This is Part 6 in the series Pursuing Your Wife.
Before I got married, and I would read things about dating in marriage, I always thought, “What are they talking about? You dont need to “date,” you will be together every night!”
Naive. Stupid. I know, I know.
The fact that you are around each other that much is exactly why you have to date in marriage.
I was great at dating before I got married. I’m a fun, charming, and an exciting person. This made dating quite easy. I got some type of kick out of trying to get girls to “fall for me.” I never had a serious relationship until I met my wife. Before that it was a series of shallow dating. Shallow dating seemed to come quite naturally to me, primarily because it was about me.
Dating in marriage has been a different story. It’s not really about me at all. I don’t know about you, but the first thing marriage did for me was show me how much of a selfish jerk I was.
An “all about me” life is easy. A life dedicated to the joy, holiness, and good of my wife is not easy.
The theme of “die to self” is on full display—in the good and the bad. Marriage makes it obvious when I am being truly loving towards my wife or when I care only about myself. I promise you, it isn’t always pretty. In fact, the percentage of good to bad isn’t even close to where I would like it to be.
My point: it is simply easier to get a girl to marry you than it is to make her glad she married you day in and day out. I’m not saying my wife wishes we weren’t married. I am just owning what we all know, a lot of false advertisement takes place when dating.
Once you get married there is nowhere to run and hide. You are exposed. Your sin is on full display.
One of the hardest things to learn early in marriage is what a posture of grace and love towards one another looks like. This is simply one reason why dating in marriage is so important. It can be easy to focus on each other’s sin, rather than pursuing one another in a God honoring way. One of those roads ends with a lot of bitterness, the other road ends with a marriage that is Christ-centered, full of love, and has the ability to endure.
When we are in constant pursuit of our spouse we show them their value. Dating in marriage is more than a display of affection. If we are all honest we can admit there can be some really dry seasons in marriage. It simply isn’t butterflies and emotional ecstasy towards each other all the time. While that would be easier, it wouldn’t be nearly as sanctifying.
We date in marriage because of what we know we need, not because of what we feel. We need to work hard and fight to become and stay intimate with one another. It sure is fun when our dating is an outworking of the deep, passionate affection we feel towards our spouse. Those seasons are incredible. With that said, the deep value of dating in marriage comes to light when we date in order to stir the affection we once had and desire to have again.
My wife and I are much more intentional now with how we date than we have been in the past. This is true mostly because we see its value much more now than we did early on in marriage. The first few years were rough. Where did those original butterflies go?! Winter had set in. Why are we always mad at each other and frustrated?
Insert: a lot of speck pointing and plank ignoring.
Marriage is hard work. It is near impossible when couples aren’t carving out intentional time to date and pursue one another. It will and should look different for different marriages, but the idea of dating in marriage has to be a nonnegotiable.
My encouragement would be to figure out what your spouse enjoys and finds edifying in dating and run with it. It can be very set and structured or very loose and casual. Whatever it looks like, pursue your spouse with intentionality.
It is good for their heart and yours. It helps make for a healthy marriage.
ABOUT MATT: Matt is the pastor of missional communities and students at The Bridge Church (Acts 29 Network) in Spring Hill, TN. Husband to Meredith and father to Caleb & Calvin, Matt loves to read, golf, and cheer for his Huskers.
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