“The more connections you and your lover make, not just between your bodies,
but between your minds, your hearts, and your souls,
the more you will strengthen the fabric of your relationship,
and the more real moments you will experience together.”
(Barbara De Angelis)
A few months ago I polled followers and friends on IG asking what part of "the stuff I share" most interested them. I was surprised but encouraged that the overwhelming response was "Marriage" and "Parenting" topics! I've gradually decided to share the resources and topics that have most shaped and encouraged our vision for and daily life of marriage. We love to learn and I am almost constantly little tid-bits here or there that help strengthen us. Whether you're single, happily married, or 'unhappily' married, I believe these principals are good, true, and beautiful and I pray even one of them can help increase your joy and love. If you're just joining me now, here are all previous Marriage Resource Posts for easy navigating:
1. The Big Three ("This Is Us," anyone?)
2. Personality Tests
3. Improving Communication
4. Date Night vs. Connection
DATE NIGHT VS. CONNECTION
You Don't Need A Date Night / Article By Tim Challies
"They say that you need to have a regular date night—weekly, preferably—and that this is a key, maybe even the key, to a healthy marriage. Some of them go farther still and say that you don’t only need a date night, but the two of you need to get away together at least once or twice every year. How else can your marriage thrive?" (Tim Challies)
"Scraping out a Date Night once every three months isn’t going to cut it. You need to make time on a regular and consistent basis to enjoy one another’s company." (Heart and Soul of Date Night)
“If you want to keep your marriage alive, you must, must, must make a date night once a week." (Lyss Stern)
"After our relationship with God, the marriage relationship should be a main priority. The needs and desires of our children can easily become totally consuming. Without adding a date night to our calendar, it just simply wouldn’t happen." (In Defense of Date Night)
Alright. Tender topic here! Hahah. I tread carefully and understandingly (at least I aim to!). This article is controversial. Before I sound too crazy, let me state clearly: This is to give grace, not guilt. To bring freedom, not shame.
Second, from scripture, study, personal experience, and others experience, the way we would understand "the key to marriage" is: connection. Our intimate relationship in marriage needs connection. If "connection" is a tool box, then date nights are a tool inside it. One way to experience connection. But date nights are not the hammer or screw-driver... and you can build very much, very well, with even the simplest tools. Be encouraged if date night isn't a common tool used right now in your life. Here's Tim Challies:
"Marriage is made up of date nights and romantic weekends. But far more it is made up of those million mundane little moments. More than it is dancing and candlelight and bed and breakfasts, it is doing chores together, driving to church together, watching a miniseries together, eating meals together. It has been my experience that the more we enjoy those ordinary moments and the more we find satisfaction and significance in them, the less we need or even desire those extraordinary occasions."
It's very hard to read a marriage blog post or book, hear a teaching, or talk to a mentor who isn't strongly advocating for consistent, intentional date nights. So who am I? Married five years, with no degree, and only two little kids? Hmmm, okay, sugar. Tell us HOW MARRIAGE WORKS. I don't know. I don't know what our marriage will be in ten, or twenty, or fifty years. I know what we hope for, I know what we believe, I know what we've had for a few years now, I know what we want.
And I know that the foundation of our communication, closeness, laughter, and taking-our-masks-off isn't dependent on going away for a date. We do go on dates! We love dates! They seem to only get better as we appreciate each other, food, and atmosphere even more! But we do not go on dates weekly, or even "consistently" monthly. We go when it works out to. Sometimes he plans it, sometimes I do. Sometimes I ask him to plan it. Sometimes it's spontaneous. But I say this with complete sincerity: I feel seen, loved, known, and like I've spent time with him on a daily basis (aside from the *extremely* rare day where work takes us opposite directions from wake-up to bed-time. But this happens probably a few times a year!).
We are pro-date. We are pro-getaway. We are pro-"Come-Away-With-Me-My-Love!" Useful, refreshing, special tools in our marriage tool box. NEVER a bad time, only sweet and happy, and for us, usually full of laughter and (going away overnight) sleep! A time to rest together; to rest in each other. BUT. My concern is when date night or getaway is pushed as THE BEST or THE ONLY way to maintain deep connection. First off: the Bible doesn't say so. The Bible has principals to apply, but the practice is left to the freedom and discretion of the couple. Second: date night/etc may be the best way to maintain connection for some couples, but it's untrue to suggest (rather forcefully) that all couples NEED this for a happy marriage. Third: when something becomes obligation it can often lose it's joy. Is doing the "right thing" for wrong/forced reasons better than doing nothing? Eh, that's a conversation to have... but with all the effort these well-meaning resources encourage couples to have that date night! (specific) I would instead offer the advice to live connectedly! (broad)
I quoted an author above who, earlier in her article, defined date night as "having intentional time with your spouse (without your children)." She then said plainly that the needs of their kids becomes so consuming that if they didn't put time on the calendar they would not have intentional time together. I'll accept her account of their life as the truth for them, but it doesn't HAVE to be true for all couples, and it isn't true for Caleb and I. In fact, we have spent much effort and engagement to live a life of intentional connection every single day. We look for it.
(And, of course we do this better on some days than others. Of course we are real people. Of course we get tired, overwhelmed, down, flustered, and not-as-intentional. Of course. OF COURSE. But this is our goal, and how we purpose to spend our energy and find our connection.)
I often bring the kids and drive with him to work for jobs over an hour away, just so we can sit in the car and talk during his drives and we can be together. Times this doesn't work out we often spend one of his long drives on the phone catching up. When he worked an hour away every day, he'd call on his way home nearly night so we could get a head start on talking... he'd often walk in the door phone in hand, and we'd hang up, and keep going right where we left off. Now that he works close enough by that he can (which was an intentional choice!) he often stops in between events to literally just hug and kiss each of us (this week he truly had 120 seconds before he had to pull back out of the driveway and head to his next job). When he did construction I'd often drive to him so we could eat together on his lunch break. We roadtrip on purpose so we have that time in the car to talk. We go for walks together frequently. Multiple times a week I'll be working in one room, and he in another... and he'll say "Come be with me!" or he'll bring his stuff beside me. I work for his business now! Our "romantic tradition" is to have a cheese board and wine/something-of-the-sort when the kids are in bed (of course not every night, but it's "our special thing" a few times a month). Caleb has made a point to see what we had in the fridge before going to work, and grabbing the salami or grapes or whatever we don't have on his way home. We try to remember the funny or weird or interesting interactions that happen while we're apart so we can fill the other in when we're reunited. We talk in bed usually until one of us is asleep, toe to toe. He rubs my feet almost every day. We have lots of, uh, escapades ;) We watch shows together so we can talk about them (recently: Handmaid's Tale, The Path, and, the best, The Office). Last year we did a "Romance Month" where we decided to do one clearly, intentionally, out-of-the-ordinary romantic gesture every day for a month (a hidden note, a particularly drippy text, a surprise, a passionate kiss in public, dancing, four-minutes-of-eye-contact, etc). I'll send him podcasts I listened to and liked (or didn't!) so that he can listen and we can reference it or hash it out. A lot of effort and "wasted time" for some, but this is our way of intention. Our way of staying connected despite the fullness of life, and being willing to sacrifice some things to have "this" instead.
You and your husband aren't Caleb and I. You'll connect differently than we do. You'll connect differently than that pastor and his wife. Or that author and her husband. Or your friends. We have friends who swear by their weekly date night and it is absolutely untouchable for them and has been instrumental in their closeness - sweet! Enjoy! And we have friends who have only been on a handful of dates in their years-long marriages, and they're some of the most deeply connected people we've ever met. Sweet! Enjoy! Research yourselves, explore each other, decide how you want to live connected, which tools you'll use. And don't feel guilty or doomed to failure if getting out once a week or twice a month isn't something happening in your life (for all the many reasons it might not!) or something you even need for closeness. There are many ways. The box is heavy with tools. Have no shame and enjoy each other.
The purpose is joy, closeness, and faithfulness. I pray somewhere in here even one line or thought can contribute to yours! To see more, click here: Favorite Marriage Resources.