Tim Challies strikes again. If you haven’t read his post on date nights, hit pause on your DVR and switch over to his channel.
If you want the highlights, here goes something. Scores of marriage books, sermons on marriage, and advice from friends highlight the importance of a weekly date night, or some kind of expected rhythm of dates with your spouse. And, oftentimes, date nights are lauded as an essential element for a vibrant, healthy, romantic, flourishing marriage. Now, I do not think date nights are bad. No way. Neither does Tim. Dates are great. But Tim’s point is that you can have an amazing marriage without a weekly date night.
If you stack up all of the time you spend as a married couple, date nights are a puny fraction of time in your married life. The piled up moments during the week can be just as, if not more, thrilling and fortifying than a faux candle light dinner and overpriced cheese board.
In the early stages of my marriage there was a greater need for expected date nights; we were still getting to really know each other. We needed super-concentrated times of togetherness to shore up our relationship. But things are different now. Our jobs are different. We have kids. We know each other better and on a deeper level. We love each other more. Talking while we clean up the kitchen, laughing while we bathe the kids, going over our days, joking on the couch, a peck on the cheek while making coffee, a flirty eye from across the room—these all add up to something wonderful.
These are the numerous building blocks of a wonderful marriage. Don’t overlook the margin moments in your marriage. They are the red and white blood cells of the one-flesh union. If these tiny, nearly unseen moments are unhealthy, more than a date night is needed.
The date night can have a wide array of purposes. Sometimes the date night is a vitamin, an antibiotic, a cortisone shot, or a medium rare filet mignon. Two couples can be sitting it the same upscale chain eatery, but one date is an ambulance ride and the other is a handsome cab ride in Central Park. But what happens when the people in the ambulance think they are in a horse drawn carriage?
Why The Date Night Craze?
The prescription for a weekly date night doesn’t come from bad intentions. Every man should date his wife. Every wife should date her husband. I’d love to go on weekly date nights, but for us it’s unreality. Schedules, school nights, babysitters, money. Yeesh. At our stage in life, I get stressed out at the thought trying to arrange a weekly date night because we are supposed to go on one. We enjoy each other at home so much that we don’t need a weekly date night. We’ll have date nights at home too, if that “counts”. Nice plates. Steak. The works. Bonus: we don’t have to leave, get a baby-sitter, and it’s way more affordable. (And my steaks are better than any steakhouse I’ve been to.)
Date nights can be a catalyst toward a thriving, loving, enjoyable, Christ-honoring marriage. They can also be the obvious expression of enjoyment of love and one another. I don’t want to minimize that at all. I love going out with my wife. It’s a blast. Whether we go out to eat, shop, go to a Rockets game, etc.—it’s the best.
However, for some, date nights may be a cry for help. This is what concerns me. The text, “We need to go on a date.”, might be a flare gun, a S.O.S. of sorts. Before we bow down to the Date Night Baal, we need to remember how our marriages flourish.
The Date Night Placebo
A subtle danger lurks with the pursuit of a weekly date night. What I’m about to say will not apply to every marriage, but definitely some, especially if the marriage is only running on a few cylinders.
Do not look to a weekly date night to fix your marriage. One night a week will not and cannot fix the marriage, make the marriage flourish, or inject it with romance. Typically, you and your spouse will be on their best behavior on a date night. They will be more kind, holding doors open, holding hands, etc. But here’s the deal, why not do that all the time? If you are on your best behavior at the steakhouse, but you are a jerk at your own house, your date night is just a placebo, it’s fool’s gold.
Date nights can give the appearance that everything is great when everything is curdled. When the marriage is filled with cold shoulders, apathy, and disinterest, a date night is not the solution—repentance is. Selfishness, ego, pride, lack of love, impatience, tones, billboard body language—all of these must be drowned in the blood of Christ, not chips and salsa. If the date night is a escape hatch, a four hour fantasy land, the marriage is worse off, not better. A date night can be one of the many things that help a marriage get back on the right track, but it can’t fix the marriage in and of itself.
When I think about the marriages in our church that seem to be super-healthy, they aren’t the ones going on weekly date nights, posting about it on social media. They are the ones who love each intensely when together, they smile a lot, they laugh a lot, and they enjoy each other at home. Of course they do go out, as do we, but it’s from the overflow.
Don’t look to Friday night as the pinnacle of your married life. So, look at right now. Don’t look at tomorrow. Look at today. Love well in this moment. Sacrifice, serve, kill your pride in this moment. Confess and repent about yesterday. If we aren’t careful, we can become prosperity preachers with our date nights. Sowing that date night seed isn’t the way to blessing. Ephesians 5 is. 1 Corinthians 13 is.
Now, I wonder when we’ll go on our next date. I’m thinking sushi.