Date nights saved our marriage. That might sound dramatic, but I believe it to be absolutely true. A number of years ago, we had a marriage crisis and went into counselling. The counselling helped somewhat but I don’t believe it would have saved our marriage.
During one session at the height of our crisis, the counsellor suggested that we turn our appointments into mini dates by going for lunch afterwards. We did that day and each week afterwards.
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Before long, we were looking forward to our lunches together after counselling and began to plan other activities. Soon, we were making a day of it. We went for a walk through the river valley, to the food trucks downtown, visited an art gallery, saw a comedian, even went indoor rock climbing. We began to anticipate spending time together. If for some reason, we skipped a week, we missed our time together. We started to remember the things we liked about each other.
Life circumstances eventually crept in and we stopped going for counselling which also meant we stopped our weekly dates. Cracks began to form in our marriage again and the old ones became wider until it was like we were standing on opposite sides of a deep divide.
It was then that we made the decision to implement weekly date nights. As the parents of 7, we could have made every excuse as to why once a week would be too difficult to manage…not enough time, not enough money (our date nights have been much cheaper than a divorce would have been!), no child care, but we also had a lot at stake and we knew there could be no excuses. We came up with these date night rules.
Since we started this a year and a half, so much has changed. There are still stressors in our marriage. We are still two people who come to this with different upbringings and communication styles. We still argue here and there. But we see more positives than negatives. I think one of the biggest things that has surprised me about the date nights is how much they began to impact the rest of our week.
As we learned more about each other and started to relax and have fun together, I began to notice my husband more, to think of him more often during the day which would sometimes lead to me sending him a short text just to say I was thinking of him. He would sometimes remember things I had told him on a date night and we had more to talk to each other about the rest of the week. The more time we spent together, the more time we wanted to spend together. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took months for us to relax more and see the benefits of this. At first, it was hard for us to stick to the date night rules but once we did, we saw immediate results.
The date night rules:
Non-negotiable. We chose Wednesday nights. If one of us gets invited to something else on a Wednesday or something comes up, date night trumps whatever it is. This shows that the marriage and the other person is a priority. It not only demonstrates that to each other, it also sends that message to the world. People in our circle know that Wednesday night is our date night.
There have of course been circumstances that are exceptions, but we discuss them together and for the odd exception, we reschedule for another night that week.
Issues are off limits. Date night is not time for “discussion” or therapy. It is not a venue to air your grievances. It is a time to enjoy each other’s company and get to know each other more intimately. No hot button topics, no finishing fights.
It is tempting when you get so little time alone together to use date nights as the time to make decisions and talk things out, but avoid the temptation.
Take turns planning. By taking turns to plan the date, the pressure is not on one person. This also leads to more fun as sometimes we try to outdo each other or surprise each other. Sometimes we plan something with the other person in mind which is valuable in our relationship and other times, we plan what we ourselves like which is also valuable as it allows you to still be yourself within the relationship and allows your spouse to learn more about you and your likes.
No excuses. If the babysitter cancels or you can’t get a babysitter, make an at-home date night. We sometimes play a board game or watch a movie or have charcuterie in our living room while we talk. If there is no money in the budget for a date, take a picnic to a park, go for a drive or visit showhomes, build Lego together, or make supper together in the kitchen after the kids are asleep.
Have fun. Life is stressful and the day-to-day can be monotonous. Make these date nights something to look forward to. They don’t have to be elaborate. Just walking together hand-in-hand or swinging on the swings at a playground while you talk about your hopes and dreams can make a pretty memorable night. Keep things light. Enjoy each other. It’s okay if you just go to a movie or dinner most of the time, but once in awhile, do an activity together. Go bowling, go on a double date with another couple, try out an escape room, play mini golf, take a cooking class.
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How date nights saved our marriage:
- we saw each other as people again
- we talked more
- we fought less
- we relaxed around each other
- over time, we began to look forward to our time together and told each other so
(that is a shower note The Husband wrote me a few weeks ago and my reply)
- friends noticed the change in our marriage and some began their own weekly date nights with the same rules
- this sometimes led to double dates which were fun and expanded our support network
- our kids noticed less tension and arguing
- our home became more peaceful
- we were able to discuss deep topics, our faith, our hopes and dreams, our values
- we remembered what we used to like about each other
- we laughed together
- our kids saw the importance we placed on our marriage
- we made our marriage a priority
- we made memories
- we remembered what it is that we are fighting for
- we are growing a relationship that is not only about the kids
- we like each other again
If you’re looking for date night ideas to keep things interesting, here are 175 of them!
I know there are many obstacles standing in the way of a weekly date night but as I see many marriages ending around me, I feel more and more strongly that none of those should get in the way. If you don’t have child care, perhaps there is another couple who would also like to have a date night that you could swap child care with. If there isn’t extra money in the budget, either re-work the budget or go on free dates.