I have a confession to make. My husband and I don’t actually have a regular date night. That doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time alone together; it’s just that it’s not a regular day of the week.
Now, I’ve been a big advocate of date nights. I’ve told you all that you need to schedule time to connect, and time when the kids can’t interfere. I’ve told you to save dinner until after the kids go to bed, or to find a way to be romantic even if it doesn’t cost a lot of money.
And it’s not that I don’t believe that. I do. It’s just that there’s a bigger issue to me, and it’s this:
The reason we need date nights is to find time to actually talk, connect, and share what’s going on in our hearts and our lives.
Most couples do not talk about non-logistical things on a daily basis. They may talk about who is going to pick up the kids from soccer, or what camp they’re going to this summer, or does that rash look bad, but they don’t talk about heart issues. They don’t share what they’re feeling. Even though they may live under the same roof, they lead almost two separate lives. They don’t necessarily do things together. They don’t have common interests. And so if they don’t carve out that time during the week to connect, it isn’t going to happen, and distance will increase.
On the other hand, I’ve heard people with awesome marriages saying that date night isn’t important to them. It’s not that they don’t believe in dating; it’s because they live their lives as if they are one big date. They talk to each other when they see each other the work day. They hug. They kiss. They know what is going on in each other’s lives and they ask about it. They text during the day.
That’s how my husband and I live. Sure, we may goof off on computers and ignore each other for an hour or two at night occasionally, but we also walk together every night. Spring is now here, so we’ll be renewing our membership in the tennis club so we can play tennis several times a week. We bike together. We cook together. We just plain talk.
And if you’re doing those things on a regular basis, I’m not sure a date night is the end all and be all.
The question really is: do you enjoy being together? Do you talk about things? Do you know what is going on in each other’s lives? Do you each feel valued? If you can answer yes to those, then you’re doing great! Don’t beat yourself up over a date night.
But if you can’t answer yes, then a date night is a good place to start. You just need to rediscover that you enjoy spending time together and talking together. And I think the more you get in the habit of doing that–of actually talking–then the more you will do it in the rest of your life.
I think it is far more important to find activities that you enjoy doing together than it is to go to a restaurant to have dinner once a week. The activities are fun and keep you motivated to be together. The dinner together can feel contrived. And many men find it easier to talk when you are doing things together.
I asked a question on my Facebook page a few months back, “what hobbies do you and your husband share?” One woman wrote back that she took up fishing for her husband’s sake, and it saved their marriage. I was intrigued, and we emailed back and forth, and her story made it into my upcoming book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.
Let me summarize it here. Basically, they had been married for twenty years, and were seen as leaders in their church. But their marriage had slowly been going downhill. He spent all his time at elders’ meetings and at the gym. She was with the kids. And she was fed up and ready to leave. They had nothing holding them together anymore. No shared interests.
That weekend, after she had made the decision that she would go, the church announced their annual fishing tournament. And Kendra decided that she would go with her husband. So she did. And she caught the biggest fish! But the most important thing she discovered was how much she liked fishing. She liked just sitting there, peacefully, and chatting with her husband.
And now they fish together all the time. When they go into a tackle store to buy stuff (I don’t even know what the proper term would be), other men whisper, “I wish my wife would fish!” And her husband beams with joy.
Do they have a date night? I’m not sure. But they do things together, and that leads to talking together, and feeling as if your lives are intertwined.
Many couples say that the biggest problem in their marriage is communication, but I’m not sure that’s true. I think communication is often the sign of a deeper problem, not the problem itself. And the deeper problem is that you haven’t spent enough time together to build goodwill and to understand how each thinks and feels. Spend time together just doing something–anything–that you enjoy, and communication problems will often get better on their own.
That’s why we don’t have a date night. We do things together, and so we already feel connected. We don’t have to go out to dinner to prove that. So if you aren’t communicating with your husband, and if you feel distant, the answer, I believe, is certainly to carve out some time just to talk and have fun. But the more important solution is to find things that you enjoy doing together so that you naturally spend time together, without it having to be forced.
Does that make sense?