by: Topher WilesThe woman on the opposite bench was barking orders on her cell phone loud enough for five counties to hear, all while parking herself 30 feet away on this perfect starry night. If she had not been so focused on her phone call at 8pm in Dogwood Park of Cookeville, she might have noticed six empty benches farther from us, but instead chose the closest one, nearly interrupting a delightful question and answer time. Perhaps it was the relaxing smell of the Butternut Pumpkin candle that drew her in. Maybe she wanted to be near smiling strangers to cheer herself up. Perhaps God wanted her to hear the meaningful conversation a married couple was having after 16 years of marital growth. Despite the cellphone interrupting bystander, the candle and question night was a success for our marriage and our lives.
The Adventure Dating Book for Couples has been pointed ammunition in my quest to enhance our married dating life which had digressed to stale and stagnant. Many of the scratch-off ideas would not be anything I would have chosen, but they have been reinvigorating for our romance. Every Monday evening my beautiful bride and I conquer the adventures together and we always enjoy the results. This week’s quest instructed us to shop for a favorite candle, which is a challenge since neither of us are candle people. We laughed as we dismissed many lemony pine scents as cleaning products; so strong they cleared out our sinuses. Others reminded us of sweet times with grandma but were definitely not date-worthy. After 20 mask-wearing & despairing minutes of shopping the Home Goods store of Cookeville, we settled on a winner: Butternut Pumpkin by Red Leaf Home.
Our final date night task challenged us to find a serene setting, light the candle, and ask two questions to each other. Dogwood Park after sunset was a relatively peaceful location dotted with the occasional skateboarder, Subway sandwich eater, and dog walker. The benches were dimly lit providing perfect ambience for a single candle between us on this gentle breeze evening. The questions were simple with Ashley knowing both my answers, that I’ll keep only between us. Yet Ashley’s answers provided ample conversation and sharing, answers I admit, I had never dreamed up.
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning.” – Proverbs 1:5a
Counselor Greg Smalley of Focus on the Family gives the following ideas on how to listen to your spouse better.
- · Turn toward your spouse and look him or her in the eyes.
- · Resist distractions, such as your phone or the television.
- · Pay attention to your spouse’s nonverbal cues and body language.
- · Don’t think about rebuttals or whether you agree.
- · Let your husband or wife finish talking. And, when it’s appropriate, repeat what you hear your spouse saying for clarification.
- · Pay special attention to your spouse’s feelings.
When the Doobie Brothers sang their 1972 hit “Listen to the Music” they were hitting on truth when their lyrics sang, “What the people need Is a way to make 'em smile; It ain't so hard to do if you know how; Gotta get a message; Get it on through…” When we actively listen to our spouse, the by-product is better than listening to Tom Johnston’s lead vocals; we often receive long-lasting heartfelt smiles and a deeper romantic connections. The value of listening is a message of care that desperately needs to get through in our marriages and questions are a great way to start.
One of my favorite blogs for self-improvement, All Pro Dad, offers the following 10 questions to ask your spouse regularly to build deeper connections and spark fruitful conversations. www.allprodad.com/10-questions-ask-wife-every-year/
- What do you think is going right in our relationship?
- Where would you like our relationship to be this time next year?
- Will you please marry me, all over again?
- I’d love to hear about your dreams for the future
- Is there anywhere you’d like to visit this coming year?
- Do you think we’re doing OK financially?
- How are you doing health-wise?
- If you could change one thing about our priorities as a family, what would it be?
- Is there anything I devote regular time to that you see as a possible threat to our family or our relationship?
- Are you happy?
Just for fun, I’m throwing in five funny questions that may lighten the mood on your date nights:
- What actor or actress would play you in a movie about your life?
- What was your first impression of me?
- If you woke up tomorrow as the opposite sex, what would be the top three things you’d do?
- If I let your dress me, what would I wear on our next date?
- What memory do you have of me that always makes you laugh?
Our conversation lasted well past loud cell-phone lady, Dogwood Park, and even our car ride home. The woman I know so well taught me a few new things about herself that night, even after 16 great years of marriage. The night was so wonderful that we have now purchased a second Butternut Pumpkin candle to keep the romance burning. I hope questions and candles help you build your Family Forte with many more years of adventures.