What’s missing from our ideas about date planning?
We tend to think certain things all by themselves create romance: for example, dinner out, flowers, gift-giving. These are all great, and we should do them if the person we love really enjoys them.
But there’s more to romance than just these venerable old classics.
And there’s more to our marital intimacy, too.
In fact, you can easily plan romantic dates that honor the uniqueness of your particular marriage, by keeping each other’s natural abilities and needs in mind.
(NOTE: I talked about date planning this morning on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air Show, with John Malone and Glen Leverenz. Check out the 7:10 am ET interview for 2/14/22).
But how do we use our talents as a lens for planning dates?
For starters, if you’ve been reading my whole blog series (thanks!), you won’t be surprised when I reference my favorite resource on marriage, Strengths-Based Marriage, by Jimmy Evans and Alan Kelsey. Jimmy Evans is a marriage expert, and Alan Kelsey is a CliftonStrengths® coach, like me. I’ll be primarily referencing pages 173-176, but please do yourself a favor and get a copy for yourself. You’ll be so glad you did.
(I’ve said before that I have no affiliate relationship with this book, and to prove it, I’m not including an ordering link, this time—and I think this date-night-planning post will be my most popular in the series!)
So, let’s start with a super-quick review of the basics we’ve been learning for the last several weeks.
Be a talent detective
A study of each other’s gifts and needs helps us to quickly discover what gives our sweetheart joy; what helps him feel seen and heard; what underlying personality needs are essential to be met; and what makes your time together affirming and rewarding.
For each of us, there’s a secret code. Or even more accurately, a secret set of keys that open amazing doors. And they have to do with natural ways of thinking, feeling, and doing—your talents!
As you know, I’m a geek for the CliftonStrengths® Assessment. Used well, it can renew marriages very rapidly and restore hope in the process.
So here’s a quick roadmap to what I’m talking about.
The assessment and what it offers us
There are 34 talent themes that the assessment shows us in order of dominance, so in private couples coaching, we really use the whole lineup. We can see where each of the spouses is naturally strong and gifted, and we can see where they tend to struggle and need to lean into each other’s strengths. From the nuanced, individualized feedback, we get powerful insights into how God designed them to thrive, as well as what drains them and makes them feel unhappy.
That information is solid gold.
But for our purposes today, I’ll share that the 34 themes are grouped into FOUR general domains (talent categories) with unique characteristics that can be used to fast-track our planning.
You’ll notice on my CliftonStrengths® report, above, that each of the four domains is coded by color, to offer an easy visual reference for the kinds of talents we possess.
As I walk you through this, please remember that we’re all a combination of the four domains, so think about what rings a bell for yourself and for what you can observe in your spouse, and make a note of it. Again, be a detective for what really energizes your spouse and gives them joy, and integrate yours as well, so everyone is having a wonderful time.
Above all, use every single thing you know about what gives your sweetheart a lift, as a lens for renewing your romance, every day!
Ultimately, be generous. You’ll be repaid a thousand times over.
The four “domains”
So the four “domain” types are called Executing®, Strategic Thinking®, Influencing®, and Relationship Building®.
Let’s very briefly unpack what the four categories signify and how to use them as a lens for date planning—and marital intimacy.*
Date planning by domain
Executing®: Can tend to be a workaholic and really gets a charge from successfully achieving goals.
So, be really clear about what’s important for each of you to accomplish on your date together. A list wouldn’t hurt!
For example, based on what you both like to do, your list might include some easily achieved objectives, such as:
- Walking a challenging local trail, followed by a healthy dinner at the new vegan restaurant
- Getting to confession, then having a light dinner nearby, and finally catching that hot new movie
But whatever the stated goals are, by the end of the evening, the person high in the Executing® domain needs to feel a sense of accomplishment. So, be specific and affirming about your mutual expectations, and express approval as you verbally check each item off the agreed-upon list.
A note about marital intimacy for Executing®: This achievement-oriented person can tend to bring a little stress to lovemaking because it’s so important to get things “accomplished.” But as long as you’re able to communicate about what you both want, by setting clear expectations, your spouse can fulfill your requests and you’ll both have a wonderful time.
Influencing®: Tends to be very confident and a natural leader, so be game for an adventure!
This confident person may want your dates to be entirely spontaneous, so be ready to contribute ideas, but also to be influenced by their natural charm! Your trust in their judgment will mean a lot and give them the chance to shine. Consider suggesting something with a strong social element, maybe something purpose-centered (like a ministry fundraiser or an exciting lecture/discussion), since Influencing® likes to meet new people. Maybe even look for a measure of competition to ramp up excitement, whether it’s a game night, a trip to an arcade, or couples tennis.
A note about marital intimacy for Influencing®: Remember that this person is adventurous, so he/she may have some new ideas to try out together. The natural confidence your sweetheart brings may even mean preferring to leave the lights on.
Relationship Building®: Loves connecting at a deeper level, so watch for verbal and physical cues that invite closeness.
Be sure you create opportunities for one-on-one conversations on your date, and be vulnerable about how much you love and need your sweetheart. This person values authenticity, privacy, and intimacy, so send lots of affirming relational signals (looks, words, touch) about how much you value your time together on a day-to-day basis, and emphasize the relationship over the planned activity. Some possibilities might be a quiet dinner and then home for a romantic old movie, or time at Adoration, followed by a long walk holding hands and chatting.
A note about marital intimacy for Relationship Building®: Remember that the relationship is key, so this person will likely prefer communicative, face-to-face experiences in bed.
Strategic Thinking®: Is an imaginative person who loves to plan ahead and try new things, so be adventurous—and invite them into the planning.
Strategic loves anticipating what’s going to happen, so come up with some ideas and then spend some time dreaming together about what you might do. Discuss the pros and cons of a few options and allow the excitement to build. Whatever you come up with, you might pray about them together, and then remind your sweetheart during the week of your upcoming date, by sending romantic texts or leaving notes around the house.
A note about marital intimacy for Strategic®: If you’re hoping to end up in the bedroom, don’t spring it last-minute. Drop some very clear hints or make it part of the plan, so your strategic thinker can be anticipating that, too!
Have an absolutely wonderful Valentine’s Day, if you haven’t already celebrated, and consider working together with your spouse on a monthly strengths-based date!
You’ll become experts in delighting each other, in no time!
Share your comments, questions, and brainstorms, below!
God bless you and your sweetheart!
* (Here’s a link to Alan Kelsey on the XO Marriage Podcast, episode #9, talking about domains and marital intimacy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOMinAghqY0 [the whole interview is great, but the “bedroom” focus runs from 28:15 to 32:37])
- Maximize Your Catholic Marriage (part 6): Plan the best romantic dates ever! - February 14, 2022
- Maximize Your Catholic Marriage (part 5 of 6): How to affirm and leverage each other’s capabilities, for a stronger, happier marriage - February 7, 2022
- Maximize Your Catholic Marriage (part 4): Conflicts as Signposts to Connection and Healing - February 1, 2022