Becoming a Great Date
The following post was written by Erin Smalley.
Enjoy life with the woman [or man] whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which [God] has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life (Ecclesiastes 9:9).
This encouragement was written around the year 935 B.C. Even thousands of years ago, King Solomon realized the importance of spending time enjoying your spouse. Current research supports this same mandate. Marital research experts Dr. Scott Stanley and Dr. Howard Markman conducted a survey to discover what creates a “strong” relationship. To their surprise, the amount of fun couples had together emerged as the strongest factor in understanding overall marital happiness.
If experiencing fun together as a couple is so important, what do you need to do in order to maximize your fun time? As I’ve worked with couples through our seminars and counseling, one thing that we’ve consistently noticed is that the couples who learned how to out serve one another and learned how to protect their fun times seemed to enjoy each other more than other couples.
BUT GREATEST AMONG YOU SHALL BE YOUR SERVANT (MATTHEW 23:11).
A few years ago, I discovered the tremendous value of servanthood. While my husband, Greg, and I were shopping, Greg asked me if there was anything that he could do for me. “Yes,” I begged, “Can I please shop alone, without Taylor (our then eighteen month old daughter) hanging on me?”
After several last minute instructions, Taylor and Greg set off in search of a massive bookstore he’d seen earlier. Once inside, Taylor and Greg discovered the biggest children’s section they’d ever seen. There were mountains of books, and an enormous stage where the kids could play. It was the “Disneyland” of children’s bookstores. Instantly, Taylor situated herself in the middle of the stage and began reading a book.
As Taylor and Greg interacted, he felt as if they were being watched. That’s when Greg discovered he was the only father present. Surveying the room, he noticed several mothers smiling at him. A few moms even commented about what a precious daughter he had. “This servant thing,” Greg thought to himself, “I’m on to something!” I’m sure he’d thought differently had I been with him!
Unfortunately, Greg’s celebrity status was short-lived. Because instantly those mothers who’d been smiling, now seemed disgusted with him. Trying to determine why the quick change, Greg noticed that Taylor was now playing with finger paint. “Brown finger paint?” he wondered. “Where did she get that?” Then it dawned on my husband. That wasn’t paint!
Earlier that day, Taylor had developed a rash on her bottom. Consequently, the combination of her rash and a messy diaper, resulted in a very itchy toddler. As a result of her scratching, Taylor “painted” some of the stage and several books with the contents of her diaper. To make matters worse, as they were trying to leave, Greg ended up having to purchase several more books than he had intended to buy.
The most interesting part of the experience, however, was when Greg told me about our daughter’s artistic expression. Instead of lecturing him about messy diapers or leaving Taylor unattended, I simply thanked him for letting me shop alone. I even apologized for the humiliation he must have felt. Greg was right—this servant thing—he was definitely on to something!
It’s amazing what can happen when you serve your mate: When you do something for your mate it motivates him or her to return the kindness. My positive response was my way of serving Greg in return. When you serve your mate, it’s essentially another way to communicate honor. Honor is defined as making the decision to attach “high value” to someone—to treat him or her as a priceless treasure in our lives. Honor [or service] is the single most important principle I know of for building healthy relationships. It’s important for a husband and wife to begin applying it toward each other. The results of allowing ‘honor’ to reign can be dramatic and life-changing.
As we serve our spouses, we make them feel as if they’re the most important thing to us. This is the essence of the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38). Serving our mate needs to be a decision that we make every day. I encourage you to wake up each morning and think of several ways to honor your mate by serving him or her unconditionally. Imagine how different marriages could be if couples tried to out serve one another each day. Furthermore, since each person interprets “service” differently, I encourage you to discover your mate’s unique definition. Asking questions like, “How could I make you feel like a priceless treasure today?” or “How can I help out around the house?” should help you decide how to best serve your spouse.
PROTECTING FUN ACTIVITIES FROM CONFLICT
Not only is serving your mate important, but it’s imperative that you learn how to protect fun times from conflict. When conflict or sensitive issues invade our recreation, it’s like throwing a red shirt into the washer with our white clothes. Even though it’s only one small shirt, it can destroy an entire load of laundry by turning it pink. Likewise, even though you may be discussing only one tiny issue, if allowed to enter into your relaxation, the entire experience can be damaged.
Conflict can be destructive to your recreation because it intensifies emotions. As this happens, it becomes difficult to relax and enjoy each other. If this pattern occurs too often, your mate may lose the desire to do fun things because the experience ends up turning “pink.”
Before your enjoyment is destroyed, I encourage you to interrupt arguments or sensitive discussions by agreeing to talk about the issue at a different time. In other words, reschedule the conversation when you can provide the necessary attention it deserves. By not allowing conflict to harm you recreation, you are sending a very important message. The statement you’re conveying is that protecting your relationship is more important than impulsively arguing about a problem.
In order to become a “great date” and build a strong relationship—As King Solomon mandated—we must be able to enjoy life with the ones we love by protecting our fun times and making service a daily occurrence.