Scheduled date nights are often prescribed for couples to keep their relationships strong. I don’t think this is a bad thing— I think it’s most often a very good thing! Creating uninterrupted, quality time and space to spend with those we love is essential. Nobody wants their marriage to become a mere roommate-situation. Scheduled date nights are an easy way to stay connected.
But what about when scheduled date nights are difficult to schedule? What about when you have no available baby sitters? Or when the baby won’t eat for anyone but his mother? My husband and I try to go out together about once a month, but I go out to eat once a month more reliably with my father than I do with my husband. And I think that is perfectly okay.
My husband and I don’t adhere strictly to a date night routine but we do adhere strictly to something else: 8PM. At 8PM we put our phones away. We stop cleaning or organizing or catching up on things. We (hopefully, hopefully) have the children asleep. We light a candle. We watch a movie or we sit and talk and listen to music. We spend quality time together. And we don’t have to leave our home to do that.
Now, this only works if we are strict about it. It’s much easier to keep working on something when you’re supposed to meet your wife in the living room than when you need to be on time for a dinner reservation. And it’s difficult to be strict with ourselves about things like this. It seems contradictory— to be sort of regimental about something that is supposed to be carefree and fun. But that’s the reality of love. Sometimes you have to be sort of regimental in order to experience spontaneity and freedom. Sometimes you have to put concerted, focused effort into love if you want to experience the joy and the fulfillment that such love promises.
And in many ways it’s easier to do that when you leave your home. Going out together can be glamorous and exciting. It feels good to get dressed up, to eat nice food, to take nice pictures together. And that’s all fine! It’s good to treat each other to special gifts and experiences. Moreover, there’s something romantic about being out in a crowd with the person you love most. It helps you see them from a different angle. It helps you see your relationship from a different angle. Being in new places gives us perspective.
But if this particular kind of perspective was the most important thing for romance then only the high and rich and modern and fancy couples would stay together. History has seen plenty of wonderful marriages that flourished in the confines of a cozy home. So, if you can’t round up a babysitter don’t feel bad. Just turn off your phone. Sit on the couch. Turn on some music. And if you don’t know what to talk about or what to do or if you feel awkward or disconnected then keep trying until something happens.
C.S. Lewis says that friendship is two people turned outward, looking at something they both love, and that romance is two people turned inward, looking at each other.* Most relationships require that we go out of ourselves, out of our homes. Marital love doesn’t require this in the same way because marital love is naturally turned in upon itself. But that’s not a bad thing. Because few things in the universe can be as enchanting and surprising as the person you love the most.
*C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves