Dating the One You Married
After School Activities
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
What are your highest priorities in life?
This series of articles has encouraged you to consider marriage as your highest priority with children coming in as a close second. Ted and Rosanne, the couple I introduced to you in parts 12-15 of this series, had children as their highest priority with marriage not even on their list. They discovered that if marriage was not only a priority, but was at the very top of their list, their children would suffer because their marriage itself would be at risk. So, to provide the utmost care for their children, they learned to be in love with each other by making marriage their highest priority.
But if a couple make care for their children their highest priority with their marriage coming in a close second, itís often more difficult to convince a couple that it should be the other way around. Even if marriage is their second highest priority, their care for their children can suck the energy out of their marriage.
In this article, Iíll focus attention on the struggle parents have with trying to date while providing after school activities for their children.
Julie and Fred had made the fateful decision to allow each of their three children to choose an after school activity that appealed to them the most. One chose sports, one chose music, and one chose theater. They wanted to give their children every opportunity to grow to become successful adults. And they were convinced that after school activities helped provide that opportunity. Without them, they felt that they were depriving their children of an essential ingredient to their growth.
But the time they spent supporting these activities left them without much time for each other. Not only were they required to provide transportation for practice, games, and performances, but they also felt obligated to attend all the games and performances, and even some of the practices.
Julie, a stay at home mom, was the first to notice that something was missing in her marriage. What had been almost effortless for her, lovemaking, became a duty. She blamed it on possible physical causes: a hormone imbalance or vitamin deficiency. But deep down, she knew that whatever it was that had attracted her sexually to her husband was no longer there. When Fred wanted to make love, she found herself trying to avoid it.
Fred also noticed a change in himself. The long conversations that he had enjoyed having with Julie were becoming difficult. He couldnít think of anything to talk about when they had time to be alone together, except their childrenís activities. Conversations with her were about as boring to him as making love was to her.
Years earlier, Fredís parents had given him a copy of my book, His Needs, Her Needs. At the time, he didnít think he needed advice on marriage, but it was now becoming clearer to him that it might be helpful.
So, he started reading it. When he was finished, he asked Julie to read it, which she did. They both were immediately aware of what had gone wrong. They were not meeting each otherís emotional needs, and their passion for each other had suffered as a result.
The advice that I offered in my book was to meet each otherís emotional needs for intimate conversation and sexual fulfillment on dates. Combining them with affection and recreational companionship, they would be able to make enough Love Bank deposits to restore their love for each other. The spark would return.
But the after school activities of their children had left them with no time to date the way I had recommended. The best they could do was to take whatever time was available to try to talk to each other, be affectionate, do something recreationally, and make love. But because these needs were not combined in a date, they lacked motivation to do any of it.
When Fred found time to make love, Julie was not in the mood, but she would try anyway. When she felt like talking to him, he showed very little interest, but tried to listen. It didnít work very well. Try as they might, they couldnít make themselves do what I had recommended.
After failing to follow my advice on their own, Julie and Fred decided to make an appointment with me. I asked them to give me an accounting of what they did throughout the week. I also gave them the dating schedule that I recommend for most couples (see part 15).
I told them that they had to make dating 15 hours a week a priority, where all four intimate emotional needs were to be met on each date. That way, their intimate emotional needs would be met consistently.
The fact that Julie was a stay-at-home mom made it easier to schedule 15 hours of dating each week while still allowing her children to continue in their after school activities. I suggested that she take primary responsible for getting them to and from their practices, even if it meant hiring someone to provide transportation if it would conflict with a date. Fred would not be as involved as he had been in the past.
They set a schedule for dating with the understanding that if an after school performance conflicted with their date, they would not be able to attend that performance. But since almost all performances were scheduled well in advance, they were able to adjust their dating each week so that they could do both.
I recommend that couples with dual careers ask friends or relatives to deliver their children to their activities and them bring them home if the school did not provide it. If they are not available, I recommend hiring someone for transportation.
Iíve found that many dual career couples cannot afford paying for transportation. In fact, many canít afford the activities themselves. The cost of supplying everything required for their childrenís activities leaves them broke. So, Iíve encouraged these couples to eliminate those activities altogether. Those who have followed my advice find that their children do not suffer. Instead, they thrive because they have more time that they can spend together as a family instead of being separated by those afterschool activities.
How Did Dating Turn Out?
After dating for two weeks, Julie and Fred came to my office to discuss possible adjustments to their schedule. They told me that it all went much better than they had expected, and that their dates were very successful.
Before they started their dating schedule, Julie had felt that making love on every date would make her feel that it had been forced on her, and that eventually she would develop an aversion to it. Fred had felt the same way about keeping a conversation going throughout a date: He would end the evening glad that it was finally over. But neither of those dreaded experiences took place.
After an evening of intimate conversation and affection, it felt very natural for Julie to make love with Fred. And it was just as natural for him to be affectionate and conversant with her while enjoying a recreational activity together, knowing that at the end of the evening they would be making love.
They had the advantage of being free of the Love Busters that many of the other couples Iíve counseled have had to eliminate before they could date. They also knew how to meet each otherís emotional needs if they were properly motivated.
So, I didnít need to teach them how to have a romantic relationship with each other. All they needed was time in their schedule to be able to meet all four of their intimate emotional on the same date. Once those dates were scheduled, they knew exactly what to do, and they were highly motivated to do it.
At the time of their three-month checkup, they were as much in love with each other as they had ever been. In parting, I advised them to never let anything prevent them from dating every week: It was the most important way that they could be great parents.
Careers that Prevent Dating