“Do you want to go on a date this Saturday?” Normally those words from my husband are music to my ears. Date nights usually involve food—more specifically, food I don’t have to cook. But I had a little problem. COVID-19 had entered our lives and a date night meant another homebound evening like the past forty days. So, I took a deep breath and said, “Sure,” knowing I had some thoughtful planning to do if I had hopes of making the evening special.
WHAT IS A DATE NIGHT ANYWAY?
Date night is about spending time together. It’s a chance to take a break from the household chores and discussions about children and the to do list. But the most important part of a date night is building friendship.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot shared the following statement about friendship in marriage: “Research from the Gallup Organization indicates that a couple’s friendship could account for 70 percent of overall marital satisfaction. In fact, the emotional intimacy that a married couple shares is said to be five times more important than their physical intimacy. So it stands to reason that couples can ignite their love life by boosting the quality of their friendship.”
With a desire to draw into a deeper friendship and marital satisfaction (who doesn’t want that?), I made a plan. Adding the necessary groceries to our online shopping cart, I collected all the ingredients for a new recipe. Next, I dug through our Christmas decorations.
When date night arrived, the ingredients were laid out in the kitchen, twinkling Christmas lights strung in the living room, and the table set with candles, a tablecloth, and our best dishes. When he came into the room, my husband knew this was no ordinary evening at home.
The romantic mood had been set as we went into the kitchen to make ‘Date Night Rigatoni.’ Some of my favorite dating-before-married memories were the nights we cooked together. This new recipe added fun and adventure to our evening. As our favorite songs played, we found ourselves singing and dancing while we chopped and mixed ingredients. The stress and worry melted away as our kitchen was filled with laughter and delicious smells. Sitting down to the table, it no longer felt as if I had just completed a chore but instead had enjoyed a wonderful experience.
The next day as I put away the lights and the candles, I thought about some of the circumstances that can make date nights feel challenging, such as job loss, a new baby, lack of babysitters, debt, or unexpected bills. So, I brainstormed a list of ideas for budget-minded and at-home dates.
DATE NIGHTS AT HOME OR ON A BUDGET
Grab a lawn chair or a blanket and a favorite beverage. Download an app or a map of constellations and planet locations and spend the evening gazing at the sky.
Start a campfire in the backyard and have all the preparations for s’mores. While sitting out by the fire, tell stories of campfire memories. For a twist to the night, have fun creating a story. One person starts a story and suddenly stops in the middle allowing the next person to finish it.
WALK / HIKE
Taking a walk or hike allows you to get away from the distractions of social media and electronic entertainment. As you walk, slow down and observe the flowers, trees, or birds. Listen for and talk about different sounds that fill the air.
Find a recipe online and gather all the necessary ingredients either before or during the date. For something extra special, create a theme. Make a music playlist to match the theme and dress accordingly. Consider a western barbeque with country music, flannel shirts, and jeans, or a royal dinner with soothing classical music and semi-formal attire.
All a picnic needs is a blanket and some favorite treats. Spend time searching the clouds for interesting shapes or dreaming about the future. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, have an indoor picnic.
Buy movie-sized boxes of candy and make some popcorn. Turn off the lights and snuggle in to watch a movie. It will feel just like being at the movie theater, only more intimate.
QUESTIONS IN A JAR
Each spouse can write down a predetermined number of questions on separate slips of paper. Take turns drawing out a slip of paper and do a mock interview with one another.
Play a favorite game for two. To make it more interesting match an outfit to the game. Dress like Miss Scarlett in the game of Clue or wear a banker’s hat for Monopoly.
Bike paths offer a fun way to explore different parts of your city. Include a stop at an ice cream shop or restaurant.
INDOOR OR OUTDOOR CONCERT
Free outdoor concerts are a great way to spend time together. Bike, picnic, or just hang out. If there isn’t a free concert available, no problem. Find a concert online to experience music together .
READ A BOOK
Find a book you both want to read—either fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—then take turns reading aloud to each other. Stop and discuss as you read. (Warning: This is not a good date idea if you are tired. My husband can tell you I have fallen asleep many times on this date.)
Make something together. Find a hands-on activity you both enjoy like painting, ceramics, or sculpting. Then buy the supplies and make an art piece together or separately.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW
With the age of the internet, it’s possible to learn almost anything. Learn how to cook, paint, or speak a new language. Watch a video together and try it!
TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL DATE NIGHT
We need to push aside our stressful days and weariness to spend time together. The best advice is to plan a date night, put it on the calendar, and stick to it. Life is hard—and so is marriage. Time with your spouse is the only way to build friendship, create laughter, enjoy intimacy, and experience romance. Try incorporating these five tips:
1. Take time to prepare. Think back to the days when you were dating and the effort you put into getting ready. Wash your hair, choose an attractive outfit, and dab on his favorite scent. You’ll feel at your best and your husband will likely appreciate the extra TLC you’ve given yourself for him.
2. Don’t add chores to your date. Hold your tasks for the following day or do them ahead of time.
3. Share some guidelines about what to discuss and not to discuss. Topics like parenting or finances can wait for another time. Need ideas for some topics of conversations? Focus on the Family and many other online Christian resources offer helpful conversation starters.
4. Don’t answer the phone or texts unless it is the babysitter. Leave social media at home and give each other your full attention.
5. Create a mood. Do you want it to be romantic, casual, or fun? Decide what you can change in your environment to make it feel that way. Can you add twinkling lights, special dinnerware, a special playlist, decorations from past parties, or flowers from a garden? The ambiance will help set it apart from a typical evening.
WRITE YOUR OWN LOVE STORY
As a couple, you can write your own love story. Date nights help build friendship, generate laughter, foster togetherness, and create intimacy—and they don’t have to cost a fortune. With a little effort, imagination, and flexibility, even a stay-at-home date can feel extraordinary. A love story is not about how you fall in love, it is about how you live in love, growing in togetherness and friendship.
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