Husband & Wife Articles


 

Date Nights

Go out, with your spouse, not the kids, to rediscover one another

By Stephanie Weinert

As a newlywed of six months, I knelt down in the confessional and choked out my sins to the priest. I told him of my short temper, complaining, whining, selfishness and a slew of other sins largely brought on by exhaustion, hormone imbalances and general pregnancy sickness with my first child. When I finished, the priest asked me a question that completely caught me off guard: “When is the last time you and your husband went out on a date?”

Out on a date?

I told him I couldn’t remember, but explained that we were newlyweds spending most of our nights together at home. I didn’t think it mattered all that much whether we were “in” or “out.” Even so, the priest encouraged me to go out on more dates with my husband.

Fast forward five years. I found myself in a different confessional with a different spiritual father. The recent birth of our third son had brought new meaning to exhaustion, crabbiness and marital stress, once again leading me to cry for mercy and help. To my surprise, the first thing that the priest asked when I had finished was: “Do you and your husband go out on dates regularly?”

That’s when I finally got it. During courtship and engagement it’s easy to focus on each other, to prioritize time for deep conversation, fun activities and mutual hobbies. After the wedding and the honeymoon period, the stress of daily life and the distraction of children and chores make it much more difficult to focus wholeheartedly on each other. Date nights out, even after you’re married – or rather, especially after you’re married– are important.

Over the past 18 months, my husband, Peter, and I have rediscovered the importance of our going out for dates. We are renewed and rejuvenated by those few hours out by ourselves more than we could have imagined. We have a chance to truly relax and reconnect. It’s where we get to talk about our family, future, dreams and fears. It’s where we’ve grown up and closer in our marriage. From my perspective as a wife and mother, date nights out also provide an element of psychological “detachment” from household responsibilities. When going out, I look forward all day long (sometimes all week!) to the chance to get all dressed up, feel extra special and leave the stresses of home life behind so I can fully feel like Peter’s date.

Reality for most couples, however, is that getting out of the house regularly is easier said than done. It’s often hard to find reliable childcare, and it’s expensive.

That said, here are some ways we’ve discovered for making regular date nights possible – even on a tight budget:

Budget a “date night fund” monthly and guard it as seriously as your car payment and mortgage. That might be overstating its importance just a bit, but not by much.

Swap once-a-month babysitting nights with another couple. Eliminating the cost of a babysitter frees up more room in the budget.

Use coupons and restaurant specials for the best deals in town. Groupon, Living Social and Restaurant.com offer great deals on local food and events.

Accept help when it’s offered. In his document Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II said young married couples “should learn to accept willingly, and make good use of, the discreet, tactful and generous help offered by other couples that already have more experience of married and family life” because it “will constitute one of the simplest, most effective and most accessible means for transmitting from one to another those Christian values which are both the starting point and goal of all pastoral care” (69). A cardinal rule of newlywed life should be “if help is offered, say YES, PLEASE!”

Ask everyone you can think of for babysitter references, including priests, parish secretaries, homeschool groups and moms’ groups. Secondly, ask loved ones to join you in praying that God would send you a great babysitter. When we moved to a new city two years ago, the Lord answered our prayers with two wonderful young women.

Avoid going to the movie theater. A feature film usually takes up most of a night out together, leaving little time to connect with each other. Save movies for date nights at home.

For young married couples in the trenches of raising children and creating a home together, date nights out can help you in rediscovering the joys of being each other’s lover and best friend. It is a recipe that can help get you both closer to happily ever forever.

Stephanie Weinert is a former talk show host for the EWTN Radio Network. A frequent conference speaker and guest writer for Catholic media outlets, she lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband, Peter, and their three toddler sons. Her blog is LittleBitofParadise.Wordpress.com.