Why dating your spouse will foster commitment and intimacy
By Jeremiah Betron
My first semester of seminary I visited the bookstore many times for books—that I didn’t need and have never read. I went book crazy so I could talk to Amanda, one of the employees. I had my eye on her and asked her out for coffee. She agreed with one of the brightest smiles I have ever seen. Little did I know that the coffee date would eventually lead to a wedding date.
Amanda and I went on a lot of dates during our courtship and, ashamedly, have had fewer dates since our honeymoon, and I know we are not alone in this. Marriages today have a dating deficiency that leaves couples longing for passion, intimacy and commitment. My challenge for you is to begin dating your spouse again!
Dating grows your marriage when you spend time together with a goal in mind. Before marriage the goal of dating was determining if this person was someone you could spend the rest of your life with. Dating after marriage cultivates that earlier commitment and fosters deeper intimacy. Song of Solomon 2:1-17 provides some reasons why this happens and even gives us some insight into the character of God.
When we date our spouse, our commitment to one another will be strengthened. Solomon offers five suggestions for bolstering commitment in marriage.
1. Express praise and adoration for one another. “I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valleys,” says the bride (v. 1). In ancient times the rose of Sharon was the flower of fertility and beauty, while the lily stood for loveliness. The bride feels beautiful and lovely because her groom adores her. “Like a lily among thorns, so is my darling among the maidens,” says the groom. There is no other woman for him.
In the same way, our spouses need to know that we are attracted to them. Tell your spouse regularly that you adore her or respect him.
2. Increase a sense of security in your relationship. The bride responds to the groom in verse three: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved… In his shade I took great delight …”
In ancient Near Eastern love poetry, the apple tree often symbolizes the male. Finding an apple tree full of fruit among a forest of pines would be a surprise. The bride affirms her groom’s uniqueness, but also that she feels protected by him as she finds “shade” under his tree.
The feeling of financial, emotional, relational and spiritual security is important in every marriage. Does your spouse feel secure?
3. Reestablish commitment to each other. The couple affirms their commitment in verse four: “He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love.” Banquets were an important event. Sometimes the servants brought the guests from their homes to the banquet hall. Here, the groom brings his bride to his banquet hall, assuming a servant role. This shows his commitment, as does the mention of the banner, a sign of belonging and inclusion.
Commitment is about feeling like you belong with someone. Does your wife feel like she belongs to you by how you serve her or speak to her? Does your husband feel like he belongs to you by how you serve him or include him in your plans?
4. Look only to each other for refreshment and affection. The earlier reference to the groom as an apple tree that provides refreshment is repeated in verse five. “Sustain me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, because I am lovesick,” says the bride (v. 5). Now her lovesickness is so severe she can literally feel it, and she asks her beloved to revive her. In verse six the groom cures her with an affectionate embrace: “Let his left hand be under my head and his right hand embrace me.”
Your words and actions can refresh your spouse. The affection you show your spouse can revive a starving marriage.
5. Outside of marriage, practice sexual restraint. Are you in a relationship, but not yet married? Notice verse seven. The bride sings: “I adjure you…that you do not arouse or awaken love until it pleases.” The arousal of love refers to sexual intimacy. The bride strongly urges the maidens to avoid sexual intimacy until they are married. She makes an oath with them. Those who are not married are to promise that they will not force love, but patiently wait for God to bring it into their lives.
While commitment is necessary for every marriage, intimacy also plays a vital role. When we date our spouse, intimacy grows. The next verses suggest four reasons why this happens.
1. Dating enhances intimacy as you find a growing excitement for one another. In verse eight and nine we see that both the bride and her groom are eager to be married. Verse nine says of the groom, “Behold, he is standing behind our wall, he is looking through the windows….” Does your spouse know you are excited to see her when the workday is over? How many times have you told your husband you are glad to see him?
2. Intimacy grows as you cultivate your relationship. The groom invites his bride to go for a springtime walk (vv 10-13). The long winter of their separation has passed. Just as spring is the time to cultivate the ground for planting, it is also time for this couple to prune their relationship for growth and intimacy.
When you and I cultivate our marriages, we prepare them for growth and intimacy. Those icy feelings begin to melt away as we prune old ways in preparation for new growth.
3. Intimacy deepens because we have the opportunity to be vulnerable. The groom calls to the bride in verse 14, “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret place of the steep pathway, let me see your form, let me hear your voice…” The bride has kept secrets from her husband, but he gently coaxes her out of her insecurity. He desires to know her more fully. Deeper intimacy requires deeper vulnerability.
To further deepen intimacy, settle issues in your marriage. The bride says in verse 15, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards…” The bride wants her groom to catch the destructive “foxes” in their relationship—the fox of mistrust and jealousy; the fox of selfishness and pride; the fox of an unforgiving spirit. The best of marriages comes across destructive problems. Don’t let something that can easily be solved drive a wedge between you and your spouse.
4. Intimacy deepens because you find reassurance in your relationship. Despite the “foxes,” the bride is reassured about their relationship. “My beloved is mine, and I am his….” (vv 16-17). She finds comfort knowing that even though they have problems, the groom belongs only to her, and she belongs only to him. Their relationship is strong and enduring. When your marriage goes through troubling times, you need to know that your spouse is going to be there “until death do us part.”
Insights to God
Maybe you’re not married. Does the Song of Solomon still apply to you? While it is primarily about marriage, it does give us insight into the character of God. Here are four truths about the depth and majesty of God.
- God enjoys beauty and affirms it. As the bride and groom affirm one another’s beauty, we see something of God’s heart. He enjoys what is beautiful, and this involves more than just physical appearance. True beauty is anything that is pure. A thing lacks beauty when it is impure: an extramarital relationship, a tarnished sense of self-respect, damaging words toward someone. God affirms beauty.
- God designed marriage for the expression of human sexuality. God makes marriage alone for sexual intimacy. Any form of sexuality expressed outside of marriage is an affront on God and goes against God’s design for sex. Because God made sex for marriage, it is reserved for a man and woman bound by marriage.
- God’s love fulfills specific needs for love. You and I are emotional beings who crave love. We need to feel loved and to be loved. Human love will never completely satisfy this craving. We must first turn to God, seeking to be fulfilled by his love. When loving God is our priority, we will be able to more fully love others.
- God is divinely pursuing you. Just as the bride and groom pursued one another, God pursues you for a deeper relationship. He wants to be loved by you. He wants you to be open with him and to declare your commitment to him. God does not push you away from him, but seeks to be part of your life. He doesn’t have to pursue us, but by grace He does.
The Song of Solomon offers some great reasons to date your spouse. Don’t kiss dating goodbye, but do kiss the dating deficiency in your marriage goodbye. Accept this challenge to reaffirm your commitment and deepen your intimacy with that one person who will walk the entirety of life with you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a coffee date with my wife.
Jeremiah Betron earned his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and has served the Bethel MB Church, Yale, SD, as lead pastor for almost two years. Prior to coming to Bethel, he served as the assistant pastor of Men’s Ministry at Irving (Texas) Bible Church. He and his wife, Amanda, have been married for three years, and while they don’t have children, they do have a Cocker Spaniel named Lucy.
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