The following is a resource from the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy” seminar.
You will remember what you rehearse. You will rehearse what you enjoy. Marriage is meant to be enjoyed but requires rehearsing (i.e., remembering) the things that are most important. For this reason, each seminar in this series will provide a collection of dates that are designed to allow couples to review what they’ve learned. Two things you should note:
- Each date can be taken multiple times. You and your spouse will change over time. Because you change, the same date, with the same person becomes a new experience. Marriage resists becoming stale when we enjoy anticipating and learning what God is doing in our spouse’s life and marriage next.
- Create the habit of reinforcing key marriage lessons with playfulness and romance. Learn from the content and pattern of these dates. Pick a section of this seminar that was useful to your marriage and create a date that allows you to review those truths in an enjoyable way.
Head, Heart, and Hands Date
Preparation: Review chapter two of this seminar using the 1-10 scales to discern how you are doing at loving your whole spouse with your whole person. As you review these assessments prepare yourself to answer two sets of questions.
- In what way is your spouse excelling at loving you? What blessings from your spouse have gone unnamed and unpraised in the recent weeks and months?
- In what area would it be most beneficial for you to grow in how you love your spouse? What ideas do you have for the practical expression of this growth?
Activity: What you do on this date, so long as it allows for conversation, is less important than the order of the conversations. Be sure to spend a significant portion of time on the first set of questions. If your date involves two parts (i.e., a meal and a walk), devote the first half of the date to these questions.
When you discuss the second set of questions you should have two objectives: (a) to demonstrate you’ve given time and energy in this brainstorming, and (b) to invite your spouse to contribute those things he/she would find most meaningful.
Ending: It is easy for these discussions to end idealistically; our ideas and intentions being larger than circumstances allow. The result would be a romantic date followed by a disappointing week. When this happens couples learn not to engage these kinds of conversations. To prevent this dynamic, conclude your date by discussing where the changes you want to make fit most naturally within the rhythm of your marriage.
Follow Up: In the days and weeks after this date focus your attention on saying “thank you” for your spouse’s efforts; both those you identified in the first set of questions and those your spouse wants to grow in from the second set of questions. Enthusiasm and appreciation for our spouse’s love and service are two of the best ways to cultivate a marital culture where romance and intimacy are present.
Goal for Date: To help you see that having a romantic marriage does not always mean doing more; often it simply means appreciating what each other is already doing. To provide an opportunity for the two of you to assess and discuss what would be most meaningful at enhancing the romantic culture of your marriage.
Grand Love-Story Date
Preparation: Reflect on one question from each of these three gospel-narrative themes.
- Creation – What is good about your marriage? When do you most clearly see the character of God in your spouse? How and when is your home a place of rest and refuge for you?
- Fall – What are the recent sins that have damaged your marriage? What are the recent forms of suffering that have challenged your marriage? When have the two of you been on the “same team” against sin and suffering (i.e., emotionally and practically agreed about the needed response)?
- Redemption – How has your spouse been gracious in spite of these hardships? How has God been faithful in light of these hardships? What opportunities for redemption has your marriage not taken advantage of?
Activity: This date will likely have a high-low-high feel. The activities you plan and their setting should account for this. The middle part of the date should allow for more privacy and not be in a celebratory setting. You might organize these conversations around the courses of your meal (appetizer-creation, fall-entrée, redemption-desert) or with activities. Regardless, the point is to trace the gospel in recent challenges of your marriage.
Ending: Pray together, thanking God that the gospel will one day have its full effect and make these strivings irrelevant. Thank God that, until Heaven, He has given us the gospel as a sufficient remedy for sin and suffering, and as the only thing powerful enough to protect marital unity in the midst of these experiences. Pray with expectancy of the final theme of the gospel-narrative: glorification.
Follow Up: Allow this extended date-conversation to give you “eyes to see” the themes of the gospel in the day-to-day events of your marriage. Allow the conversation to change the sound bites of your passing comments and thoughts. See God’s creative fingerprint in every good thing about your marriage. Contextualize the challenges of sin and suffering in light of God’s power and presence. Look for how God wants to respond redemptively to your challenges. When you see these things, speak them as a way to encourage each other.
Goal for Date: To radically change the way you see marital challenges by providing you with basic gospel categories in which to understand the events of life. To instill the conversational habit of articulating these themes as you face challenges.
Preparation: Remember your favorite sexual experiences with your spouse. Think about them for your own enjoyment (this is savoring the gift of sex in marriage) and to be able to articulate what was special or stimulating about these experiences. Affirm your spouse as a lover as you talk about these experiences on the date.
Activity: Plan the evening around things that are sensually stimulating for you and your spouse: what you wear, food or setting of the meal, get a massage to relax, go try on clothes and model them for each other (whether you buy them or not), go for a walk at sunset, walking back through the events of your engagement (or comparable event), etc… Allow the evening to be about building a healthy sexual energy for both of you.
Ending: Go home early or rent a hotel room for the night. Allow this to be an evening of “gourmet sex” where you take time to affirm another and the marriage afterwards.
Follow Up: Talk about the evening together and smile big when you do. Make flirty allusions to the sexual experiences that your spouse found most satisfying.
Goal for Date: To demonstrate that it can be wholesome and non-selfish to set aside time to enjoy each other sexually. To allow sex to be a safe, on-limits topic of conversation and exploration between the two of you.