President Kimball counseled, "Many couples permit their marriages to become stale and their love to grow cold like old bread or worn-out jokes or cold gravy. . . . These people will do well to re-evaluate, to renew their courting, to express their affection, to acknowledge kindness, and to increase their consideration so their marriage again can become beautiful, sweet, and growing." His counsel is well taken, and we need to give special attention to bringing fun and joy back into our marriage relationship. So let's talk about some ideas that will help. Here's a good beginning place—you have to keep dating only the husband you want to keep.
Date night was absolutely the number-one best thing I did to improve my marriage. You want to keep the magic alive? I recommend weekly dating. Even if you're broke, you can still have a weekly date night. Dates can be free! Let me list 10 date nights that cost nothing:
- Go on a walk in the park or on the beach and hold hands and talk.
- Take a blanket to the mountains or wherever and look up at the stars and describe what it would be like to live on another planet.
- Go to Costco and eat the free samples and then watch a DVD on your laptop computer in your car facing the sunset.
- Go on a bike ride.
- Take a free class offered in the community. (There are lots of them.)
- Go to the bookstore and read love poems to each other.
- Take your iPod or boom box or whatever to a remote parking lot and dance together in the beams of your car's headlights.
- Walk though a crowded area and make up stories about other people's lives. Be creative! Be funny!
- Go skating, surfing, boogie-boarding, swimming, hiking, backpacking, or whatever sport you like.
- Go to the cemetery and look at the cool headstones or go to the airport and watch planes land or to the port and watch boats dock.
Now I know that sometimes babysitting costs can be an issue. If you have family members and you're broke, beg them for a couple of hours each week. Or even better, trade with other similarly situated families. They can watch yours on Friday, and you can watch theirs on Saturday.
So, now you're ready to commit to date night. Here are some rules to really make it a great experience.
Rule #1—Observe the 50 percent conversation limit. Here's the rule: When you go on a date, 50 percent or more of your conversations have to be about something other than the kids. That may be a challenge at first. You can talk about current events, projects you're working on, finances, or whatever, but no more than half about the kids. That requires you to take off your "Mommy" and "Daddy" hats.
Rule #2—Don't get in a rut. Be creative! If your dates have devolved into dinner and Wal-Mart every week, it's time to perk them up!
Rule #3—Remember, you're on a date. Now, I admit that I have to remind myself of this on occasion. Sometimes I get casual and think, "Eh, these jeans look fine. And that ketchup stain from lunch on my shirt is barely noticeable." I have to smack myself at this point and remember that I'm going on a date. And if I were single and dating, I would not be caught dead in mother-homemaker clothes.
Rule #4—No dumping allowed. This is a date, and it is not the time for you to do an emotional dump. I know you've had a stressful week and you finally have his undivided attention. You'd love to complain about the neighbors, how the kids are driving you crazy, and why your latest diet isn't working. But now is not the time. Just think what would happen on a date if you were single and you performed a massive unloading. He'd run for the hills without your phone number in tow. Your husband wants to spend time with his smart wife who looks great, smells great, and says sweet things. He needs to leave the "mother" at home. You need to leave her there as well.
Rule #5—Enjoy the courting. Have fun! You're still courting him and getting him to fall in love with you all the time. So have fun and be fun. Be attractive. Dazzle him. And stare into those beautiful eyes you fell in love with, and thank your lucky stars you got him.
The Couple That Plays Together Stays Together
Playing together is crucial as a couple. There were certain things you did when dating that helped get you together. Those things cannot die in a marriage, or your marriage will begin to die as well. What interests do you share? Come up with ways to have fun together while pursuing those interests. The couple that plays together keeps their marriage vibrant and alive and growing. Think about it. What will you do when the kids are gone? What will you talk about? What will you do together?
Continue Growing and Evolving
Think of a stagnant pond of water. What happens to it? It gets murkier and murkier. It begins to grow a green scum. It attracts flies—lots of flies. The plants inside start to die, and the whole thing begins to devolve into a pile of dark green sludge. Now think of a woman who has become stagnant in her progression. Very similar, isn't it? Her personality becomes murkier and murkier. She, hopefully, doesn't grow green scum but her appearance begins to degenerate. She repels lively people and attracts negative people. And things don't improve.
One of the absolute hallmarks of a smart, fun-loving wife is that she continues to grow and evolve. Look back on the last 10 years and review your own personal life and development. Have you improved your behavior? Do you have success? Have you changed those things that are no longer helpful or positive? It is a constant challenge to keep ourselves growing and improving.
We spend so much time helping everyone else in our lives in their growing and improving that we sometimes put ourselves at the bottom of the to-do list. But every single husband on the planet (if he's wise) wants a wife who is going for it. He wants to be proud of her. He wants to come home every day to hear of something new that she did or learned. He wants a wife he can brag about. You can be that wife. He already loves you. He also wants to be stimulated by your growing and changing and be interested in you. I know that someday you will be the perfect wife. In the meantime, may you be blessed on your path to get there.
Lead image from Shutterstock
Find more from Merrilee Boyack in Strangling Your Husband Is Not an Option. With her light-hearted personality and humor, author Merrilee Boyack shares 25 years' worth of marital perspective in this practical guide to improve any marriage. As an estate-planning attorney Merrilee has dealt with many struggling couples going through divorce. (Seven-year marriages seem to have the greatest challenges.) She offers practical tips for women who want to better understand men (particularly their husbands) and build happier marriages. She invites women to dump the guilt, to be open enough to learn about areas they'd like to improve, and then take the steps to make those changes. Readers will also find a wealth of fun and practical advice in chapters like "The Five 'Don'ts' and Five 'Do's' of Wifehood," "But How Do I Change My Husband?" and "No, Really, How Can I Change Him?"Available at Deseret Book stores and on deseretbook.com.