After our second child was born, my husband and I hit the low point of our marriage. In desperation, I asked, “What would actually help?” His answer was immediate: “Spending more time together.” It was such a reasonable request—how could I argue with it? Yes, we had two little ones, and leaving them would be difficult (downright emotional) for me. Yes, it would stretch and test our budget. But would it be worth it? I knew the answer was also “yes.” God created us for oneness with our spouse, and we can’t be one if we’re always two ships passing in the night, if we hardly even know each other.
You've probably already heard the encouragement to date your spouse, but over the years that followed our commitment to date night, I've learned that there are some dates that really benefit a marriage and others that fall flat.
Date night isn’t primarily about a break from the kids or my own rest, self-care, or needs. The purpose of date night is to promote oneness in our marriage—taking our two sets of needs, emotions, desires, interests, burdens, spiritual lives, and plans and joining them together as one.
Oneness is the goal because that is God’s plan for marriage and a glorious picture of what it looks like for Jesus to join together with his Church.
Imaging this great mystery—how Christ came to Earth to experience humanity, serve continually, and sacrifice everything to join us to him—imaging this amazing union is worth all the investment of our time, energy, and money.
Build your best date night with these two essential elements.
Our best date nights—the times that truly promote oneness—have two key elements: an activity and a focus time.
Don’t skip the activity (and if you can get away early enough to do an activity before the focused time, it’s usually best). The activity is essential because it creates shared experiences. Like those crazy, group-bonding games on high school retreats, activities help us to like our spouse, even if we’re in a season that feels challenging to love them. Honestly, my husband and I can’t be more different in our favorite hobbies, but over the years we’ve found a whole list of things we love doing together. You might need to be creative, and there will be some duds, but try new things and figure out what you—as a couple—love. Extra bonus points if the activity makes you laugh together.
The Focus Time:
Focus time is essential - doing nothing together to force undistracted conversations: No phones. No activity. Lots of staring into each other’s faces. This is usually just dinner at a real sit-down restaurant if it’s within the budget. It could be a picnic in the park if that’s what you can afford. There must be slow silences that force you to move on to a deeper level of communication. So, if coffee or ice cream is more your speed, try those, but give yourself time staring at each other’s faces doing basically nothing until the conversations you can never quite get around to having begin to bubble up.
Consider these tips for a beneficial date.
By the time a couple gets around to establishing dates together, it’s usually been years since they’ve had any practice. Here are a few tips I’ve recognized over the years:
1. Don’t let finances stop you.
Make a line item in your budget for date night. Your marriage is worth a financial investment. But date night can be done inexpensively too. If babysitting just isn’t in the budget, let your kids do pizza and a movie on a Friday night and do date night at home (we did these every Friday at the beginning of the pandemic). Find another couple and trade off watching each other’s kids. Then pack a picnic and head to a park with your spouse.
2. Don’t expect to go deep right away.
Just like when you’re with friends, you must wade through the shallow waters of the everyday topics before you can go deeper.
3. Don’t make topics off-limits.
It’s tempting to ban the topics of kids and work, but that’s denying discussion of 95% of your lives. Instead of avoiding your jobs, dig deeper into them than you usually have time to do. Do you still enjoy it? What’s been difficult lately? Then there are the kids. Why would you make them, your primary concern, off-limits in conversation? Instead, save a funny story to share. Consider the struggles of a particular child; then make a plan of action together. This is the process of bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
4. Share what God has been teaching you.
I know some of you will scoff and think “my husband/wife would never do that,” but I didn’t say anything about your spouse. You do it—be brave and go first. Maybe your spouse will respond in kind or maybe not, but it is still a good opportunity for you to feel known.
5. Prepare for it.
Conversation begets conversation. Intimacy begets intimacy. If you’ve barely spoken all week, of course it will be awkward. It’s practically first-date territory. Come prepared to battle awkwardness by planning a few things to talk about. This might take some work, but this is your most important human relationship; it deserves your effort. Jot down some things you want to discuss. Take a few minutes to read the news or listen to a thought-provoking podcast. Make some effort to bring something to the conversation.
Here's the date night game-changer.
The most important thing to do to create a beneficial date night is to come for we, not for me.
If you come into date night looking for what you need, you’ll leave it disappointed. Instead, come focused on investing in your spouse and meeting their needs and you’ll be surprised by how much more fulfilling it is for you. That’s the magic of being one flesh—whenever the needs of one part of the body are met, the whole body benefits. When you come for the we, not for the me, God is honored in your date night as you reflect him.