This post will need a few clarifying statements at the beginning and end. First, it is for unmarried as well as those in a relationship. Second, it is not for guilt toward rocky marriages.
When my husband and I took part in premarital discipleship with our church, I didn’t know about clarifying statements. I would say things like, “Try to make your home a shelter for your husband.”
Isn’t that lovely? Isn’t that sweet?
I’ve since learned, like with inclusive language, sometimes what you don’t say is as important as what you say. So, make your home a safe place—unless there’s abuse. In that case, don’t suffer alone in shame, hiding what goes on and calling a petri dish for cancer a “shelter.” (Sometimes I wonder if everything you say about relationship needs to be clarified for abuse.)
How to get asked out for a second date
About 15 years into my marriage, I read an article about how to get asked on a second date. My first thought was that I would never date again, so it didn’t apply to me anymore. But, I read it anyway. Since it was so many years ago, I can’t find it for proper credit, or remember every detail. But the first two pointers hit me like a palm to the forehead, and I still have the mark.
Essentially, be thankful and be fun.
The writer mentioned that if he put energy into planning something and thinking about what would please another person—the least they could do is to be polite enough to say, “Hey, thanks,” at some point. Sure, he organized the experience for the other person, but a date is actually about both of them together. Sometimes the feeling he got was that his date acted like he owed her. She didn’t need to appreciate anything because he asked her out, and he was obligated to make her feel special. Or worse, sometimes they mentioned other (nicer) venues, or previous (better) meals and fancier drinks instead of just being grateful.
The second one that stood out was to be fun—basically to enjoy yourself. In a world where we are quick to write negative reviews but slow to compliment, it’s almost as if people think they’re cultured and elite if they enjoy nothing. He said that when he took a girl out somewhere and she got excited about the event or animated about the pleasure of the situation, then he wanted to experience as much as possible with her. He would think to himself of all the other things he could show her, so that he could share joy with her. That one surprised me, but shouldn’t have, because I love being with people who enjoy themselves.
Relationships past the dating stage
It seemed silly simple to me, and I had to ponder if my husband would ask me out for a second date at that point. In the throes of kid rearing—we took little time to date if there were costs, time, or energy requirements. (Those still get in the way.) We had health strains in our life, and emotional tensions because of them. There was only one income since I stayed at home to homeschool my kids. It was only a handful of years past the painful “should we stay married?” stage and we weren’t fully healed. In my mind, it was not an ideal time to think about second dates. We were merely on the uptick of surviving.
But, I started to say, “Thank you,” when we went out.
In the beginning, there may have been a few curious looks. And once or twice, it felt superfluous. “Thanks for paying for that meal out of our joint account, which we both decided to pay for, and we will both assume the responsibility for.”
“Hey, you’re welcome.”
Also, I decided to (occasionally) set aside my funk about the tedious burden of life and simply enjoy my husband. I know when he gets excited, is appreciative, and truly enjoys himself I’m on top of the world. It makes me want to put effort into being together.
You don’t need a partner to date. I never skip an opportunity for a friend-date. The women in my life make every experience better: coffee, lunch, books, walking… Not because I don’t want to be alone, but because they are fun.
Sometimes I need to remind myself to be someone my friends would go out with again. Especially the ones who have seen me cry. So I say, “Thank you,” and I enjoy myself.
Here’s another clarifier. I don’t need friends or family who pretend to be in a good mood for me when they’re hurting. I wouldn’t want that burden on people I love. Neither do I want too many people taking up space who cannot handle my pain. The ones who can handle the ugly are the pillars in my life.
And there will be seasons when you simply cannot enjoy yourself.
Unless you are in a fragile place where you unload on anyone who glances at you, your safest people probably get the worst. But should the pillars in your life only get the worst? I have set aside pain to enjoy someone I love, and reaped a reward for it myself.
My daughter once told me about something she read: dates are not real life, and you need to date even more after you establish the relationship than before. So, if you have established a dynamic with someone of burden, complaint and sorrow, know this can be a seed of infidelity or loss of intimate friendship. Affairs can start when someone else looks you in the eyes and enjoys your company.
As long as you still have the freedom to be real, why not “put on perfume” for the lover, sister, friend and family you want to keep?