This unique guest article is a great resource to encourage you with “Date Night!” Falling in love all over again with your spouse is not always an easy thing to do, but it is necessary for marriages to thrive. I hope that this article blesses you and reveals to you not only the importance of Date Night, but how to have a successful Date Night! Becky Cox has written this phenomenal article! If you have any other suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments. Enjoy!
1 Corinthians 7: 7 “But I wish everyone were single, just as I am. Yet each person has a special gift from God, of one kind or another.” (NLT)
Marriage is a sweet gift from God that can be celebrated often by dating your spouse even after courtship. When my husband Travis and I were dating, all of three months before we were engaged, there was nothing more exciting than riding around town in his brown, 1992 lifted, Toyota pickup truck sitting smashed up beside him on the bench seat. We would either have 80’s ballads or a Country CD playing loudly on the radio and would sing to the top of our lungs. Good thing the radio was up too loudly for him to hear me or he might have thought twice about marrying me. Anyone that knows me knows I CAN’T SING, trust me, there’s a pageant video floating around just to prove it.
I didn’t care where I was going or what we were doing as long as I was with him. Just the thought of the two of us spending time together, having fun and enjoying life was so exciting to me. I looked forward to our dates with much anticipation. This is where our family began, with just the two of us dating.
I meet with many couples, some newly married and some that have been married for 20-30 years that are currently struggling in their relationship. One of the first things I ask is:
“How often do you date, or when was the last time the two of you went out on a date together?”
Typically, the answer is maybe once or twice a year. Couples have a tendency to stop dating after they get married and date even less frequently after they have children. This is a strong contributing factor to the significant rise in the divorce rate of couples divorcing after the children leave home, when they become “empty nesters.” Dr. Jeffery Wagaman, Counseling Psychologist of Olympia, recommends that all couples go on one Date Night a week to maintain a thriving marital relationship.
When I ask couples what it is that keeps them from having Date Night I get the following excuses:
- Our kids’ sports/activities have us busy every night of the week.
- We can’t afford a Date Night.
- We don’t enjoy the same type of activities in our free time.
- All we do is fight on our Date Night.
It is my belief that you can tell what a couple’s priorities are by looking at their calendar and their checkbook. When helping couples in session I will ask them to go through both of these and tell me where their time and money are spent. The typical answer is the kiddos. Although I believe it is important to love, nurture, and support our children, it is absolutely vital to love, nurture, and support our spouse and marriage first. The best gift you can give your children is a healthy, thriving and intimate relationship between you and your spouse. The investment in your marriage is an investment in their current happiness, their future, and you and your spouse’s “empty nest” years.
In the Cox home, Travis and I try our best to balance all activities so that our calendar reflects our priorities. We have agreed that our children Wyatt and Garett can be enrolled in one extra-curricular activity at a time. That has meant that we have had to say “no” to Wyatt when he wanted to play baseball and karate at the same time. Furthermore, we are careful not to schedule social activities night after night where our focus is on others instead of on us as a couple or family interacting. We try and run our schedule, so that it does not run us.
Date Night does not need to be costly. You can be creative and cut down on the expense of your date. One idea is to swap babysitting with another couple that has about the same size family as yours that would like to do Date Night as well. The quality of the date is not determined by the amount of money spent at the end of the day. Also, dating does not have to occur at night when menu prices are higher. Dating can take place any time of day. Going to Starbucks and purchasing a beverage on a Saturday morning and hanging out with your spouse can be a date.
Many couples will argue about what the Date Night activities should be. I offer this simple solution: one week the wife picks what she wants to do and the next week the husband picks what he’d like to do. I have gone golfing with my husband in the past as his Date Night idea. I love driving the cart erratically through the golf greens, I’m sure the other golf patrons love my driving skills as well. In turn, Travis has generously offered to go and get a pedicure with me, refusing the painting of the toes part obviously. It actually can be quite fun to do something different and outside of your comfort zone.
Research supports the idea that trying new activities together predicts long term relationship satisfaction. For example, Dr. Aron, a professor of social psychology at State University of New York at Stony Brook reports that new experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love, a time of exhilaration. After couples have been married for a while those butterflies go away and are replaced by familiar, predictable feelings of long-term commitment. Although commitment is crucial it is not necessarily stimulating. The “Novelty Theory” by Dr. Aron suggest that reinventing Date Night by simply doing new things as a couple can reignite the initial sparks felt in early romantic love (New York Times, 2008).
When working with couples I give two guidelines for their dates. The first is that there is to be absolutely no arguing or discussion of “hot” topics. Hot topics are those issues in your marriage that aren’t resolved or can become an argument quickly. Date Night is for the sole purpose of having fun and enjoying your spouse and it is not a night for resolving conflict. The second guideline I offer for couples going on Date Night is that they are not to focus their discussions on their children. It is too distracting for couples to spend their whole date discussing their children and their concerns. The date then becomes “child-focused” and loses the purpose of the date.
After 12 years of marriage Travis and I still make dating a priority. Wyatt and Garett wave goodbye from the living room window with smiles on their faces because they know that Mommy and Daddy love each other and are having a Date Night. They’re probably also smiling because Date Night for them means movies, popcorn, candy, up late, Xbox and an all around fun time while we’re gone. After seeing them off I hop into Travis’s shiny, red lifted Chevy pickup truck where I sit scrunched up beside him on the bench seat and we take off together on another adventure. I have to admit, we still listen to the 80’s Monster Ballads and sing to the top of our lungs if for no other reason but to be reminded of our earlier dating years. We both still feel the butterflies to this day.
“Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:9
- Becky Cox