Well, Paul and I just returned home after a very successful date : ) He knew something was up but had decided “not to think about it” in order to still be surprised. We trust that all of our friends who were out and about had great evenings themselves. Hopefully there wasn’t any pre-date tension like the kind we described in yesterday’s post. In any case, enjoy the second part of our “date night disaster” marriage situation post.
So today we provide you with some ways to resolve the situation that we posted yesterday. As always, my comments will be normal and Paul’s will be bolded.
As we begin, I should say that there are numerous considerations in this all-too-common situation. It is a tangle of circumstance, differences in personality, differences in gender, with the overarching understanding that all of us have skewed thinking as sinners. Thus, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Nonetheless, here are some perspectives that should help:
First, being a task oriented type person, I don’t automatically view dates as a “light at the end of the tunnel.” I view it more as a dead-line by which all my important, time-sensitive work must be done—a “work before play” type of mentality. I’m thinking “I really want to go on this date night, I better make sure I get all my work done.” If I don’t get my work done, then I have to be able to leave it with God and believe that I will find time to finish it later (thankfully, God cares about effort more than results).
Second, I’ve learned it’s never a good thing to assume that Liz knows what I’m thinking. Seeing that she comes to the weekend with totally different expectations, saying something like, “I really want go to this so I better make sure I get all my work done” would give her an alternative to thinking that I just don’t care.
Third, sometimes I’m tired, but usually not on purpose. God sometimes providentially orders my week so that I’m tired at the end of it. I will still enjoy going out, still enjoy the meal, still enjoy the conversation and still enjoy being with Liz. There are two alternatives assumptions Liz could make in this case. She could assume that I am having the maximum good time that a providentially tired person can have. Or, alternately, she could assume that I love her so much that I’m going out with her even though I’m really tired and receive that gift of love graciously (she gets a night out and I get heavenly treasure—win, win;-). She need not worry about which one it is. Both are good.
Fourth, I do need to be careful not to undermine her joy. Though it’s not my natural habitat, entering her world (or at least cracking the door open) and validating it can be a powerful way to love her. This doesn’t mean I have to become as excited as Liz becomes about the date night, but I can be glad that she wants to date me! Sometimes I can take her for granted and forget to tell her how amazing it is that she loves me (and my non-excitable attitude towards dates :-).
For me, there is always the temptation to let selfishness cloud my mind. If my first instinct is to get angry at Paul for ruining my evening with his less-than-thrilled attitude, then I’m probably being self-centered. Mostly because I am assuming that the whole goal of our night is to make me feel affirmed, comfortable and relaxed. Not that there is anything wrong with those things, but when I put wanting them above my love for Paul, then that date night has become an idol in my heart.
So, here are some of the things that I have to do in order to combat my wayward thinking.
First, I need to think the best of Paul. When the bible instructs me that love “thinks no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5) it didn’t have a caveat category of “unless he is ruining your evening.” When I think that Paul has forgotten about our date, or is tired and unenthusiastic, I must purposely choose to set aside my negative conclusions and instead focus on what is true. I know that Paul becomes task oriented. I know that sometimes the idea of a dinner out doesn’t energize him like it does for me. But I also know that he loves me. And I know that he wants to sacrifice his time and energy to show that love. So I need to take those truths, use them to squash my self-centered attitude and look forward to spending well-deserved time with the person who loves me most in this world….even if he is a little tired. (And it’s true that often what I interpreted as tiredness or disinterest was really just him focusing on work and by the time dinner rolls around he turns out to be just as happy to be getting out of the house as I am…and all my disgruntled feelings turned out to be completely unfounded! )
Second, even if my date night is less than perfect because of Paul’s tiredness (or a grumpy waiter, or a misplaced wallet, or an inordinately loud movie-goer sitting right behind us, etc) I can still enjoy my evening. There is great freedom in learning to have flexible expectations. I’m not naturally good at this. I generally have a plan in my mind (complete with the type of food we eat, places we visit, and attendant moods!) and when something bumps the train off the track, I get a little miffed. If I don’t correct my mindset, that miffed feeling can easily grow into constant frustration. This is where my understanding of sovereignty becomes very practical (as I wrote about in this post). God is perfectly aware of my plans. And he is perfectly right when he changes them. At that point I am called to trust God with something as seemingly mundane as a date night. That’s where Christianity becomes practical.
All in all, loving Paul means loving him at his best, his worst and even at his tiredest. I didn’t marry him so that he could join me for some really great dates. I married him because I want to be with him. When I remember that (and everything that entails) I can enjoy any of those too-infrequent moments of time off that God gives us.