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How to Date Your Spouse in a Pandemic

Even before I heard the word COVID, things were imperfect at home.  We wrestle with in-law issues and work schedules and character flaws just like everyone else.  In addition, the Christmas break always takes a toll on our rhythm and routine, but as time off for my husband and girls drew to a close this January it was more complicated.  We were saying goodbye again to our oldest as she returned to college for her second semester.  That adjustment left us all a bit more sad and made returning to normal that much more difficult.  So we were just gaining some positive momentum when we began hearing about the COVID-19 viral pandemic reaching the U.S.

Over the course of the year, the pressure of pandemic life has narrowed our focus onto what (and who) is most important while also shining light on some of the most broken places of our lives.  I think that is true on a global scale, but also right within my own home.  And so those most intimate bonds of marriage came into focus with all of their expectations, needs, desires, and brokenness.  Being home together all the time did not have a comforting effect on us, rather than making it easier to talk and snuggle and love on one another, we became like roommates negotiating work space and alone time within our home.  Spending quality time together--dating each other--fell off the list of priorities for us, and I imagine for a lot of couples.

As we have tried to pull together and get into a dating rhythm again, we have run into quite a few practical challenges.  Whether you are feeling stuck because finances are tighter than ever or babysitters are harder to find or movie theaters and other date locations are closed or restaurant dining doesn't feel safe or whatever else, I am here to encourage you to find a way to date your spouse anyway.  Here are some ideas to help get dating back on the priority list and to help make those intimate connections in this crazy COVID season.

Dinner and a Movie at Home: This one does not require too much creativity, but there are some things you can do to make it feel a little more special than any other night vegging out in front of the TV.  First, be intentional about preparing a meal (or getting take-out) that reminds you of some good dates in the past.  Eat the meal before or after the movie, like you would in a restaurant, so that you don't cheat yourself out of the time to face one another and have a conversation.  If a whole meal is too much, try sharing a special desert instead.  Consider setting up a table (or picnic blanket) in a different location around the house: an outdoor space, the formal dining room, or even a corner of your bedroom.  When it comes time for the movie, put your phones away and use your hands to hold each other instead.

In-House Entertainment: If you used to enjoy paint night or dancing or trivia events, these can be recreated at home as well.  YouTube is full of lessons for things like cooking or drawing that you can do together.  Take turns planning the date by finding a tutorial you think your partner will enjoy and making sure you have all the supplies you need.  For trivia or other games, go old school with a board game or deck of cards.  You can even make up your own adult versions of kid games if that is all you have around the house.  These times when we try something new or playful help spark much needed creativity, joy, and humor that relieve stress and build intimacy.  

Get Out of the House:  If you can, getting out of the house can be a great way to connect as you put physical distance between you and the worries of home.  Try a cup of coffee and walk around the park, an evening drive out beyond the city lights to really get a good look at the stars, taking in the sunset together from the balcony or any other chance to step away and spend some quality time together talking and holding hands.  If you have kiddos who will sleep in the car, go for an aimless drive together and talk once they fall asleep.  We actually like wandering around a home improvement store because we get out of the house and we can dream about future plans together.  (It is not so relaxing when there is a project in progress at home, though.)

Talking Points: Regardless of where you go or what you do, the point of dating is that you have quality bonding time.  We have learned that it is best if we schedule a different time each week to talk schedules, family, to-do lists, finances and other strategic things so that we are free to enjoy date night conversations with less conflict and stress.  That said, it can be awkward to face each other for these talks if you have not done so in a while.  Good questions about feelings, hopes and dreams, future plans, and stirring spirits can help to get the ball rolling.  
Ask about what God is speaking to them this week or what they have been daydreaming about.  A question about what they imagined life would be like in 2020 when they were a kid can spark all kinds of fun memories or hopes from childhood.  Relevant questions about what is disappointing to them right now or what has caused heartache recently are also important.  It is these deeper thoughts we do not often discuss that build trust and intimacy when we share them with our spouse.

Physical Intimacy: Now that you have shared quality time with your spouse, invested in laughter and fun as well as serious conversations, and (hopefully) done some flirting along the way, physical intimacy can be so much more rich and fulfilling.  If there are any difficulties, use similar strategies as those we already covered: be creative and intentional, keep open lines of communication, have fun and be willing to laugh.  If you are repairing your relationship, this may take more time and effort.  We all face challenges as our bodies naturally change and age as well, sometimes requiring medical intervention, but other times patience and new skills can help us overcome these obstacles (this book can be really helpful).  For some, being physically intimate will help them engage more emotionally and for others it is just the opposite, so try to be flexible with what your partner needs.  I cannot emphasize enough that communication really is key to a good relationship and a good experience in the bedroom!

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