When we were first married, my husband and I were mentored by our pastor and his wife. They have a heart for marriage and a passion for intentional living; from their passions and experiences came some of the best advice we ever received.
Regular date nights. Nights out – just the two of us – to cultivate our relationship.
In the beginning of our marriage, this was easy. We could meet at a restaurant after work any night of the week. We could eat out more because we had fewer demands on our budget, and our time wasn’t stretched as thinly as it is now. Date nights were a natural part of our relationship.
Once our daughter was born, we knew instinctively that things would be different. We knew dates would be harder to come by, but we also knew that it would just as important – if not more – that we spend deliberate one-on-one time together. So we made it a priority – a standing arrangement that every Saturday night, we would go on a date.
Let me say here that I realize my husband and I are spoiled. Both of our families are local, so in my daughter’s five-and-a-half years we have never had to pay for a babysitter. Her grandparents have always been willing and excited, even, to have that regular time with her while we go out. (We know we’re spoiled – but I don’t think we realize how much. Can you ever really know how good you’ve got it if you’ve never been on the other side? We are so thankful for what we have.)
Having said that, I know that our situation is different, and not every couple has the obvious advantage that we have. However, this is important enough to us that I think even if we didn’t have the convenience of doting grandparents right here in town, we would make this a priority.
And don’t get me wrong: our date nights are nothing fancy. I don’t spend an hour or so getting my hair coifed and stringing pearls around my neck and putting on my best dress. Far from it. On our most recent date this past weekend, I wore a tank top and flip flops. No kidding.
Nor do we do anything extraordinary on our dates. This weekend was more exciting than others, and we splurged on a sit-down restaurant. Cracker Barrel. (Um…….YUM.)
And after we eat, there is nothing elaborate planned for our evening. Far from it. This weekend we left Cracker Barrel and headed to – wait for it – Home Depot, where we bought an air filter for our home’s air conditioning unit and priced pocket doors for our laundry room.
So no, our weekly date nights are not the things of movies. There are no maitre d’s or coats and ties or drinks in fancy glasses. There are no expensive movies or strolls on romantically-lit avenues while violins play in the background. Our limousine has a car seat in the back and a dashboard that’s falling apart, and I have to reach across the console to unlock the door for my prince after he holds my door for me.
Our date nights are not picturesque. They are not exciting, in the normal sense of the word. They are not Hollywood-approved……..but they are real. And yes, they are romantic. Because here’s the thing: real life romance is not about string quartets and flowers and fancy chocolates. Real life romance is about two people who choose each other above all else.
Romance is strengthening the bond of friendship that first connected us. Romance is spending time together in a way that reminds us why we chose each other in the first place. Romance is about living life together, in real ways, doing real things, with the person you have chosen.
Yes, those other things can be nice. I enjoy getting dressed up on occasion and doing those fancy things with my love. I do, but the reality is that that’s just not us, and even if it were, this season of life simply does not afford much opportunity for that. So we do what we can, and we make the most of it.
I share all of this not to pat ourselves on the back, or to chastise anyone who does not do this. I share this to remind you, friends, that movies are not reality, and you can miss out on the beauty of real life if you sit and wait for it to become picture-perfect. Your marriage is important for a litany of reasons I won’t recount now. That’s a post in and of itself. I’ll just say this: you chose your spouse for a reason, and sometimes the most romantic thing you can do is to remind yourself why you made that choice.
Yes, we are just at Cracker Barrel and Home Depot and Target, but when we are there, we have fun. We laugh. We joke around. We really talk – about things going on and how we feel and what we need. We spend time with our best friends – each other – and are keenly aware that what we are doing is an investment in our family.
So y’all, if you take anything from this, take this: dates are possible. Yes, even in your season of life. Yes, even on your budget. Yes, even with your schedules. Because half the time, our dates are spent doing things we need to do anyway. We just choose to do them together. And really, that’s what marriage is all about.