Carpe Diem!

A man helping a woman climb to the top of a mountain.

"The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity."

-- John F. Kennedy

In normal usage, carpe diem! often sounds like a brazen call to a hedonistic lifestyle. But there's another way of looking at this familiar saying. Carpe diem! can also mean, "Look for the surprising opportunities that each day brings – even the darkest, dreariest, and most discouraging days." The idea here is that there's something positive to be gained from even the most unexpected, uncomfortable, and alarming circumstances.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," writes James, "knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2, 3). The most successful married couples are those who understand this principle and know how to put it into practice. They assume that married life is going to have its ups and downs, its good times and bad. As a result, they don't allow unexpected changes, stresses, and crises to throw them off balance. Instead, they keep an eye out for the opportunity that lies hidden, like the proverbial silver lining, behind every new challenge that life brings their way.

This is just another aspect of the teamwork that characterizes a genuinely thriving marriage. Husbands and wives who have healthy, vibrant relationships face adversity side by side. They proactively anticipate domestic hardships. They work together to get on the same page when faced with stressful or critical situations. They bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and take the view that tribulations and difficulties are, among other things, opportunities for growth and positive change.

In short, they're prepared to tackle life together as fellow travelers on an adventurous journey. As a result, they're ready for anything, and nothing can ultimately knock them down.

Date Night

Remember, always act like you're trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and "woo" our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle, and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: "When the going gets tough …"

How do you design a Date Night experience that encourages both partners to see the surprising opportunities for growth that sometimes lie hidden in unexpected, uncomfortable, or frightening situations? That's a tough one. Naturally, since your goal is to have a good time, you don't want to place yourselves under any kind of real-life danger, stress, or strain.  But there are some fun things you can do to create a sort of controlled and simulated crisis and then work together to make the most of the situation. For example:

  • Either before or after dinner, go to the gym and work out together. Push yourselves to surpass previously established limits of endurance. Encourage one another when the going gets tough.
  • While the weather is still warm and the evenings are still long, go for a run through the city. Build in some challenges by including difficult uphill sections as part of your route or by planning to go farther than you've ever gone before. Don't compete. Instead, take time to help each finish the course.
  • Plan a group outing with other couples from your church centered around outreach to the needy and homeless. First, fill your backpacks with sandwiches, snacks, sodas, and bottled water. Then go to a place where homeless people are known to congregate – perhaps a city park or a busy street in the downtown sector. If someone approaches you for a hand-out, offer him a drink, a sandwich, or a granola bar instead. While you're at it, look for opportunities to share your faith. Be prepared for the unexpected. Watch out for one another and stay on the alert for "dicey" situations. You may be surprised at how exhilarating and inspiring this type of activity can be.

Step 3: Relax and unwind. Ready for a few questions?

After your activity, find a quiet place to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting, and encouraging.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is one thing you learned tonight that you didn't know about your spouse before?
  • How has this date shown you something about the ways in which tough situations can become opportunities for learning and growth? How do you think those opportunities can be used to strengthen your relationship as a couple?
  • What are some other ways you can keep your eyes open for unexpected opportunities as you meet the day-to-day challenges of the coming week?

Step 4: Home Sweet Home

As you end the evening, spend time planning your next date. Think about additional ways you can make the most of stressful situations in the daily grind of life. Then, it's up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!