Chaplain’s thoughts …

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“Marital preventive maintenance
– Are you doing it?”

There I was sitting across the dinner table in our one-bedroom apartment with my wife of four months.

Amber had just asked me, “So when are you going to take me out?”

To be honest, I was a bit puzzled by her question. In my mind I didn’t understand the “need” for date night. We spent a number of hours each day together doing campus ministry at the University of South Carolina, and then spent the remainder of our day together. Being missionaries, our finances weren’t booming. It just seemed a bit pointless in my naïve mind to go on a date night. And then she did it again.

“You are going to take me on a date right? Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we stop dating. Find a place for us to go this Friday, and let’s go.”

Looking back now after almost 18 years of marriage to Amber, it’s hard to believe I was such a knucklehead back then. I didn’t see the need of going on a date with my best friend.

Since then, Amber and I have invested in date nights throughout our marriage. We’re far from perfect of our goal of once a month, and each one has not been a “perfect 10” but, more often than not, our date nights have been a chance to recharge our batteries as a couple.

In my faith tradition, a husband is to “cherish his wife.” I had to learn that cherishing my bride not only meant getting her flowers, writing her notes, and getting her gifts, but also asking her about her day, listening to her concerns, spending time with her, and planning date nights in advance rather than on the fly.

Date nights should be fun and enjoyable for both parties, but if that’s all they are, the outing can miss its maximum impact. At some point the couple needs time to ask, “How are you really doing? How are we really doing?” and reflect on the answers. I had to learn and continue to learn what her love language is, and what I can do to communicate my love to her in how she hears it best. Gents, learn to be a student of your wife.

Lastly, during a few date nights there needs to be a time of feedback. One of the best tools I have picked up over the years is “Stop, Start, and Continue.” In that, each shares with the other in a loving fashion what they would like their spouse, “to stop doing, to start doing, and what to continue.” The key is to communicate your requests in a loving, non-manipulative way, and to not be defensive when feedback is given. The willingness of each spouse to embrace growth and change in their daily agenda empowers a healthy marriage.

Perhaps your marriage is doing well, or perhaps it needs a tune up? Bottom line – every marriage needs preventive maintenance.

In February, the Protestant chaplains will present a six-week series on marriage in the Sunday service. I would like to invite you to come and grow in union to one another. Traditional service is at 9 a.m. in the historic Chapel on the Mall (by the static displays), and the contemporary-Gospel service is at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Chapel (next to the fitness center). Hope to see you there!

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