Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Date Nights

     Deanne and I have been married for fifteen years—the fifteen happiest years of my life (and hers too, so she replies sometimes more convincingly than others).  Most everyone agrees that a key to happy spousal relations, especially for couples raising kids, is continual courtship-style dating.  One Christian counselor advised that in economic terms, spending one to two hundred dollars every other week and enough for one “big” thing (trip to Europe, week in a ski lodge, etc.) every other year or so is a bargain to keep things alive because the cost of divorce is magnitudes higher (in terms of alimony; child support; duplicate housing, utility, and insurance costs; etc.)  Fortunately, my wife and I don't have such expensive tastes and manage to date on much less (and have yet to do, post-kids, a “big” style thing—we travel as a family; our budget and baby sitting options don't allow the two of us to disappear for days at a time.)
     We find that the best dates don't involve shopping (especially not for necessities) and rarely involve movies.  All too often, these get us into tunnel-vision mode, detracting from attentiveness toward each other.
     Dates we enjoy involve concerts, eating, scenic walks (highly recommended) window shopping, plays, shows, and a variety of music forums.  When I think about it, it's shocking how limited the variety of our dates have been.  But due to physical limitations and preferences, we discovered early on that our dates wouldn't be about skiing, skating, golfing, bowling, dancing, scuba diving, or hiking, or about adrenalin-rush adventures (crowded festivals or group-oriented activities).  We prefer our alone-times to be about anticipating then sharing a slow-cooked meal sans the hassles of preparation and clean-up, which always puts us into wind-down mode.  Or sitting quietly to witness a live performance (with plenty of hand-holding, whispered conversations, people watching, and discussions before and after.)  Or walking after a meal or show at my slow, preferred pace (man takes the lead, like in ballroom dancing), looking, exploring, and doing whatever catches our fancies, spontaneous and free.
     Fondly remembered shows included Altar Boys, Spring Awakening, Rain—The Beatles Experience, Loggins & Messina, Diane Shuur, Manhattan Transfer, The Nutcracker, Die Fledermaus, and The Odyssey.  Fondly remember restaurants included Chai's Bistro, The Chart House in Haiku Gardens (where we married), Canton House, Empress, The Olive Garden, Maharani, and countless others.  Pleasant walks included Waikiki, Fort deRussey, Ala Moana, Downtown, University, Puck's Alley, Waialae, Kapahulu, strip malls, Ward area shops, Honolulu Waterfront, and Aloha Tower Marketplace.  Only now do I realize how urban our walks have been (we're not much into picnics due to the burden of preparation and clean-up and we hate long drives), yet, they've never felt hustle-bustle, perhaps because our focus had been on savoring the child-free moments.
     Deanne is from a big city, so man-made scenery tends to comfort her.  Although I'm from Hilo and sometimes still long for a more open-air environment, I've adapted and learned to enjoy doing simple, fun, and easy things together even if in high population density locations.  Though often surrounded by people, we still feel alone enough—unrecognized and left to our own private intimacies—to reconnect as man-woman friends.  As another pastor once said, couples rarely fall out of love.  It's when they fall out of friendship that trouble begins.
     It's up to us, then, to keep our friendship alive by continuing to court each other (dress up, bathe, primp, and offer gently courtesies), making the effort to be attractive and sexually desirable.  Dating offers the opportunity, yet it's up to us to make it happen.  Fun and romantic?  Or painful and boring?  Usually it's the former or at least part of it is.  Total bombs, though rare, are learning experiences.  What went wrong?  Poor planning?  Bad attitudes?  An over-busy schedule?  In the midst of such a bomb, I start praying, and God always comes through—even if it’s just a pleasant surprise restaurant at the end of a long, hot walk through an unpleasant neighborhood.  And such memories tend to stick—the good within the bad, which makes it sometimes seem even better than it really was.  But that’s okay—it’s all good when you’re dating your spouse.

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