Remember when you and your spouse started dating? If you were like us, you spent hours talking about everything under the sun. You learned about each other’s families, shared hopes and dreams and eventually decided to share your lives permanently.
Fast forward a few years and now you have a child. Or children. Perhaps lots of children! Each child seems to come with his or her own set of needs and dreams, which often keeps us in constant motion. Some days, you are lucky to give your spouse a quick kiss before collapsing in exhaustion. An actual meaningful conversation seems an impossible dream.
Our marriages aren’t necessarily bad, but over time couples with children can slowly start drifting apart and may even divorce. Yet study after study teaches us children fair better in homes with healthy marriages. I would imagine the stronger the marriage, the better the possibility for positive results.
We know the health of our marriage is important, but that requires work we don’t think we have the time to do right now. All of those meaningful conversations during dating have long sense dissolved into discussions of who will take whom where and what needs to be fixed around the house. You are not even sure you have time to know yourself anymore and your spouse is slowly becoming an acquaintance.
It’s no wonder many marriages end in divorce about the time the last child leaves home. When I was younger, I wondered how marriages could last more than twenty years and then suddenly implode. Now I understand many of these couples thought it was too late or too hard to get back to the place in their marriage where they were when they first married.
10 Great Dates: Connecting Faith, Love and Marriage by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp may just provide your marriage with a map for rebuilding a relationship that may be becoming a little lackluster or strengthen a marriage which is already happy. The book (not surprisingly!) contains the templates for ten dates to take with your spouse. Not just any dates, but dates designed to help you reconnect in ways that also put God into the center of your relationship.
Many date books for couples focus more on the “where” and the “what” of the date and include only a few usually non-threatening questions. These two couples have chosen to focus much more on the important conversations couples need to have after they have been married. Conversations many of us never quite find the time to have or we wouldn’t know how to structure the conversations so they helped rather than hurt our marriages.
The book would require a decent amount of commitment of both spouses to work well. Each spouse has a sheet of thought questions to think about and answer before the date. The connecting chapter uses story telling and godly principles to explain why each conversation is so vital to the health of your marriage. They also provide some guidelines to make sure your conversations are conducted in ways to strengthen your marriage.
The dates themselves are actually focused on the couple going somewhere to have an uninterrupted conversation comparing the answers to the questions. Each chapter also provides a follow-up devotional the couple can do together later in the week. The devotional reinforces the date and provides couples with an opportunity to share additional insights they have had since the date.
Reviews of these types of books often site as a critique that the authors don’t share anything we don’t already know we are supposed to be doing. Most of us do indeed know how to eat right, lose weight or maybe even have a strong marriage. The reality is though, that most of us need some structure and boundaries to get us to do what we already know we should be doing. This book will give you some of the tools you need to work on strengthening your marriage.
I would strongly encourage couples at any stage of their marriage to read this book and go on the dates. Focusing on your relationship with each other and your relationship with God individually and as a couple can only help your marriage. If nothing else, it will encourage you to at least have a date night ten weeks in a row. Your children can only benefit from their parents having a stronger marriage.
While this is not a critique of the book per se, I do think if your marriage is in serious trouble you will also need outside counseling. While the book is wonderful in its scope, I don’t believe it will solve any major problems in a marriage. I do believe it will strengthen marriages which are basically okay by worldly standards. The dates will help take those marriages to a level where the spouses are working as a strong team for the Lord, in part because now they have a stronger, God-focused marriage.
I would love to hear what you think after you go on some of the dates. Did you and your spouse find they helped bring you closer or did you find yourself getting off track? I would love for you to share your experiences in a comment below. I personally can’t wait to start trying the dates with my husband. Our daughter leaves for college in less than a year and I believe it will serve as a great platform for the next stages of our life and marriage.
This book was provided to me free of charge by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. I thought the book was great and can’t wait for me and my husband to start going on the dates!