One of the most common pieces of advice couples hear around the time of their wedding is this: never stop dating one another!
I know my wife and I heard this from numerous friends and well-wishers on our path to wedded bliss. For so many couples, as they say, “I do,” cut the cake, and open loads of wedding gifts together, they simply cannot imagine themselves really needing this advice. The whole relationship up to this point has been nothing but one continuous date spread out over weeks, months, or years. “Of course we will keep dating each other,” optimistically you think to yourself, “Why wouldn’t we?”
But as those initial moments of wedded bliss turn into years of new jobs, mortgages, dirty diapers, and another round of paying taxes, dating your spouse can get lost in the mix. When I talk with couples who are struggling in their marriage, I will often ask them, “When’s the last time you went out on a date together?” The husband often looks at me with some puzzlement and typically says a version of either, “On her birthday”, or “We are together all the time. Why would we need a date night?”
The sad reality is far too many couples allow the idea of weekly dates to slip into the category of “good things we should try to do if we can,” like getting an annual health exam. The truth is, a weekly date night is an absolute must for a healthy marriage. So whether you choose to go out or stay in, spend money or go the cheap route, dress up or go casual, here’s why regular dates with your spouse are key:
Do you know how I know this? Because you wouldn’t have married them if they were lazy, boring, and uninteresting. Something about your mate sparked interest and excitement in you during your dating years (and no, it wasn’t just hormones). You fell in love with a person you loved being around. And guess what? Those feelings you had when you first dated—they are still there!
“Research shows original feelings between spouses change very little over time.”
Sexy Christians, Dr. Ted & Diane Roberts
We can begin to forget these fond feelings for one another in the midst of a house to clean, bills to pay, or kid’s soccer games to attend. Making weekly time together a priority can be a powerful way to rediscover the fun in each other.
Whether your relationship is strong right now or very strained, your spouse probably knows you better than anyone else. They have been with you through many of the highs and lows. Just as with any friendship, you need time together to connect, to talk about life, and to share a laugh or two. Spending weekly time together is a powerful reminder of your friendship and all you share in common.
It may even help you to not think of this as a “date night”—for some people this creates expectations or a need to impress. Thinking of this weekly time as “hanging out with my best friend” may increase the likelihood of it happening!
You may know your spouse is fun and you may know they are your friend, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget. Our marriage relationship becomes driven by all the routines of making life work: shopping for food, doing the dishes, getting kids ready for school, making sure homework is done, attending school events, (whose turn is it to clean the bathroom, anyway?), laundry, paying bills, (why didn’t he take out the trash?), and checking the mail, just to name a few. In this flurry of daily activity, many couples function more like co-workers—you do your job, I’ll do mine, and we’ll keep this company running together.
While some of this may be necessary in order to care for your kids, home, and careers, it often does very little to promote a healthy relationship. In fact, for most couples, the daily grind creates tension and unresolved minor issues that have a way of multiplying over time. A weekly date night allows you space to step out of the routine, to stop being co-workers, and build on your relationship.
When we think of friendship, the glue that holds us together is the shared memories and experiences we’ve had together. Anything from a memorable concert to the time you were served burnt fast food becomes part of the lore in your relationship. Every good friendship will build on the connection of shared experiences and memories of your time together.
Marriage works the same way. If your best memories together are all pre-kids or more than five years ago, you’re in trouble. Go out and do something together—anything—and create a shared experience. Go hiking, take a yoga class, explore a different part of town, eat at a new restaurant—all of these could create a shared experience that deepens your connection with each other.
The truth is, you will spend time on anything you deeply love in life. For me, I really enjoy following the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Twins. I watch their games, I follow their stars, and I look up their stats. My wife knows I love these things because she sees me regularly investing my time and even reorganizing my schedule to fit them in. So it is even more important that she sees me doing exactly the same thing for her.
When we date, I am consciously choosing to invest my time and organize my schedule around her and our relationship. This creates a sense of value and importance that has a positive impact on our entire relationship.
If you’ve ever seen the classic film or play, Fiddler on the Roof, you know the love song between husband and wife, “Do you love me?” This Russian couple wrestles with the concept of what is love and how do I really know if you love me? Many couples feel as Tevye and Golde do in this story: “I told you I loved you when we got married and nothing has changed, so we are good, right?”
The reality, however, is relationships are not static or unchanging. They ebb and flow. A relationship can shrink or it can grow over time. So even though you may have been head over heels in love at day one, the nature of your love will shift and change with the months and years. If we feed our relationship with time, connection, and shared experiences it will continue to strengthen and grow.
Perhaps the main reason I make dating my wife a priority is because I know who I am. I know I am not perfect. I know I get grumpy, critical, and snappy. And sure, I do my best to apologize and own my mistakes, but I am also aware that my imperfections can have a wearing, challenging effect on my wife. I would get discouraged if I had to live with me 24/7! But when we connect through a weekly date, I get the chance to be alone with my wife. I get to tell her how much she means to me. I show her I care by listening intently. I treat her extra special. I open the car door. I ask questions about her interests. And I make sure to smell nice.
Not every date is perfect, but by and large, our date nights create a deeper bond and connection between us. My hope—and my belief—is that this connection will carry over into the rest of the week. I know times will come when I’m a grump or inconsiderate, but through date nights, my wife’s relational bank account will be built up sufficiently to handle the small withdrawals I am making along the way.
Husbands, are you investing in your wife and reminding her how she holds a uniquely wonderful place in your heart?
Wives, are you making your relationship a priority and showing your husband he still means the world to you?
Setting aside a weekly time for just the two of you can go a long way toward strengthening the heart of your relationship. Don’t dismiss it! Don’t treat it as optional. Make time to prioritize your relationship each week and you will reap the fruit for years to come.
Some people ask, “Does it have to be every week?” You can answer this question within your own relationship, but here’s my take.
If I plan on doing something every week, I know it will happen at least a few times a month. But if I only plan to do something once a month, it may happen even less. So my wife and I have a goal of a weekly time just for us. Do we always hit it? Some months we do. But other months between travel, kids programs, and out-of-town guests it just doesn’t happen as often. But it’s okay because we still keep this weekly commitment on our radar.
For us, the goal becomes a helpful guideline to keep us focused on what we want to see happen in our relationship. If this feels oppressive or unwieldy in your marriage, feel free to create your own approach. But if this helps you and your spouse keep your eyes on spending quality time together, join us and make this part of your weekly plans.
Date like you mean it.
Nick is the Executive Director of Pure Desire Ministries. He has been in leadership for 15+ years. He was in Pastoral Ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, WA for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Studies from Crown College and an MDiv from Bethel Seminary. He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.