Date night: Living your marriage intentionally

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Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s February 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

by Rebecca Stewart

Remember in the early days when there weren’t enough hours in the day to spend with the person you would ultimately commit to ride this rollercoaster of life with? At one time you were unquestionably each other’s priorities, but the years rolled by and life happened. Some days it feels like you’re simply operating in survival mode and you can’t remember the last time it was just the two of you together for the sake of simply enjoying each other’s company.

We all know how easy it can be to get lost in the day-to-day, living life side-by-side but not intertwined; yet we also know how important it is to intentionally carve time out for the relationship that is at the core of your family. And so…Date night.

What’s not to love about date night? You get to spend actual, distraction-free time with your spouse – the one (your one) who’s going to be there when you look around and find yourselves empty nesters. Indeed, we discovered that making time for date night is genuinely important to most; when we ran an informal poll about Dating Your Spouse, 82% rated making time for date night as being “extremely important.” The rest were just a mark below, still ranking high on the scale.

The question then becomes, does knowing something should be a priority make it so? Does it happen nearly as often as we’d like? For the majority of us…Not so much. If we know it’s the ideal, then what’s standing in our way? The obstacles range from everything to a lack of childcare or money to just finding room in the schedule. Overwhelmingly, our poll responders noted scheduling being the biggest hurdle. (And let’s be real, who wants their relationship to feel like another thing you have to fit in the schedule?)

At first maybe it will feel like something you’re working at, but if we’re being honest, marriage, in general, is work. Solid marriages don’t just happen by happy accident, after all. Like any relationship it needs to be nurtured, perhaps it’s the relationship that needs nurturing most of all. We know date night isn’t a magical guarantee for a happy marriage, but it can certainly go a long way towards helping couples feel connected to each other. In fact, Dr. Greg Smalley, vice president of Family Ministry at Focus on the Family, wrote in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine:

When a couple spends time alone each week, their levels of happiness, positive communication and sexual satisfaction are more than three times higher than those who don’t spend that time together. That means you might be able to dramatically increase these important areas of your marriage by simply dating your wife!

He goes on to say, “It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. But it’s going to take time, effort, and planning.”

Which leads us to:

What is the blueprint for a great date night?

Well, first, it doesn’t have to be date night, if day dates are more doable, run with that.

  • Planning – Don’t get stuck on the never-ending merry-go-round of “What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?” “I don’t care…No, not there.” Make your plans as purposefully as you did back in the early days when wooing was the priority.
  • Take the everyday out of the date – Meaning, look outside of the usual for your conversation. (Dr. Smalley advises leaving talk of finances, troubles with the kids, or other sensitive topics off the table for the evening. Carve out non-date night time for those conversations that obviously still need to happen, just not then.)
  • Take trips down memory lane, reliving some of your relationship highlights.
  • Leave the smartphones down, with the exception of calls from the kids/babysitter.
  • Enjoy each other.
  • On that note, do something fun (whatever that might look like to the two of you).
  • Look to the future, dream together what you hope your future will look like down the road.

Date Night/Day Ideas

  • Take Couples Cooking Classes, like the ones offered at Local Kitchen
  • Hike to a waterfall or other special spot, pack a romantic picnic lunch
  • Go dancing, or better yet, dahncing
  • Take a weekend/overnight away, just the two of you
  • Join a couples (mixed) bowling league (this is more of a long-term date night plan)
  • Reader faves: Go out to a nice dinner (Jake’s, Bruno’s, Ciao Mambo, Ten, Rib & Chop House) or dinner and a movie, order in take-out and snuggle up on the couch to watch a movie
  • Finally, we loved this suggestion from Focus on the Family’s Date Night Ideas contest: Coffee Q&A. One responder shared that her husband surprised her with a coffee date, though the real surprise came when he pulled out a stack of index cards, with a question on each card. As they sat, enjoying their coffee and each other’s company, they made their way through the stack; laughing, dreaming, and reminiscing. (Some of the questions: What is something your spouse does very well, but doesn’t realize it? What is your favorite joke? What is a childhood memory you’ll never forget?

Just as we’re encouraged to live our lives intentionally, let’s choose to live our marriages intentionally, making it the priority we know it needs to be. Happy dating!

about the author…Rebecca has been married to her high school sweetheart for 14 years. They have a newly minted 10 year old, and sweet pup completing their family. Weekly day dates are their most frequent go-to, but dinner out followed by games at home is their favorite way to enjoy date night.

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