By Katie Bennett, Contributing Writer.
I love date nights with my husband! They are a great time for us to have fun together and talk. Throughout my six and a half year marriage, I have valued date nights very highly.
When our first child was born almost five years ago, these escalated to a marriage-survival-necessity in my book. During many, many months my husband and I would live for those date nights, viewing them as the very means by which we could enjoy a thriving relationship.
Yet the same pattern would occur each time: We would reconnect on the date –amazing. It would be fun and full of good conversation and good food –refreshing. Our relationship would get a boost of closeness –wonderful. And we would enjoy the benefits brought about by it for the next several days.
But, unfortunately, these feelings would wane. Soon, we again felt disconnected, which showed itself in stress and lack of good communication.
What’s more, I developed the habit of filing topics of conversation away in my mind for the next date night. I knew my husband would be all ears and ready to work through things at that point. Many times I sat on issues for weeks, waiting for the designated date on the calendar to make forward progress. Date nights felt like the finish line and everything in between, the marathon.
But dates are not the finish line.
As time went by, one child became two. Time and opportunities to connect seemingly diminished, and I elevated date nights yet higher.
This year, two children became three. Three children, four years old and under. One of them an infant. No family in town. No in-town help. Just our fifteen year-old neighbor babysitter, who we can rarely afford at the three-kid-rate, and some occasional babysit-swapping with a gracious friend.
So those date-nights I had once lived for? They kinda got pulled out from under me, at least for a while. What I quickly learned is that having three kids is a lot of responsibility.
So, did our marriage crumble into miserable pieces? Well, no. It’s actually arguably better than ever.
Because, as it turns out, date nights are not the foundation on which a marriage is built. They are not the brick. They are not the mortar.
When our margin for date nights closed, we fought it for a while. We tried so hard to make them happen.
Finally, however, we accepted our current season.
Then, we made one simple “marriage-strategy” change. Lately, after we get the kids put to bed, rather than watching an hour of Netflix, we lay in bed and talk and read books and enjoy time together.
I honestly don’t even know how this switch occurred, except that my husband took the lead and started doing this before I realized what was happening.
I’m not talking about planning an at-home date night here. I’m talking about a simple, daily habit-loop of quiet and unhurried time together.
It takes no planning. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s not even “official.” (Does it count if it’s not official??) It’s just a choice to create a new routine of connection.
So, yes, I used to think I needed date-nights for a thriving marriage.
But I’m beginning to realize, I only felt this way because the common thinking of our day told me to. I wasn’t considering the marriages throughout history and across the globe who lived without this entire concept quite happily. Rather, they enjoyed another concept: togetherness happens at home.
When we make our homes a place of fun, good conversation, cuddling and truly enjoying each other, “home” becomes all the more special and all the more life-giving. And we don’t need to stress ourselves out finding a babysitter and paying a lot of money to have that in our relationship.
So, while date nights can be a great vehicle for intentionality in marriage, I now see that living for them is misguided.
Although our home life is crazy in this season, I no longer feel I need that time away to have a healthy marriage. I’m actually quite relieved that I’ve broken free from that difficult expectation, because it’s just not going to happen much for the next few years.
And if we do need a little boost of intentionality? We can “go big” and plan an at-home date night!
My husband and I can have fun at home. We can have a romantic evening at home. We can even have great food at home! Some of it takes planning, and some of it takes none at all. What’s more, there are some great, great resources around the web to make at-home dates special.
Want more resources to build a thriving marriage?
I’ve create two resources to help with that!
- 90 Date Night Questions for Christian Married Couples, and
- How to Plan a Marriage Retreat for Two eGuide (with Printable Exercises).
Date nights out rock, and if you have the margin in your life for them, by all means, date!
But if you don’t, no worries. It’s the presence the joyful spirit, and the attitude of recreation that matter, not the vehicle through which they come, whether in or out, planned or a simple habit-loop.