Has anyone told you that “date nights” are essential and critical to the vitality and health of your marriage? In my 6 years of marriage, I have failed miserably to plan and schedule date nights.
With three young children, my wife and I face three challenges.
- We lack babysitting: we have very few options on babysitters that we trust with our children. One of our children has special needs. Our children have multiple food allergies. We struggle just to find someone to watch our children for my wife’s dental and doctor’s appointments.
- We lack energy: We get really tired on evening dates. We are so exhausted when we go out at night that we struggle with carrying a simple conversation. I’m not sure if it’s our advancing age, but evenings are hard. We prefer our dates in the morning or afternoon.
- We lack time: we can make time for regular dates, but that forces us with unfinished work that gets deferred. We have very little “fat” in our time. We get more stressed when we dedicate 3-4 hours away from the home for a date, given our full schedule.
Although it is not an obstacle for us, for many couples, there is also the limitation of money. Date nights are expensive. You may need to pay for babysitting. You need to pay for dinner and transportation. For some couples who are on a limited budget, a nice dinner can make up 10-20% of your entire monthly family food budget.
Date nights are fun, valuable, and romantic. Date nights reminds me that next to my love for God, my wife is my second highest priority. Date nights can energize romantic love. But it is refreshing to know that date nights are not mandatory, and there are dangers to being a “date night legalist.”
Tim Challies published this article 2011. Although the main purpose of the article is to encourage us to rethink the goal of our personal devotions with God, Challies made me rethink the purpose of date nights.
The purpose of date nights is not to gain new knowledge about my spouse. That might and usually does happen, but that is not the final goal. The primary reason for date nights is simply to enjoy time together.
The author acknowledges that having regular date nights is logistically hard. There are many ways a couple can enjoy quality time together without “going out” at night. We can take a walk around the neighborhood. We can go window shopping at a furniture store. Enjoying time together does not require the classic “date night.”
In this 2015 article, Tim Challies argues that date nights are not required to have a successful, healthy marriage. This is a minority view in my social circles.
My relationship with my wife is built on ordinary moments: doing chores, eating meals, driving to church, homeschooling, watching TV. As much as I want to have date nights and weekend getaways, I want to cultivate an enjoyment of the ordinary moments. I’m learning that a 15 minute walk in our neighborhood on an overcast fall day is just as meaningful as a dinner at a 3 star Michelin restaurant.
A woman of three young children openly reflects on her marriage. She admits that having date nights are great. But with the busyness of life, there are practical limitations on having even monthly date nights. She shares her journey of relinquishing her tight grip on date nights.
As I read more testimonies like these, I grow convinced that we are guilty of building a subculture of setting artificial standards on marriage. I am guilty of propagating the necessity of date nights in marriage, and I have told couples that “they need to have date nights.”
I don’t want to make excuses in my failures to romance my wife. I want to plan for date nights, even if they are less frequent. But I don’t want to be a “date-night legalist.”
The goal of date nights is to spend enjoyable time together. You can maximize your enjoyment and companionship with your spouse not just in date nights but in every ordinary moments.
Erik Raymond gives 4 suggestions on how to practically live together intentionally in the ordinary moments.
- Sync Up Meetings
- Pray Together
- Learn Together
- Be Ordinary Together
To meet and pray together, I plan at least 15 minutes of couch time with my wife nightly after our kids go to bed. We also try to read together 1-2 nights a week. We spend time together running errands, feeding our kids, and homeschooling.
I still want to try to set up a date night with my wife monthly. But if that doesn’t happen, I want to make sure our daily couch times at home are sweet. I want to make great meaningful memories of our ordinary moments. I want to living intentionally with my wife each day.