Among my most popular posts is when I share practical marriage tips. The idea below routinely comes up as
a favorite most challenging. If you’ve never scheduled an awkward date night, or you need a reminder how they work, here’s your friendly reminder!
Recently, I wrote a post advocating hyper-vigilance to close the gaps in your marriage or any relationship that you wish to keep healthy. I followed up with a few practical tips to help keep the gaps from forming in the first place. One of those tips was to intentionally find a time to ask each other tough questions.
The goal for asking tough questions isn’t to make your spouse squirm; it’s to make YOU squirm.
Feedback is extremely important in any relationship (especially marriage), so intentionally creating a scenario where you say,”bring it on – I’m ready for input” will help you grow and will help keep your marriage healthy.
Billy and I have a few of those settings and one of them is called an “Awkward Date Night” because, quite frankly, it can get awkward in a hurry. However, if you plan for this night, the practice can improve your marriage.
The goal for an Awkward Date Night (ADN) is to intentionally set aside a dinner or coffee to talk through stuff that needs to be talked about but hasn’t…primarily because a person doesn’t know how to broach a subject or because the other person is typically oblivious about the issue, thus making the chat “awkward.” ADNs provide an outlet to get a few things out on the table. It’s a band-aid ripping kind of night…but again, really, really good for a relationship.
On our ADNs, we’ve covered everything from feeling competitive with iPhones, to texting while driving, to missed expectations, to some much deeper stuff that we’ll leave to your imagination. The conversations are tough, but necessary for a healthy relationship.
If you’re brave enough to schedule one of these nights yourself, I thought it might be helpful to hear a few of the ground rules and an assortment of questions that we use to get you started. Please customize so these work for you!
- Plan the night in advance – This is not the kind of evening that you want to spring on your spouse or wander into, especially if one of you is more verbally skilled than the other (i.e., “Hey, honey, let’s play a little game tonight called ‘What annoys you most?” Not good.) Instead, give each other some prep time to think through questions, toughen up for feedback, and prepare to speak and listen well.
- Take turns asking questions. – This keeps one person from ending up with all of the “air time.” This also keeps the conversation a two-way street.
- No repeating questions – So if Billy asks me what’s the “one thing” I’d change about him, I can’t turn around and ask the same question. This is a cop-out and relieves the strategy of “asking” a question just so you can get a platform to air your dirty laundry about your spouse. This also ensures that you’ll be asking questions that are best set for you to learn about YOU!
- Listen – Listen – Listen – If you are unclear about what your spouse means by a response, ask clarifying questions. Your only priority in asking questions is to get clearer answers. Don’t ask questions as a backdoor defense strategy. Passive-aggressive questions kill the heart of the mission…and discourage the answerer. Speaking of defending yourself…
- Never defend yourself – Your spouse’s perception of you IS reality to them, so listen and take it in. “You shouldn’t feel that way,” is not a proper response. Silence is better than that. Don’t defend any situation from your perspective because that simply shows a lack of respect for your spouse’s thoughts. Take it like a grown-up.
- End on a positive – Plan, in advance, what you want to say that will affirm your spouse. Think of what you admire in your husband. Articulate what you appreciate in your wife. You need to end your time together sharing these things. This is important because it will ensure that you are “all good.” Be specific, be generous, and be sincere. Remember the whole goal of the night is so that you (the two of you, “you”) will be better.
- Make sure the environment is conducive to the conversation – If your favorite restaurant is loud, you are time constrained, or you worry that people will overhear, pick at different time or place. Pick a “safe” and comfortable place. Doing this in public, though, will ensure that nobody loses it and starts tossing plates. (Kidding).
So, what to ask? Here are a few suggestions, but you really need to think up and ask some of your own that will help you get to the bottom of what you want to know about YOU!
- If you could change one thing about me, what would it be?
- Have I done anything to hurt you recently? If so, what?
- Do any of my friendships make you uncomfortable?
- What’s one thing that I do that bothers you that I don’t seem to realize?
- Is there anything that you’re nervous to talk to me about? If so, what is it?
- In what ways do you ever feel disrespected by me?
- In what ways would you like to change our level of emotional intimacy?
- In what ways would you like to change our level of physical intimacy?
- In what ways do I cause you to feel unloved?
- Do you have any secrets that you’ve been afraid to tell me?
Still with me? Good. I promise that the effort of this kind of conversation is worth it.
I know that it takes a good dose of courage to knowingly walk into these kinds of conversations. Still, after years of having these chats, I promise you that they are extremely helpful in closing gaps and building your relationship.
And in all instances, remember to be kind to each other….
…and splurge on dessert once you’ve finished talking. Conflict navigation burns a great deal of calories and you can eat it guilt-free.
Good luck and let me know how it goes!