My wife (Jean) and I often go out for a “date night.” It is one way we stay connected. So here’s how a typical date night goes:
Spouse 1: “Do you want to get in a date night this week?”
Spouse 2: “Sure – well – do you?”
Spouse 1: “Yes.. don’t you?”
Not exactly a roaring start.
Even after 31 years together – we are still shy – does she really want to spend time with me? Then the appointed evening arrives. As we drive out of the driveway, we try deciding on a restaurant:
Spouse 1: “Where do you want to go?”
Spouse 2: “You decide. I decided last time.”
Spouse 1: “No, you didn’t, I always decide.”
Spouse 2: “No, I think I did – remember?”
Spouse 1: “Oh – it doesn’t matter…where do you want to go?”
Spouse 2: “I’m not sure… where do you….”
We eventually choose the restaurant by default – based on the direction we took out of the driveway. But we are relieved to have this part over with.
Spouse 1: “What are you going to have?”
Spouse 2: “Hmm.. Oh, I don’t know…how about you?”
Spouse 1: “Etc. etc. “
Oh my… is it that bad?
After I order the same thing I always order, I follow it up with the same question I always ask: “How was your day?”
This question produces a pleasant, but entirely predictable conversation directed towards certain subjects (kids, upcoming events, news and the people at the other table) while avoiding others (conflict, private thoughts, spiritual insights, fears or dreams).
Yes – this is typical.
But it would be a simple thing to change this dance. I could just ask a different question:
“What big thing have you been thinking about?”
“Have you been afraid lately?”
It would be a simple thing to be more specific. Jean likes it when I remember an earlier conversation and follow up: “You were nervous about talking with your friend – how’d it go?” (Hint: she likes the question, regardless of how the talk went)
I like it when Jean asks: “So, are you getting to do anything inspiring or replenishing?” (Hint: I like the question, even if I don’t know how to answer.)
It would be so simple to initiate an encouragement:
“You said something really wise the other night that I’ve been thinking about…”
“You do a lot for us. Here, I made a short list of a few of them…”
Yes, it would be a simple thing to initiate a compliment, a forgotten endearment, a neglected apology, an overdue forgiveness, a needed confession or a vulnerable request for help. All of these would be simple to do. Simple. But not typical.
I know that if I continue these typical date nights – I will have a typical marriage. And what is a typical marriage? Answer: A series of predictable, unfortunate conversations designed to avoid risk. What is a non-typical marriage? Answer: A cascading series of unpredictable experiences of simply asking for intimacy.
Avoiding risk makes for complicated but safe conversations. But asking for intimacy makes for simple dialogue – open-ended questions, open-faced listening, open possibilities.
“Typically avoiding” makes for predictable dates. “Simply asking” makes for wild dates.
Which is what I wanted in the first place.
Roger Edwards joined The Barnabas Center in 1991. In addition to counseling individuals and couples, Roger teaches and leads discussion groups about applying the Bible to everyday life. He is a licensed professional counselor, holds a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Grace Theological Seminary in Indiana and earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to Jean, and they have seven children.
Roger – I love this…….your honesty and what is true for us too. Thank you for being brave to share what is “typical” as well as giving a picture of what we (husband and wife) each might want.
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