Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Date Night

(Sorry for the cheesy title.)

Nancy and I keep a weekly date night. This has been a habit ever since the latter part of our dating (the first part was the inextricable puppy love where honestly, we spent too much time together and got in a lot of trouble). It is a weekly time to refocus, catch up, reconnect, and protect ourselves from becoming simply roommates and business partners in the task of raising a family.

I vowed to love, comfort, honor, and cherish her until Christ returns or death parts us. This requires active engagement on my part. With this habit and by God’s grace, it has been a good 10.5 years.

The following is a quick brainstorm I had the other day on essential elements of a good date night. Of course, not every week goes like this, and of course we miss a week here and there (though I think we’ve missed only a dozen or two date nights in that 10.5 years). Finding a baby sitter is usually difficult, but it’s worth every ounce of effort and every penny of money. If you are having trouble finding one, considering paying slightly more than the going rate. This simple economic principle will attract someone. (Think: how much do you spend on internet, cable, Netflix, coffee, and vehicle maintenance? A weekly date is a higher priority than these things.)

Step 1: Breathe a sigh of relief

When you get in the car to leave (or whatever else marks the beginning of your date), breathe out. Rejoice that you have been given this time! Focus your thoughts on thankfulness for the quiet, and the prospect of an evening with a single task: enjoying one another.

Step 2: Thank God for the babysitter

Take a minute to acknowledge your thankfulness that you were able to find one this week (you probably aren’t able to every week, and it was probably difficult to find one this week) or to be thankful for a faithful regular babysitter (if you have been blessed with one).

Step 3: War Stories

The other day, Nancy texted me about a hard moment she was having at home. This coincided with a hard moment I was having at work. My response was terrible, comparing my situation to hers and feeling unappreciated, and also not appreciating her. My perspective was backwards. Take a moment and share “war stories” from the day or week, talk about how hard you feel your tasks were, and appreciate how hard your spouse’s tasks were. Say a prayer of thanks that you were the one burdened with hard tasks and not your spouse, or appreciate that her tasks were, in fact, more difficult than yours and thank her for bearing up under them. Nip the comparison game in the bud. Kill your need to win the “hardest week award.”

Step 4: Weekly download

Hopefully you are staying on top of each other’s thoughts and concerns daily, but there will always be things that slip through. Take some time to recount your weeks, talk about details of situations or thoughts that burdened you, and share each other’s burdens. Talk about things that brought joy, and rejoice with one another.

I’d recommend saving “household business” (number crunching, scheduling, etc.) for another time. (Which speaks to the necessity of a weekly “family/household business meeting”). But DO talk through issues of parenting philosophy, strategy, and tactics. Talk through heart issues, spiritual struggles, theological questions, etc.

Step 5: Hope and dream

Look ahead in life. Where are you hoping to go as a couple and as a family? What do you want to accomplish? What cool events are coming up that you can be excited about? Sometimes these issues are difficult to face. Sometimes it will be hard to contain excitement. Be proactive about your vision and direction for the future, and do it together.

Step 6: Pray

This will be the hardest, most often skipped, and most rewarding step. I’m preaching to myself here. Do it. Pray about all the above, and anything else that comes to mind. Before God and each other, confess and repent of bitterness or lack of love and respect; ask for forgiveness from God, and from each other. This will be the most rewarding part of the entire evening.

Step 7: Enjoy each other

Go and play. See a movie. Eat out. Shop for fun things. Bowl. Shoot guns (if that trips your trigger  rimshot). Or just drive around and see the sights. Rest, enjoy creation and one another, and laugh a bit. Have fun. I’ll leave specifics of this to your imagination.

Of course this is an idealized list, and of course many of our relationships are in a hard spot where even the idea of spending time alone together is a little terrifying. Discussing this is a little out of scope for a blog post. However, I’d urge you to remember the Grace and Mercy that God extends to us through through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In other words, I”d urge you to first remember the Gospel. The Gospel is what makes this all possible in the first place. Be amazed at your salvation, and show the same kind of mercy and grace to your spouse. Love as you have been loved. (If this last paragraph doesn’t make sense, lets talk).






12 responses to “Seven Habits of a Highly Effective Date Night”

  1. Charlie Lyons Avatar

    Very well put indeed, Matt. I’m a first time visitor to your blog (via and this certainly won’t be the last. Blessings, brother!

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      Thanks, Charlie!

    2. Carlos Avatar

      Challies sent me here too! Great read. I’m going to try and put some of these things into practice.

  2. JustMe Avatar

    Here is another idea: look at each other during the date. When we go out, my husband is always looking at everyone and everything except me.

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      That is definitely important. You sound a little upset with him. I’m assuming you’ve brought this up and had conversation around it? I know for me it is impossible to engage in conversation in a restaurant where TVs are hanging on the wall, so we try to avoid places like that. I was thinking of another point about finding a quiet place together for this sort of distraction free time.

      Also, I know nothing of your particular situation, you, or your husband, so this might be a little presumptuous for a comment thread, but I’m assuming that “always”, “everyone”, “everything” and the implied “never” are not actually true?

      There are times when, as a man, I communicate best when I’m side by side, rather than face-to-face. Watch most men in a social situation. They will be standing at a 45 degree angle to one another max. Face to face can feel very very confrontational.

      1. JustMe Avatar

        Yes, you don’t know the situation.

  3. Alex Avatar

    Matt, any more tips/wisdom on praying with your spouse? I’m recently married and my wife and I have struggled with praying together. I don’t commit to it often enough, and she has told me that something like regular prayer together will take a lot of time to get used to (but it does sound like it is possible to get there!). I think the ‘together’ part is intimidating, in different ways, for both of us.

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      Isn’t this the most difficult part!? We really struggle here as well. It’s a battle, every time, and we aren’t consistent. I wish I had a magic bullet here.

      My only advice is, just do it. It’s a lot like jumping into a pool of cold water (or at least it feels like it). Hard to do at first, but you’ll be glad you did, every time.

      For us, what has helped is simply talking out why we hesitate. For me it’s because honestly sometimes I feel foolish, as if I’m going to pray the wrong thing, or my words will be feeble, or I won’t pray for the right things, etc., etc. Often I feel like I’m going to let my wife down. (“Is THAT all you got!?”)

      Fortunately, we have scripture here, that TELLS us this is our condition…

      Romans 8:26-27

      Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

      Start off with praying for help in prayer. Understand that it isn’t your prayer performance that is going to translate to effectiveness. It is the Spirit, interceding for us, that makes prayers effective.

      Of COURSE our prayers are feeble and insufficient. Of COURSE they are going to be awkward at first. I’m not quite sure yet when that goes away.

      Maybe there are some older brothers and sisters here who are more of prayer warriors who can help us here?

  4. Frank Avatar

    Excellent post brother!

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  7. Richard Avatar

    Ok Matt, I’ve read your list and even before making the date nite I find I am in need of forgiveness and repentance both to God and my wife, again.
    Thanks for the reminders. It’s been 25 years for my wife and I and it seems that I’ve moved off course again. Thanks for the compass.

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