Monday, February 28, 2011

Three Things Couples Can Give Up for Lent

Somewhere between the middle of February and of March, something strange starts to happen. One Wednesday, people are walking around with dirt smudges on their foreheads. Next thing you know, Wendy's fish sandwiches are flying off the shelf. And suddenly, all your friends begin asking, "What did you give up?" The season of Lent has begun.

Contrary to how it might seem, the season of Lent is more than just ashes and fish sandwiches. It is meant to help Christians prepare their hearts for Easter through prayer, good works, and fasting. Many people choose to "give something up" for Lent, such as a favorite food item, as part of their personal fasting. The idea is to make a sacrifice in order to practice self-discipline and, in a sense, share in Christ's death. Though the idea is to become more selfless, and not to do something solely for your own good (such as giving up sweets in order to lose weight), people often see benefits and blessings spring forth from their Lenten sacrifices.

One great way couples can observe the season of Lent is to "give something up" together. Consider these three ideas, for example:

1. Expensive dates. Refraining from overindulgence is an excellent way to capture the spirit of Lent. If you've gotten used to going out to dinner, seeing movies, or choosing other activities that cost a lot of money, consider sacrificing expensive dates this Lent. There are plenty of ways that you can still build your relationship and have fun together without breaking the bank. You might feel restricted at first, but your creativity will blossom, and you might even learn how to live a more frugal lifestyle in the process. You can also save money while on dates (see Five Ways to Save Money at Restaurants).

2. Being "plugged in" while together. Have you become so obsessed with technology that it sometimes overshadows your relationship? One aspect of Lent you might embrace is to break harmful addictions - and believe it or not, your overuse of technology might be harmful to your relationship. (See "Breaking Up with Technology to Save Your Relationship.") This Lent, try turning off your phones and leaving your laptops closed while you're with your significant other. You will likely have trouble controlling the urge to check your email or text messages, but it will be worth it when you see the fruit of spending quality, uninterrupted time together.

3. Television. Right around the time I got married, inspired by my husband's slight obsession with the TV, I wrote an article called "How TV Damages Relationships (And Tips to Counteract the Damage)." How often do you and your significant other get so engrossed in the TV that you fail to have any intelligent conversation? Do you get mad if he or she talks over your favorite show? Do you plan dates and quality time around your TV programs? Consider getting your priorities in order by giving up television for Lent. It might be difficult to leave the tube turned off during the latest episode of Glee. It might sting when you open up your mailbox every day and don't see a shiny red Netflix envelope waiting for you. But in the end, it will be worth it to make the sacrifice for the good of your relationship and the spirit of Lent.

When making your decision of what to give up for Lent, don't choose something inherently wrong that you should be giving up anyway-like cheating or fighting. Sacrifice something that is neutral itself, but that you may be abusing or over-attached to, making it difficult to give up. Even if you're not Christian or don't observe Lent, making sacrifices such as these should help you grow. If you support each other through the sacrifice, you might be surprised how much stronger and more balanced your relationship becomes.

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