Dating someone can be so exciting — your weekends are full of plans, adventures, and outings as you hit up movies, wine festivals, and parks together. It’s a grand time.
But once you find someone you want to marry, your relationship settles into a different gear better suited for the long-haul. That’s okay — in fact, it’s necessary if you are to sustain your commitment to one another for a lifetime. (If we only lived in the hyper-stimulating dating phase of any relationship, we’d never get anything else done!)
If you’ve reached this lifelong-commitment phase of your relationship, dating might conjure up memories of a former life. But could we be missing something if we stop dating after we’re married?
My parents had a weekly date night throughout my childhood — and they still do today. They arranged for a babysitter and went out to dinner or did “date night in” after we went to bed. I remember finding them on the back porch with takeout and wine one summer evening — I was promptly sent back to bed!
These date nights made a lasting impression on me. They showed me that the relationship between spouses needs to be intentionally nourished and that couples need to step away from daily life to reconnect.
My husband and I discovered three benefits from incorporating a weekly date night into our routines: reconnection, ritual, and romance.
Marriage unites two people in every regard. There is physical, spiritual, and emotional unity. Sharing life also means unifying logistical elements like finances, errands, and calendars. These more practical aspects of marriage create a lot of details to discuss. Add in work, kids, and a place to live and the details just keep multiplying.
Date night presses pause on these practicals. We don’t allow logistical conversation during date night — no negotiating calendars or discussing the budget. It’s important to set aside time for those conversations, too, but date night is about stepping out of that loop and encountering each other again. It’s a time to focus on deeper questions, dreams, and connections.
You may think rituals only apply to religion, but renowned marriage researcher and therapist, Dr. John Gottman, encourages couples to create rituals in their marriage. These rituals are simply repeated actions in which you encounter one another in an intentional way, like the way you share a meal or wake up together. These encounters create shared meaning between spouses.
Date night, itself, is one such ritual. There is shared meaning in taking time to be with each other and step out of daily life. And then, my husband and I have a ritual within our ritual: during date night, we share a highlight from the week. This gives us a chance to reflect together about our week on a deeper level. It also helps us appreciate what we each valued most from our week.
The priest who witnessed our wedding gave us some sound advice during marriage prep: “Weekly date night is a must,” he said. “And if it’s done right, you should want to end the night in each other’s arms.”
We got the picture. Date night can rekindle your attraction and passion for each other. Will every date night rekindle romance? Probably not, but the weekly commitment is what helps you continue to grow in your love, understanding, and passion for each other over the course of your marriage.
Get out your calendar and schedule your next date night! It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Go out to your favorite restaurant, stay in and cook a delicious meal together, pop a bottle of wine open after your kids are in bed. Do what works for your marriage, your budget, your preferences. Lay out the ground rules — reconnect, ritual, and romance — and see where the night takes you!