"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…" – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese

The act of cherishing is integral to family harmony and stability. This is especially true in marriage; Dictionary.com offers three definitions of cherish: 1) to hold or treat as dear; feel love for; 2)to care for tenderly; nurture; and 3) to cling fondly or inveterately to.

Love. Tenderness. Nurture. Do these things characterise your relationship with your spouse?

When you got married, your wedding vows likely included the promise to "love, honour, and cherish" one another. This phrase can actually be traced back to 1549, where it appeared in the first recorded wedding vows, found in The Book of Common Prayer. Here’s how they are recorded:

Groom: I, __, take thee, ___, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

Bride: I, __, take thee, ___, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance.

Those 16th century Anglicans understood that cherishing is an important practice for both husbands and wives. And of course, this concept didn’t originate with the Church of England. Jesus said that "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). To give your heart to your spouse is to treasure, or cherish, him or her.

It can be difficult to keep that in perspective, though, amidst the busy hustle-and-bustle of careers, responsibilities, and childrearing. That is why thriving couples need to be intentional about treasuring and honouring one another. They need to keep a conscious account of the things they value about their relationship. This might take the form of keeping a journal, preserving precious memories through photos and mementos, or even maintaining a list of the qualities and character traits they most admire about their spouse. it also means taking time out to celebrate anniversaries and other important milestones in their relationship.

With this in mind BEFORE your date, each of you should take some time alone to make a list of the things you value about your spouse. include his or her personality traits, character qualities, spirituality, caring behaviours, accomplishments, and even physical characteristics. Write them down and take the list with you on your date.


Remember, always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and "woo" our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate – hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Even as you consider the meaning of "healthy conflict" in your marriage, remember to protect your date night by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner
Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Share your lists!
Either over dinner or at a quiet location afterwards, share your lists with one another. Don’t simply hand your list to your spouse and expect him or her to read it in silence. Instead, read your list — out loud. Feel free to add additional details to what is written on the page. For example, if you listed "compassion" as one of the things you cherish about your mate, recall a specific time you observed him or her being compassionate. Receiving those words of affirmation and love in both written and verbal forms will be much more meaningful. After you’ve read your lists to one another, exchange them. Consider going to a craft store to get some stickers or even picture frames to adorn your lists. Once they’ve been decorated and personalised, keep them handy in a wallet or purse, on the nightstand, or in another accessible location as a regular reminder of the reasons your spouse cherishes you.

[NOTE: We shared a similar idea for creating a "cherish list" during one of last year’s Date Nights. If you’ve already created lists for one another during another date, consider an alternative activity that involves cherishing your spouse and your relationship: create a scrapbook of memories together, exchange simple gifts that commemorate a special time in your marriage, etc.]

Step 3: Relax and unwind

After your activity, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to relax and emotionally connect through good conversation. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging.

  • What was your favourite part of the evening?
  • What is the one thing you learned tonight that you didn’t know about me before?
  • What is one way I can let you know that I cherish you over the coming week?

Step 4: Home Sweet Home
As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about additional ways you can be intentional about cherishing one another – even amidst the hectic pace of your lives. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

© 2012 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at focusonthefamily.com.

Dr Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Family Ministries at Focus on the Family.

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