Like many young couples, especially those who are Christian, we did a marriage preparation course prior to our wedding. It involved meeting up with our pastor and his wife on a regular basis to go through five or six different challenges we will face as a married couple. On one of these occasions, they encouraged us to have a regular 'date night'.
I had heard date nights mentioned by my married friends, but I really didn't have much of a clue as to what they involved. Basically, they involve a couple setting aside one night of the week to spend together, alone and uninterrupted. Whatever a couple chose to do together on this night was up to them, but this was their night to focus on their relationship in the midst of the busyness around them.
Many of my city friends have date nights. When I moved to the country, the concept seemed foreign to many people. They couldn't understand why they would need one or what the benefits were. When I was single, I was quick to misunderstand the challenges married couples have to work through in order to spend quality time together. Once I was out with a newly married friend when she commented that she really should be going home soon as she needed to spend time with her husband. I was thinking, "Ummmm, you're married. Don't you see each other every day?" Now that I'm married, I can see where she was coming from and I admire her and her husband because they are strict about designating time to spend together. It doesn't always work amidst life's interruptions, but they are good at working out what is an 'emergency' and what/who can wait for another night. It's too easy when you're married to see each other but not really spend any time together and you can easily end up living like flatmates, your main topics of conversation being bills and grocery shopping. Yes, I think date nights are a necessity in the city and highly recommended for the country. Country life may be slower, but it's easy to get bogged down by other people and things which just seem to pop up on the calendar.
My pastor encouraged us to set aside the same night each week otherwise it is easy to make compromises. His advice was not to watch TV but to spend time interacting with each other. Duncan and I don't heed this rule; we watch TV or movies regularly on our date night. I think each couple need to make their own 'rules'. Go out for dinner, enjoy a candelit dinner at home, get dressed up for no reason other than to look nice for each other, play boardgames, read aloud to each other, study the Bible, sit and chat, go to the movies, play sport...or do something else *wink wink*.
But the golden rule above all others is that this is a night for you....not family time. Put the kids to bed early or get a babysitter. Don't answer the phone or make calls. This has been an issue of contention for Duncan and I. In the first few months of our marriage, we neglected to have a date night and we found our nights were being taken up with calling people or having them call us. Then one of us would be spending half an hour or more on the phone trying to maintain long distance relationships with friends or family. It really got to me after a while; as much as I want to keep in touch with people, we are not at their beck and call. Duncan likes phone conversations much more than me and even now, he still automatically goes to answer the phone on our date night which gets my goat sometimes. Ignore the phone. Whoever it is can leave a message. We've never had an instance where the person has been calling due to an emergency; they usually just want to chat. If it's an emergency, fair enough, but other people should just respect your time together, especially if they already know it's your date night and call anyway.
But there will be instances where you may have to change your date night to another night of the week either temporarily or permanently. Originally ours was on Monday nights, but we changed it to Thursday because of netball. Sometimes we've had visitors who've been staying with us so we just changed it to another night for that week. If someone has a birthday, then of course we'll go; we'll just make sure we have a date night on another night. But don't deliberately invite people over for dinner on your date night.
Honestly, our date night has been a great blessing to us and we're grateful to the wise counsel we received before marriage and after. Having a date night is not selfish, that is what was stressed to us. A marriage is a bond worth maintaining. It's too easy in this day and age to just let it fall apart.
Do you have a date night? What sorts of activities do you like to do with your spouse (please keep it G rated ;) ). What challenges have you faced trying to have a weekly date night?