Most of us heard the familiar “leave” and “cleave” passage at our weddings. The term cleave literally means “to pursue hard” – which is how every marriage will grow through the various seasons of our lives.
“A man leaves his father and mother and bonds/cleaves with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 CSB)
Each season of your marriage will have its unique challenges, and with it, excuses to stop dating. These are the most common ones we hear:
We’re too BROKE to date
It somehow becomes acceptable to stop dating when we have babies because parents of preschoolers are generally broke – and exhausted.
“Baby-sitters are expensive!” I can assure you that baby-sitters are much cheaper than a divorce lawyers. You might not be able to date every week in this season, but don’t use your kids as an excuse to stop pursuing each other. Our kids were never meant to be the glue that holds us together.
We’re too BUSY to date
Parents of grade-schoolers can easily find they have become too busy to date. Our personal calendars in this season compete heavily with school, work, and church calendars. In light of the fact that this season is temporary, we prioritize our children’s needs above our spouse’s needs, doing neither a favor in the process.
February is always a crazy month for Janet and me. We are speaking about marriage this month at seven events: two seminaries, one college, two state conventions, a church, and an association. At each of these events we teach them that in order to promote their spouse, they need to consistently demote their kids, parents, friends, and church members. I don’t advocate neglecting other relationships, just don’t pursue them as hard as you do your spouse.
I often tell pastors that one of the most important things he can do for his church is to love his own bride more than Jesus’ Bride. Nobody wins when we make our spouse compete with our ministry.
We’re too BORED to date
Spouses who stopped dating when their kids were still at home often find that their marriage gradually became as empty as their nest. In this season, it is not difficult to divert all of our energy and attention to our careers or hobbies to the extent that we grow disinterested in each other.
Last week I asked a pastor how long he had been married, and as he looked at the ceiling, he sheepishly replied, “24 or 25 years?” I said something to the effect of: “You need to know because I guarantee your wife does. Your 25th anniversary is a HUGE deal to her, as it should be to you.”
Janet and I have had 3 simple marriage goals which have helped us be intentional in growing our marriage:
The nature of the term “date” implies that it is on your calendar. Your season of life will determine how fancy or long your dates, trips, or conversations are, but the key takeaway is to never stop pursuing the person you publicly promised to “love and cherish.”