(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).