It might seem wild to say, but the truth is: sometimes “tried and true” marriage improvement strategies really… well… don’t. Sometimes those “tricks” actually make things worse.
Listen in this week to learn how to avoid using date night against yourself so that you can get back to the business of reconnecting with the one you love.
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‘s Up, Bees?!
You’ve probably noticed that not all marriage healing strategies are created equal.
Some work wonders in one instance and totally tank in another.
It’s even true that the same strategy might nail it one day and completely miss the mark the next.
That’s because tactics and strategies aren’t actually the bread and butter of marriage bliss. It’s the way you THINK and FEEL as you apply the strategy that really gets things done.
Case in point – date night.
It’s a VERY common suggestion for couples who are feeling disconnected to schedule (and keep) regular date nights.
I get why that suggestion is made and I’m IN – at least, for the most part.
It makes sense that connection could be created by spending actual, non-distracted face time together. Seems perfectly reasonable and… it often works.
Except when it doesn’t.
Like it didn’t for me and my husband – for I’d say… a good three years.
You see – we are very spoiled. My mother is the best grandmother in the history of the world + my kids are her only grandkids.
She loves to dote on her grandbabies and we don’t have to share her with any cousins.
She also lives near us. She keeps a closet full of toys and games + a pantry full of snacks.
It’s the kind of house you’d expect to see a from a Hallmark movie grandmother.
And… when our kids were very small, she offered to have them sleepover with her EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT.
I know, I know – we are VERY spoiled.
My mom wanted us to have a happy marriage and SHE wanted parent-free grandma time – win for everybody, right?
You’d think so… except… my thoughts about date night RUINED date night – for YEARS.
I put SO much pressure on dinner and a movie.
I genuinely expected that husband and I would have deep conversations, make grand plans for our future, solve any outstanding problems with ease and then fall into bed at the end of the night to remind ourselves of our deep connection and still burning passion for life and for each other.
Looking back now, I see how that was a LOT of pressure to put on an innocent little Friday night.
Especially when that innocent little Friday night followed up a week of late night feedings – SO. MUCH. LAUNDRY – the demands of two growing careers – and the challenges that go with keeping three tiny humans and two fur babies alive… all without any training or previous experience.
More often than not, my husband would shy away from the grand conversations I tried to push and then he’d pay more attention to the dogs than me when we arrived back at home.
So painful those years.
Painful for me because I felt unwanted and unseen. I freaked out looking down the road at a future filled with surface conversations and a boring same old, same old year after year.
Painful for him – I realized MUCH later – because he felt unappreciated and burdened trying to please a wife who couldn’t be pleased.
To sum up… date night was a disaster for us.
I thought it’d bring us closer, but it really just pushed us even further apart.
Not because date night is an inherently bad idea.
Just because feelings of desperation and urgency don’t translate well into fun and romance.
Every Friday night it was like I forgot how he and I are just two fallible humans going through ALL the things ALL week long.
I didn’t realize that every Friday I forget the train wreck of last week’s date and sprouted hopeful expectations around a rom com production team showing up to help us create a romantic, adventurous respite from the reality of our lives.
As I said, it NEVER worked – not once. Instead I ended date night in tears… a LOT.
So… instead of buying another date activity box or silky pair of panties, I suggest you spend that time and effort poking around in your brain.
When you decide to try out a marriage healing strategy – be it date night or “I” statements or any of the Love Languages – make sure you start by intentionally identifying your expectations going in.
What do you think the new strategy is going to create for you?
How do you feel about implementing the thing?
How quickly is it supposed to “work” and what does “work” even mean?
Doing the work to identify your beliefs and expectations ahead of time is going to rejuvenate your marriage WAY more effectively than any new recipe, dance lesson or tantric pose.
Here’s how I know –
Just last night, I was coaching one of my Queen Bees who was upset and disappointed because she believes she and her husband are no longer friends.
We spent a fair amount of time teasing out how the label “friends” is measured and applied in her world.
Her answer – she wants to do fun things together.
Seems reasonable – but I knew that wasn’t specific enough, so we kept on digging.
What exactly constitutes “fun”?
How often does “fun” have to happen for it to “count”?
Most of us don’t solidify those definitions.
We don’t get specific about what success really looks like – and I’m telling you to start.
Specifics give the brain a focus point and a foundation to rest on – brains LOVE that.
So I guided my Queen Bee to decide on specifics and she decided that doing a date night once per month would be a pretty solid start.
She further clarified that they COULD go out of the house OR it’d still count to spend time together at home after the kids were in bed.
Specifics – once per month, time alone together means she gets to call that a win + any activity (in or out of the house just the two of them together) ALSO counts as a win.
Yes. Good. Let’s do that.
She thought we were done at this point… but we weren’t.
Because, in order for this to really work in her favor I had to set another expectation.
Sounded like this:
“Okay, so you’re going to plan a date night once a month and then… you’ve also gotta plan on feeling disappointed or underwhelmed on the date.”
Yup – you heard that right.
I advised her to plan on negative emotion crashing the party because her brain is in the habit of seeing how their relationship is flawed and failing.
That habit’s not going to go away with just one date – especially not if she’s expecting it to.
Because if she expects the negative feelings to disappear on the date and they don’t… it’ll be so, so easy for her to say that date night doesn’t work, the spark is gone and the marriage is doomed.
Don’t do that to yourself, Bees.
Instead – make a SPECIFIC plan that takes you 1% closer to the improvement you want to see.
Then plan – on purpose – for the first several steps to be a bit underwhelming.
Your brain is used to being unimpressed. Plan on it taking a little while for your brain to remember the skills of being impressed and flattered and swept off your feet.
As a woman who speaks to women all day long – I know how smart we are.
I also know how resistant we tend to be to feeling icky about anything – especially about the way things are going with our guys.
It’s easy to try to talk yourself into a different feeling – to try to use your brain and figure out how to make things different than they are.
Maybe you could behave a little differently. Or remind him to behave a little differently… maybe if you wear the right clothes or choose the perfect menu or get the lighting just right…. then you’d have that sparkle back.
I get why you might go there… but don’t.
The truth is, the only way to get where you want your relationship to go is to start where you are and tell yourself the truth along the way as you walk from here to there.
It’s not glamourous, but it’s the way of the champions.
Lots of work, a fair amount of pain with the pleasure coming LATER – after all that effort.
Might sound unappealing – but consider this… the pleasure and connection at the end of that dusty, work-filled road will be 100% worth it. Every. Time.
Because you have what you wanted + the satisfaction of knowing YOU made it happen
It starts like this:
Date 1 – we showed up and it was average at best.
This… is a win.
Because you took the first step toward where you WANT to be down the road.
Date 2 – we showed up and it was decent.
Date 3 – we showed up and it was amusing.
Date 413 – we showed up and blew our own minds with how in love we still are.
When you set out on the adventure of healing your relationship and reconnecting with your guy – plan on 413 iterations of your strategy before you expect to arrive at your goal.
I know you probably want to skip straight to the feel of date 413 and if that worked, we’d do that all day.
But that’s NOT how it works.
At the risk of sounding trite and cliché – nothing works unless you do.
I know it’s tempting to want to skip the less exciting, kinda painful parts… but that’s inefficient. Because skipping over the mess never cleans it up.
So plan on 413 dates between feeling like boats passing in the night to reconnecting as best friends.
Not because it’ll actually take 413 dates – it could, but you’ll probably get there way sooner…
The point is to be all in for 413 iterations because when you are, it’s much, much easier to be delighted when things go well.
And when you’re delighted, you’re naturally going to put more effort in, be more vulnerable and generally enjoy each other.
Starting is important – so do that AND THEN stay committed for more than one attempt.
Commitment to the process, even when it’s tedious and unimpressive at some points along the way, is what’ll get you to the marriage you imagined when you said, “I do.”
It might not sound romantic, but it IS what works.
And when you work together, you and husband are going to create a bond that can’t be broken because you did the hard and you did it together.
Choose courage, Bees. And Keep, On. Flying.