Doing Nothing Together

ThinkstockPhotos-179044139Mark says: “We need to do this more often.” That’s what I said to Jill yesterday morning as we spread out a blanket on the grass along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The International students we were hosting really wanted to see the Shedd Aquarium.  We’ve both been there and didn’t really want to go, so we took a blanket and found some shade along the lake.

Jill says: I asked him, “We need to do what more often?”  He said, “We need to do absolutely nothing together more often.”

Mark says: For many of us, Jill and I included, we often have a non-stop “to-do” list in our head.  Between kids, work, and home projects, there’s always something that needs to be done!

Jill says: It was good to just spread a blanket, talk, read, nap, talk some more, and daydream a bit.

Mark says: We often do that when we are on vacation, but not usually outside of vacation.

Jill says: A couple weekends ago, we kept our grandkids so our daughter and her husband could do “nothing” together. They didn’t go anywhere. They brought the kids to our house (we live a little over an hour from their house) and went back home to spend a low-key weekend together.

Mark says:  We know another couple who, after they put the kids to bed, they go out and lie on the trampoline to talk and gaze at the stars together.

Jill says: When our hot tub is working (it often is NOT working!) we use it to “do nothing” together. We have some of our richest conversations in the hot tub where we are not distracted by the television, cell phones, computer, or the everyday activities of life.

Mark says: You can “do nothing” by spreading a blanket in the park and picnicking a couple times a month.  It costs nothing, and requires only intentionality. It doesn’t even have to take much time. A 30 minute “nothing” date is far better than not doing one at all.

Jill says: It’s hard for us “Type A” driven personalities to slow down and do nothing. Yet, it’s important for our emotional and relational health!

Mark says: We’re going to be more intentional about occasional times of doing nothing together. Want to join us?

What about you? How do you and your spouse “do nothing” together? How about making a date to do nothing sometime in the next two weeks?  

Our Hot Tub Surprise

A year ago I spoke for a church retreat. The retreat planners gave me a beautiful gift basket of goodies. Inside the gift basket was one of the most unique gifts. It was a gift certificate for a free rental of a hot tub for one week! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t even know you could rent a hot tub!

I recently ran across the gift certificate and decided to give them a call and arrange for our week. They delivered it on Sept 21 and they have yet to pick it up! I guess there’s no great demand for their rental tub so they must be storing it at our house! But hey, I’m not complaining!

Mark and I have used the hot tub every single night that we’ve had it. It’s been like a balm to my body that often hurts so much from fibromyalgia. We’ve loved being able to sit outside looking at the stars during cooler weather when we normally wouldn’t be able to be outside.

But most of all…we’ve loved the conversation time.

Our hot tub time has been talk time for Mark and I. It’s allowed us time away from kids, computers, and television to debrief from our day, talk about life and ministry, share our thoughts and struggles, and then take a few minutes to talk to God together.

Whenever they decide to pick up this hot tub we’ll have to find another conversation place. But until then, we’re going to enjoy the stars and our nightly conversation date every night we can!

Every couple needs some talk time everyday. What works for you and your spouse?

School Year Dating Strategy

Our boys are headed to school next week which means that Mark and I need to transition from our summer dating strategy to our school year dating strategy. Because Mark’s days off are Friday and Saturday, we are able to spend Friday together during the school year. We prefer the consistency of Fridays. We also enjoy spending the day together rather than a 2 hour date on a Friday or Saturday night during the summer.

Making a decision ahead of time of when we will intentionally spend time together makes all the difference in the world in actually having a successful dating strategy for our marriage.

So what about you? What is your school year dating strategy?

Date your mate ideas to get you started!

Recently my husband found himself in conversation with a friend. They were discussing marriage issues when the husband asked, “Do you and your wife really go on a date every week? Mark replied that, indeed, we do make dates a priority each week. The husband replied, “You go to dinner and a movie every week?” To which Mark replied, “Oh no. We could never afford that. A date simply means that we set aside time each week to be alone without the kids. It doesn’t have to cost anything at all, unless you have to hire a sitter. It simply needs to be a priority.”

So many marriages struggle in the area of communication. She says, “I want to go out on a date.” He says, “We don’t have the money.” In reality, she is just asking to be alone with her husband. She’s not necessarily looking for an expensive night on the town. Early on in our marriage Mark used to ask me to golf with him. Not being a golfer myself, I really didn’t want to go. I was missing the unspoken message behind his request–he was simply asking me to spend time with him.

How can you make dates happen even on a tight budget? Here are some tips to get you started:

Childcare Options:

*Hire a teenager to commit to one night a week as your babysitter. This keeps your dates regularly scheduled and allows your children to become accustomed to a regular sitter.

*If grandparents, aunts, or uncles live in town, ask them to consider having a special night with the kids every week or every other week.

*Trade sitting with another family. One night you watch their children and the next week they watch your children one evening. One family I know of trades with another family every Friday from 4pm until Saturday at noon. With that arrangement, each set of parents has a night alone twice a month. The kids enjoy playing together, so they look forward to the weekends, as well!

Inexpensive Dates:

*Share a meal when you eat out. (Make sure and tip the waiter the estimated cost of two meals because he or she is serving 2 people).

*Check out the local ice cream shop and order a root beer float complete with two straws!

*Go out for pie together.

*Explore the zoo or a museum together.

“No Cost” Dates

*Take a walk in the park, holding hands and talking.

* Spread a blanket on the ground and enjoy the night sky together.

* Take a bike ride together.

* Revisit the location of your first date and reminisce.

* Put the kids to bed early and watch your wedding video.

* Take a drive in the country and talk about your dream home.

* Have a quiet evening at home, make a meal, light some candles, and rent a movie.

For most of our 26 years of marriage we have had to be very creative in finding ways to spend time together. It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been necessary. We can’t wait until the kids are grown to invest in our marriage relationship. We have to do it now.

So what are you waiting for? Make those childcare arrangements, talk about date ideas, and then make it happen. More than anything, make sure the priority of your marriage relationship is at the top of your list.

Date Your Mate

Mark and I are self-described as being married 26 years, 16 of them happily. We’ve worked through the highs and the lows of our marriage relationship. When we got to the other side of our difficult season, we determined we would do whatever we could to help other couples strengthen their marriage. Out of that, we developed the ABC’s of A Healthy Marriage seminar that we now do in churches all over the United States. This blog continues our mission to provide honest, open communication about the challenges of marriage and strategies to make your marriage the best it can be.

With the beginning of summer, we have to always revisit our “date” schedule. During the school year we have a “date day” on Fridays—Mark’s day off. This works great during the school year, but not so well during the summer. We’re leaning toward a weekly date night during the summer.

How about you? What’s your summer “dating” plan?