically, you are cheating each other out one of life’s greatest joys. During each date hugging, kissing, and touching should be encouraged. It is through that touch that your hearts will connect, and your souls will be fed.
Date your spouse no matter what your budget, and your marriage will last a lifetime.