Water Your Grass.

“I need to write about how important it is to date your spouse for a blog this week. Any thoughts?” I asked my husband this out of the blue one evening.

He’s a thoughtful man, slow to speak, quick to listen and consider. Nothing like I am. I’m not even sure what I think until I’ve verbally processed it with someone and explored all the possible angles. But Jason, he considers his response and then only speaks when he has something meaningful to say.

“Well for starters, if you date your spouse, you won’t miss dating.”

That was pretty jaw-dropping for me. How many people look at their spouse and kids and just miss the “good ol’ days” when they could go on dates and enjoy all the options out there?

News flash, you still can enjoy dating!

I never enjoyed it in my youth. I hated the uncertainty and not knowing. If God would have just said, “Anna, this is the one. Marry him.” I’d have been happy to do so and skip all the initial dates and relationships it often takes to find your mate. But many people miss it. The newness. The excitement. The possibilities.

And that’s really it, isn’t it? Possibilities. Hope.

Too often as we go along in our ordinary, mundane, daily tasks we lose the spark of possibilities and excitement in life. We lose hope in what could be. Dating is one thing in life that can often make us feel alive. Wanted. Desired.

I’m here to tell you something. You can redefine your life anytime you choose to. And you can redefine your marriage too.

If things are stale, you don’t have to choose to let them stay that way. Just like you used to choose to put on that cute outfit, get your hair just right, and maybe spray that fancy perfume or cologne before a new date, you can still choose to do those things for your mate. You can choose effort. You can choose risks. You can choose to invest in something that could be amazing – if it isn’t already.

My grandfather used to say, “The grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s greener where you water it.” I think that pretty much sums up everything that needs to be said.

For total transparency, my beloved grandfather knew from experience. He’d gone through the process of adultery and divorce. He was married 4 times before he passed at the grand age of 92. He made his last two marriages last until death parted, and I don’t know anyone that was a stronger advocate for keeping your marriage healthy. I think he learned from experience.

He often asked my husband and me if we were still in our honeymoon phase. It was this cute thing he’d do because the first time he asked us (while we were still in our first year of marriage), we eagerly told him our honeymoon was never going to end. His face lit with a smile. He absolutely loved that answer, and he asked it every chance he got just to hear us recommit to our plan to always invest in keeping our marriage healthy and exciting and filled with love.

Even in our slower, more mundane seasons, I’m reminded of that promise we often made to him. It’s motivation to me to always invest in my man.

Back to the conversation with my own husband – we discussed how hard it would be to reenter the dating world, and how challenging that must be for people with deceased spouses or those who’ve been divorced.

My husband noted, the reality is, if you aren’t dating your spouse regularly, it’s likely going to feel that way one day when the kids move away and you’re left staring at each other.

Maybe that’s not a big deal to some people, but that sounds absolutely terrible to those of us that never enjoyed pre-marriage dating to begin with.

I’m often shocked at how many marriages fall apart after the kids move out. Now, I know, some of these parents just held on as long as they felt they could, often “for the kids.” And perhaps they weren’t in safe marriages or were with someone who refused to work on the marriage, too. I won’t pretend to know anyone’s reason for ending a marriage, nor am I here to place judgment on what I don’t know.

But many couples simply forget how to be a couple. They become excellent roommates shuffling their kids around to extracurricular activities and making sure they paid the bills.

Who the heck has time or energy for dating?

But the reality is, we have to find the time and energy for this. Even if that means getting creative and meeting your spouse where they are. Marriage should not be a grin-and-bear-it situation because those marriages often don’t last. Grin and bear it should be for very short seasons and should be followed by lots of investment.

When we had our daughter, we were really thrown a curve. This kid didn’t sleep. She wasn’t happy. She cried all the time. My primary description of her at that time – discontent. It took a while – like most of the first year – before she was fairly content and I didn’t feel so guilty leaving her with family or friends for a few hours here and there.

Do you think my husband and I spent much time that year focusing on us, our relationship, dates, or intimacy? Um no. No, we did not. But as soon as we got her adjusted to sleeping better and were able to bring some sense of stability back to our home, we did some overnights out of town – sans kid. We went on dates much more often, and we carved out time each evening once she was in bed to just hang out or chat or have dinner. It’s still a struggle to prioritize dates, but we sure enjoy our marriage a lot more now.

And when I say date, I literally just mean designated, intentional time together. In fact, our favorite date is to have a late dinner grilled on the back porch. It involves little money, no childcare, and could be almost any night of the week as long as temperatures are decent and bugs are at bay. But it’s intentional, and we feel close and connected those evenings.

Some of the previous blog posts this month mention specific ways you can do dates with your spouse, so for this post, I just want to remind you the why. And that it’s a choice. Too often we feel victimized by our circumstances. I know, because I can lean into victimhood as easily as anyone. But victimhood doesn’t empower us. Being reminded we can do something to change our circumstances does.

So this is your reminder. If you aren’t happy in your marriage, you can change it. You can start with a calm, frank, loving conversation with your spouse. Get childcare. Go to dinner. (Absolutely no texting each other about this.) And have a real conversation about what your marriage and lives currently look like and what you want them to become. Then schedule weekly date nights or as often as you can schedule them.

If your marriage is happy, but you’ve been absorbed in childcare/teen activities/toddler tantrums or a busy work schedule, this is your reminder. As someone who prioritizes my child above pretty much everything, I need this reminder too. Take time for the most important person in your life that will be there with you long after those precious babies move away to go do amazing things. You’re worth it, and your spouse is worth it, too.   

Written by: Anna Wetherington. Anna is a therapist, mom, and writer living in Valdosta, GA with her husband and daughter.