Have you ever heard of the saying, “Families that play together stay together?” It’s similar to the saying, “You are what you eat” because both create a direct impact on your life. When it comes to personal relationships, another saying that rings true is, “You are what you focus on”. Meaning how you and your partner spend your time also determines the strength of your relationship. When you factor in all of life’s obligations, it’s no wonder that date night can struggle with tremendous pressure, often resulting in both people feeling further disconnected and frustrated than before.
In February, this sentiment heightens because of Valentine’s Day. For most couples who have had multiple demands on their time, calendars and mental capacity, February can be a month of constant struggle, bickering and frustration. In order to avoid and lessen this pressure so that your February can be your best passionate month yet, here is a tool that has worked for countless couples!
Remember when you were first dating and you spoke about everything from a “we” perspective? “We are going to the club”, “We are going to the gym”, practically everything you did or said, began with “we”. As your relationship develops and time ages on, you can’t spend as much time with each other and for most couples, the “we” talk eventually moves into “me” talk. Many couples are amazing at coordinating compatible lives. Your spouse has his schedule, you have your schedule, and then there is the kids schedule. As the years go by, likely you’ve both discovered separate interest, and began to spend more time apart. In fact, it is common to hear couples sleeping under the same roof, but leading COMPLETELY separate lives. Then, throw date night in the mix, and most couples strain to figure out how to talk to each other often feeling like their relationship could be doomed. Eventually the focus goes to what isn’t working between you rather than what you both really want – connection.
Do you remember when you used to visit each other at work for a quick lunch or even just a kiss? Meet each other’s family, friends or coworkers? Help solve each other’s problems? Learn about each other’s interests? This is where “we” talk came from. So if you’re not feeling like you’re all that compatible right now, if you’re struggling to find that connection consider this question, “What comes first – a good connected relationship or involvement in each other’s lives?” Involvement, right! Instead of focusing solely on your spouse or partner’s needs, what might be broken, or even how to make date night “perfect”, instead just focus on “we talk” meaning how you can involve yourself with your partner once again. The key to this focus tool comes from involvement not on usefulness. You don’t have to fix their problems, your problems or your marriage on date night all you have to do is be involved.
Involved listening and involved asking leads to involved participation within a relationship. When you involve yourself, from the perspective of just knowing what is happening in your partner’s life it changes the dynamic of the questions you ask.
Consider this, on date night instead of asking questions to fix, or “investigate” instead ask questions like you would have when you were first dating.
Start with simple questions like:
1) What’s going on right now with your favorite sports team? Are there any big games happening?
2) What’s happening at work? Tell me about something you’ve been involved in at work, I’d like to just hear you talk about it.
3) What is something you’re excited about or involved in this month, that maybe I don’t know much about?
Keeping in mind you’re just asking questions to get involved, not to change their opinions or judge their answers, but really to just know what’s going on in their mind.
When your partner is answering, used involved listening, which means just allowing them to share with you and you listening for the areas that are important to them. What’s great about involved participation is that it doesn’t mean you have to actively participate in the activity with them – your involvement comes from asking and listening and then following up with involved questions just for the sake of hearing them. How you get involved post conversation depends then on you, your spouse and the interest you both have. It means there are endless possibilities and instead of the GOAL being for your relationship to be perfect or date night to be perfect, instead the GOAL is merely repositioned onto getting involved in some way so that your partner’s interests become part of your life too.
When involvement becomes the focus, it means you’re engaging in discussion about a topic. You’re asking questions not to change or influence but just because you’re interested in what they have to say. It doesn’t mean you show up unexpectedly or then infuse yourself in their interest, instead you’re involving yourself through connection. The chances are high that your partner’s interests may not interest you. If they did, you’d likely already be involved. This exercise is challenging in that regard and it does take discipline to remain focus solely on involvement and choosing closeness.
Consider a Mom whose daughter developed a passion for skiing. Every year required new ski gear, equipment, and lengthy lessons. Every weekend, they went from ski hill to ski hill, developing skills, taking lessons, and actively learning and participating in the sport. Their involvement meant that their social activities all revolved around skiing for the entire winter season, but it did wonders for their relationship.
At the end of the season the mom was asked, “Did you always love skiing?”
“No.” she replied. “In fact, I’m still not a great skier, but I love my daughter that much and knowing the sport helps me stay involved with her.”
Using this same concept with your partner or spouse can greatly change the level of intimacy within your relationship and the direction your Date Nights take in February! What happens when you focus on involvement is both of you relax and begin to reconnect from an intimate place of sharing. From here, date night’s ending can be about passion and excitement because it grew through your connection not force. Try it out, practice it and leave a comment to let me know how it went for you!