When you hear the word “dating,” you probably think of it within the context of pursuing a spouse. Dinner and a movie, small talk, and sorting through the pros and cons of potential lifelong suitors. Dating is not only for single folks looking for a spouse though. In fact, that’s just the beginning.

Marriage and dating are two words that aren’t often placed in the same sentence, but they should be. I’m not sure where people got the concept that all of your time, effort, fun, and energy should be spent to snag a spouse off the market but then cease once that mission is accomplished. Of course finding a spouse takes effort, but the real effort should start after you find yourself that wonderful lifelong partner.

Think About It
It’s always shocking to me when I talk to married couples and find out they never date each other anymore. When I mention spending time together, they look at me as though I sprouted five heads before their very eyes. Didn’t I get the memo? Life is too busy to actually enjoy your spouse. These couples think dating is for young kids in search of love. It’s no surprise though that these are also the same people that report marriage isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Despite popular belief, marriages are meant to be maintained. Relationships aren’t self-sustaining. Just like you had to put in the time and effort before you got married, you have to continue to invest in the relationship to maintain it. Dating is the key part of doing just that. Dating your spouse is absolutely crucial to keeping your relationship alive and well. It carves out time for one another, allows you an opportunity to get dressed to impress each other, creates romance, encourages having some fun, and it’s a great way to spend time communicating with one another. Just like before you got married, dating is exciting, fun, and romantic, which are three things every marriage needs.

Hindrances to Dating
Most married couples complain there’s just no time for dating. Amidst work, family, friend, church, and hobby responsibilities, there’s no time to date. You’re right, there is no time. You have to make it. Just like anything else, you have to intentionally set aside the time to date your spouse. That’s part of what makes it so special – putting forth the planning, effort, and energy to be together.

Other couples struggle with thinking that the dates have to be extravagant, so they get discouraged. While it is nice to plan the occasional extravagant date, your typical date can be simple and low-key. The point is to have an enjoyable night out, not break the bank and stress out over it. So, put your heads together to come up with some affordable, simple, and fun ideas that are quality opportunities to enjoy one another’s company.

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Money. *Sigh* It feels like money is always a hindrance in life. It doesn’t have to be though. Dating your spouse doesn’t always have to be expensive. If you are worried about childcare expenses, try to find a family member or friend (that has children you can return the favor for) that would be willing to watch your child or children even just once a month. The date itself can be something simple like packing a meal and heading to the local park with a blanket. Maybe it’s taking a drive to a scenic spot and just enjoying a great view and conversation. There are some amazingly affordable, even free, options available to you if you are just willing to get creative. Don’t let money rob you of your relational riches.

A Personal Note
My husband and I really enjoy one another’s company, so we always try to make sure we get quality time together. One way we have found to ensure we get our much needed dates in is by to do lunch dates once a week. Every Thursday I make sure to get extra dolled up before heading over to my husband’s office for our scheduled rendezvous.

Next to Friday, Thursdays are my favorite day of the week because I know I can always look forward to a lunch date with my husband. It’s the perfect time to just talk, check in with one another, catch up on what’s been going on, and even plan out our weekend. During that time, I feel so special knowing I have my husband’s undivided attention, and he has mine. It’s exciting to have a reason to get dressed up. It’s just this amazing time each week that I can look forward to enjoying the amazing husband I chose to spend life with.

Dating, while typically viewed as for singles only, is so much more than that. It’s a wonderful opportunity for married couples to maintain the friendship, companionship, quality time, and fun that brought them together to begin with. Getting in the routine of dating your spouse is one of the best decisions you could make. So grab your spouse and a calendar because it’s a date!

Copyright © 2012 by Ashley McIlwain. Used with permission

About the author…Ashley McIlwain, M.A., is a Marriage and Family Therapist, speaker, and writer. She is the founder and C.E.O. of the non-profit organization, Foundation Restoration, and blog LittleWifey.com, which are comprehensive resources committed to restoring the very foundation of society – marriage. She is committed to and passionate about helping relationships thrive. In the past Ashley acted as Managing Editor for StartMarriageRight.com where she helped launch and develop the website into a hub for premarital preparation. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University and a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Azusa Pacific University. Currently she and her husband, Steve, reside in Southern California.