September 24, 2019
This is the challenge I give to all engaged couples. Usually, when I meet a couple for the first time, we are a few months to a year out from the wedding. There is excitement in preparing for the big day. They are booking vendors and making plans. Sometimes, it is hard to remember that you are still maintaining a relationship in the present. There is a balance between getting ready for a wedding and getting ready for marriage. They are not the same thing. For all the beauty of a wedding, it is a one-day event, a big costume party if you will. But your relationship needs attention as well.
As soon as a proposal happens, maybe within hours, the couple turns into event planners. And unless they are professional wedding coordinators, this can become an all-consuming task. There are dates, apps, Excel spreadsheets, color palettes, vendor choices and so on. While all of this is a necessity. couples should use this unique season of engagement to work on their relationship in addition to planning their event. So I offer them this challenge:
This seems obvious. But the research on relationships suggests that while dating was the way all of this got started, once a couple is engaged or married, the idea of dating tends to fade. So it is crucial to keep this habit up. Dating is what got you together and it is what will keep you together. You can date five nights a week if you wish, but, the goal needs to be to go out at least once a week. Taking longer than seven days to spend quality time together starts to wear on a relationship. Even though you may see each other every day, that does not translate into spending time together. But one of the real reasons that date nights fall to the wayside is the illusion of the everyday. I see you all the time. But cutting the lawn, doing dishes, taking care of family stuff isn’t a date night. Time together can turn into time served. Every couple needs to find time to spend together on a date.
This rule obviously is only applicable to the engaged couple. After the wedding you can change this to another topic like "no parent talk" or "no work talk." This idea speaks directly to the struggle between event planning and relationship. The temptation for every couple is to spend all their time talking about the wedding. Even when the wedding planning gets burdensome, it’s always there. Even though I want to talk about other stuff, if I know I just have a few minutes to speak with you, inevitably the discussion goes back to the wedding. One night a week, you need to have a conversation that has nothing to do with the wedding. Don’t bring the folder, don’t open the apps. Spend one evening a week talking about your relationship…or just having fun.
One of the reasons date night dies is due to Romeo, the guy. Traditionally, date night is the guy thing. It falls to him to ask the girl out. No offense to guys, but the typical guy has 2 or 3 good date ideas. And he has used them by now. So, guys typically keep repeating the same date night idea of they come up with an amazing phrase: “I'll do, whatever you want to do.” Which is the way for creativity to be left on the side. Or the couple together will get into a rut of doing the same thing every week.
To combat this, alternate who plans date night. One week one partner plans date night, the next week the other partner is in charge. Now there are a few sub rules: a) this is not a group activity, meaning whoever plans the date can’t get help from the other partner. b) the other partner can’t overrule or change the plan.
The final rule is called Ask the Question. And this means to ask the question, “Will you go out with me?” It is a simple question, but once a couple is together, engaged, in the same house or eventually married, this question gets overlooked. We move into Assumption; I assume you will go out with me. Assumption is comfortable, but also dangerous. Assumption feels very close to taking someone for granted.
Even though engagement means someone asked the big question doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy hearing this question frequently. In fact, “Will you go out with me?” may well be the best question. We love to hear it or ask it. Every romantic comedy is based on this question. We don’t just look at the couple on the screen and assume they will get together; we want to know how. And every couple, no matter how amazing their proposal story, no matter how grand the wedding, they still like to hear this question or ask it on a regular basis.
I encourage every engaged couple to take this challenge in the weeks leading up to their wedding.