Back to the Future

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one who compares with you,
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new.

-- Lennon & McCartney, "In My Life"

In a past edition of Date Night we established that spouses learn to cherish one another by memorializing the past – that is, by remembering the events that brought them together in the first place, taking time to recall the things they loved about one another when they were dating, and documenting and celebrating important milestones in their shared history. This time around, we want to suggest that this is only a first step. If cherishing is to be pushed to an even higher level in a couple's present experience of marriage, it will happen because they find ways not only to keep in touch with the past, but to project the past into the future.

There's an important spiritual principle embodied in this thought. Like God's Word (Hebrews 4:12), our relationship with the Lord is a living, active, and powerful thing. Religion is what we make of it when our zeal turns cold and Christianity becomes a matter of dead letters on a page and hollow rituals based on things that happened a long time ago. When this happens we have a real tragedy on our hands; for as Jesus said, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive" (Luke 20:38). The wonders He performed yesterday mean nothing unless we can make them into a paradigm for what we're doing today and where we're going tomorrow.

It's the same in marriage. The cherishing at the heart of it needs to be preserved as a living thing. Sometimes when a couple's relationship begins to falter they try to fix it by making an attempt to recapture the feelings they had for one another back in the "good old days." That's all well and good as far as it goes, but it isn't enough to propel their marriage forward into the next phase. This is especially true for spouses who have hit a bumpy spot in the road. You can't get beyond the problems of the moment simply by dwelling on the golden times of days past. That would be like moving back into the home where you grew up as a child. Certain things would be familiar, but it could never feel exactly like it did when you were a kid. You're older and see the world through different eyes now. In the same way, if you want to grow in your ability to love and cherish each other, you have to turn yesterday's good times into a springboard to the great things God has in store up ahead. In the words of the traditional marriage poem, "Something old, something new …" It's important to hold on to both if you really want your relationship to thrive.

The key is to find some way to link the whole thing together in a single unbroken thread.

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: Before your date, prepare for your time together by doing two things:

  • Dig out some old photos of your earliest days together. If that means dusty albums and scrapbooks, fine. If it's a matter of bringing along a laptop or pulling up files on your iPhone, that's good too!
  • Take a few minutes to write down two or three goals that you have in mind for yourself and your spouse. Think about trips you'd like to take (include pictures of the intended destinations if possible), changes you'd like to make in your career or living situation, accomplishments you'd like to add to your resume. In other words, put together a short "bucket list."

Step 2: 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 3: "Old Haunts and New Horizons"

  • After dinner, make a tour of some of your "old haunts:" places you used to visit together when you were first discovering your feelings for one another; nostalgic locales that bring to mind memories of your early romance. These could include the lake, the beach, the art museum, the high school football field, the park, your college campus (if it's handy), a particular club or coffee shop, maybe even the cheap diner where you used to share lunch. Plan to end up at one really special spot.
  • Once settled, break out the vintage photos and the "bucket lists" you've prepared. Take a walk down memory lane. Then turn a corner and let yourselves dream a little bit. Ask each other, "Where do you see us in five or ten years? What do you want to do with the rest of our lives?" Put the old pictures and your lists of goals side by side. Then say, "How did we get from there to here? What would it take to get from here to the places we want to go? What have we learned about ourselves – what qualities do we cherish most in one another – that can make that process smoother and easier?"
  • After that, go out for a real walk under the stars. Talk about the things God has done for you as a couple up to this point. Try to get a sense of the bigger picture of His plan for your lives.

Step 4: Relax and unwind.

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 the one thing you learned tonight that you didn't know about me before?
  • How can we keep the thread of God's plan for our lives unbroken as we move together from the past into the future?
  • What is one way I can let you know that I cherish you over the coming week?

Step 5: Home Sweet Home

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can cherish your spouse in the days ahead. Once you get home, it's up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Be sure to print out the Date Guide and take it with you on your date!

© 2014 Focus on the Family.