Are You Really Dating Your Spouse?

Wait, don’t scroll away yet! I promise this isn’t about to be one of those patronizing articles about how you should be prioritizing date nights in your marriage. We all get it by now. Yes, we should be going on dates. But let’s be honest: for some of us, especially those of us with kids or busy careers (or both), that’s not always practical.

I want to discuss a much more realistic approach to dating your spouse. It’s more about mindset — about your orientation toward your spouse, than a set of behavioral expectations. And because the best way I know how to communicate ideas like this is through storytelling, I’m going to tell you a little story about my own marriage.

This morning, I decided to go on a bike ride. My husband, Charlie, had a busy morning full of meetings, so I slipped out quietly without interrupting him. When I’d made it about two miles from my house, Charlie text to say that a meeting was cancelled, and would I like to go on a bike ride together?

As I said, I was already two miles away. I was enjoying my time alone and had already set my intention on having a solo ride. I’d picked the perfect playlist and everything. So, my first impulse was to say sorry, maybe next time. But then, I remembered back to eight years ago, when we were newly dating. Before we had the promise of time together every day like we do now. Back then, I would have driven 20 miles back his direction if it meant getting to see him. I would have gladly sacrificed my alone time, my solo ride, and even my perfectly appointed playlist. Seeing him was special, magical. It was something to look forward to, and to savor like my favorite wine.

Now that we’re married with kids, and I can count on seeing him every day, some of that magic has worn off. Turning around to let him join me on my ride sounds like a chore. I’d rather just stick to my plans.

Isn’t it funny how easily our extraordinary partners begin to seem ordinary when the mundane day-to-day routines set in? Suddenly, we take their presence for granted. Assuming that more time with them is always guaranteed, we fail to embrace the beautiful moments we could have in between.

But seeing our partners again isn’t guaranteed. Each time we kiss them goodbye, we send a prayer to the universe that we will see them again. That tragedy won’t strike; that accidents won’t happen. We gamble the present moment on a future that is not promised.

I would rather not live my life that way. I want to look forward to every moment I get to spend with my spouse. I want to seize special opportunities to make memories together, even if they seem inconvenient or unnecessary at the time. I want to orient myself toward my husband the way I did when we were dating — with openness, interest, and excitement. I want, and deserve, the same from him.

So, I decided to turn my bike around and tell Charlie to meet me halfway between our home and where I was. It was wonderful to see his smiling face, to pedal beside him through the side streets and backroads of our neighborhood. I realized that even though we live together, we don’t get a lot of moments like this. Special moments — extraordinary ones. I can’t believe I almost passed this up.

When it comes to dating our spouses, I don’t think it’s so much about extravagant date nights (although, those can certainly be part of it!). I think it’s about remembering and appreciating our spouse for whom we saw in them when we first started dating. It’s about not letting the ordinary suck the extraordinary out of our relationship. It’s about creating magic the way we did when we didn’t know when we would see each other again.

Of course, that’s not always practical. Life, with its many demands, can get in the way. But I think if we choose to orient ourselves toward this mindset, toward approaching each other with the same enthusiasm as we did when we were dating, we would find our marriages happier, more fulfilling, and perhaps even better than it was in those early days.


Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

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