Saturday, July 30, 2016

Double Dating

In recent entries, I've stressed the need to find and grab hold of our own individual interests and the need to endorse the interests of our partner.  This is part of the individuation we need in our marriage relationships - the need to be our own person.  On the flip side, there are a few mutual things we need to cultivate and nuture as well.
One of those activities is double-dating.  I'm sure that now or in the past that you've run into that newly married couple who used to hang out with ya'll, but now they're married and you never see them for the light of day.
That kind of couple has got to get themselves out into the world.
You and your spouse have got to get outside yourselves.  Dinner-out and a movie can only go so far.  You gotta get out there.  You need to double-date.  See, most singles think they have it made once they get married because they have that companion that doesn't have to go home at the end of the evening.  And yes, this is very true in-and-of-itself.  The reality is, however, we all know that our spouse, dinner, TV, and a movie won't cut it over time.  Boring.  Boring.  Boring.
Our spouses might not be boring in-and-of-themselves, but give it enough time without any outside contact to the world and even the most interesting Las Vegas showtime entertainer won't catch your eye for much longer.  In addition, reclusing into your own two-selves for long periods of time just isn't psychologically healthy.  We were designed for relationship.  Our partner was designed to be our primary human source for relationship, but not our only one.
So, it's time to get out there.  Feels strange to say this, but it's sort of like dating all over again.  A number of married couples already have a network of built in double-dating relationships and somehow they knew the need to get out there and be with other couples. On the other hand, a number of us (me included) would sink into the recesses of our homes if we didn't intentionally force ourselves to get out there and meet the rest of the world.  For those of you in this boat, those of you who eat the same meal every day, watch the same news program every night, and take the same route to work every day - you're going to have the greatest difficulty.  How in the world are we supposed to find others to double-date?  Who do we do this with?  How do we get out there?
In our Cable TV, Wireless Internet, Wii, PlayStation, Netflix, and Hulu based culture, double-dating can present a bit of a problem if you aren't already a part of a community.  This is in contrast to the experience most of us had in high school and for those of us who went to college.  We hung out with our friends in-between classes during high school and drove off campus during lunch time with upper classmen friends.  We went to high school football games, participated in clubs and organizations, and then hung out on weekends at parties or just at friends' houses.  During college, we lived in the dorms, met people, and did life with lots of others.  We ate lunch and dinner, studied together, played paintball, went rock climbing, middle-of-the-night Walmart runs, fraternity and sorority events, religious club activities, and dorm social activities.  The whole lifestyle was conducive to activities outside the dorm room.  Dating and double dating and hanging out were almost effortless, at least for a number of people.  When we leave college, get married, and especially have children, the getting-out-there process becomes more difficult. If we never socialized much growing up, then the task becomes even more daunting.
Neverthless, you and your spouse have a desperate need to get out there with others.  It really is a life or death situation - at least psychologically and spiritually speaking.
There are two ways I can think of to start meeting other couples and start going out on those double-dates, and I'm sure there are plenty of other ways.  First, I think and other social websites are a great place to start.  Sit down with your spouse at the computer, iPad, or iPhone and start searching.  What would you guys like to try out?  Maybe Horseback riding.  How about Meetup hiking or painting.  One time I looked up writer's groups and found like five or ten of them right in my own area.  There are all sorts of things on the site.  In fact, there probably is some sort of married-couple-double-dating Meetup for all I know.  Truth be told, I haven't even looked.  But, there's a ton of stuff out there.
Another way to meet others is to hook up with your church if you happen to be religious.  Religious centers are designed specifically to bring people together.  Meet some of those other married couples.  Attend a marriage class.  Go to the church volleyball picnic or the church-wide family pool party.  Say "hi" to someone.  Once you feel comfortable, see if your spouse feels comfortable asking out such-and-such a couple to a baseball game, coffee, or to play more volleyball.  Maybe you invite a couple of couples to a barbecue at your home or in the park.  Make sure your partner feels comfortable too, or it'll backfire.  You might have to wait a little bit or look for another couple they feel comfortable asking out.  Remember, you're doing this dating thing as a couple now.
One concern that I hope you have right now as I make these suggestions is this - how do I know these new people are safe?  Well, remember that one thing you don't have to do is ask them out right away.  You can hang out in those Meetup's or church activities for a long time before you ask anyone on a double-date.
The other great resource I strongly recommend is a book called Safe People by Cloud and Townsend.  A complimentary book to go along with it is Boundaries by the same authors.  The idea is to get yourself out there as a couple, gather up the courage to ask others out, and take some emotional risks, while keeping in mind some of the principles found the books Safe People and Boundaries.
On a final note, you might be wondering how often you should be getting out there for a double-date?  How often should we be try hanging out with a new couple?  The reality is that we are all different and we all have our own sets of fears, much less the fact that our lives are so busy and fast paced anyway.  My wife and I generally seem to be doing a double-date about one to three times a month - and I'm even lumping lunches, visits to their house, and coffee into the mix, much less more creative type dates.  This is made much easier by the fact that we are already part of a church community and that we're already intentional about getting ourselves out there.  If you and your partner haven't tried doing this before and it feels scary, why not just try to do a double-date once-a-month?  That goal is achievable, and if you guys start liking the whole thing, then it will probably turn into more than once-a-month.
So, if you seem stuck or if you keep meeting with the same couple once every two months but can't seem to break into any new couples for a double-date, then you're gonna have to take a risk and do the whole thing or the church activity thing or something like that.
Several years ago, I read a book by Henry Cloud called How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.  The book was for singles, but I think it applies to married couples as well.  In the book, Cloud recommends that those in their thirties, who haven't successfully found a marriage partner, try to date at least five people at a time.  I'm not talking five serious relationships - I'm talking about going out on dates for the sole purpose of going out on dates - nothing else.  I tried it out and by the time I got to person three or four, I actually ran into my now current wife.  The point was to stop thinking and start dating - just get out there.
Similar to dating singles, double-dating is the same.  You gotta get out there and go on some initial dates with these other couples.  It doesn't mean you're going to be best friends with them for the rest of your lives.  In fact, maybe you decide you don't like the couple after the first double-date and you never go out with them again.  There's nothing wrong with that.  On the other hand, maybe you'll find a couple or two couples or three couples or more that you can do things with on a regular basis.
As spouses, it is crucial to get outside ourselves for the psychological health of our marriages and our children.  Our spouse and our children were never designed to bear the weight of our full set of needs.  The larger community has been provided to complement our families and meet our needs and desires as our additional resources.  As married couples, one need we have is relationship with other married couples.  Double-dating is a great way to improve the health of your marriage.

Photo by Johanna Dahlberg on Unsplash