Much of the marriage relationship requires sensible, serious, hard work, especially when kids are brought into the equation, and time and energy are often sorely lacking. We are required to be routine-followers, planners, and generally ‘un-fun.’ But think back to those newly-married memories when life unfolded with spontaneity, and laughter bubbled effortlessly in the fountain of your relationship. How did you maintain the joy and delight?
By simply having fun together.
But why carve out time for date night once we are married? Isn’t dating for pre-married couples who long to get to know the other person, to see if there’s a romantic ‘spark,’ to decide if they are compatible? Surely, once the confetti settles, we can relax into a rhythm of simply being together whenever we like without feeling the need to actually call it ‘dating,’ right?
Whether you have been married for thirty days or thirty years (I am of the latter), we absolutely need to be intentional when it comes to dating our spouse. It is vital at every stage of marriage: as newlyweds, we can introduce good habits and beautiful traditions into our marriage; as exhausted new parents, knee-deep in diapers, we need reminders of romance; and as parents of teenagers, we are desperate for refreshment when mental energy is zapped from acting as chauffeur and psychiatrist. If you faithfully invest in your marriage throughout the various seasons of life, one day when it’s just the two of you again, dating your husband will feel life-giving, natural, and essential.
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 8:15, NIV).
Enjoyment within marriage isn’t just a luxury reserved for the young or free-spirited, it is a gift from God! Having fun together may take more thought and intentionality as the years go by, but it can go a long way in strengthening foundational bonds.
Like the time I surprised my man with a bungee jump for his birthday.
Together with our boys, we swam with dolphins (even though I was absolutely petrified)!
The coffee date when we talked about dreams, and he convinced me I could be a writer.
The time we bundled up our two-year-old daughter and emigrated from the UK to start a new adventure in Canada.
All fun times. And none of them happened by accident—they were deliberately planned because today we are all busy people with very little margin in our lives. Date nights and trips and adventures take effort, but they are well worth the investment because dreams are birthed and memories made when we date our mate.
My husband and I were given the greatest piece of advice when we returned from our honeymoon, 30 years ago. We attended a conference in South Wales and the main speaker was Josh McDowell, a Christian apologist, evangelist, and writer. He was from America, and a rather well-known name in Christian circles, so we were keen to meet him in person after the event. There we were, deeply tanned from two weeks in Cyprus, stars in our eyes and love written all over our faces. We chatted with Mr. McDowell briefly and explained we had recently returned from our honeymoon. His unforgettable nugget was this:
“Never come off your honeymoon, kids. My wife and I have been married for many years, and we never came off our honeymoon. It’s the best advice I can give you.”
He was still giddy and happily married after many years in “honeymoon mode” and wanted the same for us. And I wish the same for you, too. But how do we do this in the everyday?
Over the years, my husband and I have been to some beautiful places—not least the sights of the romantic city of Paris we literally just left behind. It’s easy to experience connection up in the Eiffel Tower gazing over a breathtaking vista or holding hands in the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral. But in the regular everyday moments of marriage, much grace and intentionality are required for maintaining ‘honeymoon mode’ and making date-time a priority.
EVERYDAY DATE YOUR MATE IDEAS
- Meet for lunch at a favorite sandwich place while the kids are in school.
- Take a picnic to the beach or a pretty park that’s new to you.
- Make his favorite dessert and eat it outside under the stars.
- Splurge on a romantic dinner at a favorite restaurant.
- Go for an evening stroll and end it with an ice cream treat.
- Go sledding, snowshoeing, or skating together.
- Cozy-up for a pizza and movie night at home.
- Make a new recipe candlelit dinner for two.
- Go to a sporting event together (even if you are not a sports fan).
- Have a coffee date somewhere new and talk about your dreams.
- Hike in the countryside/mountains.
INGREDIENTS FOR A GREAT DATE
Time is precious and so is marriage. Spontaneity is fabulous when it works out, but for most of us, we need to literally pencil date nights into our calendars if we want them to happen. Spend five minutes together with your agendas for the week or month ahead and pick your date times. And then do everything in your power to protect them!
There’s nothing better than exploring a new city, mountain, beach, or country together. I’ve traveled without my husband on occasion and it’s just not the same. I missed the inside jokes, the initial surprise of being somewhere new, and seeing unexpected sights together—the memories that are better shared. We had our seasons of sticking close to home, but we still dreamed, saved, and planned. Whether it’s a day trip or a world trip—do it together, and chase the fun.
If traveling isn’t in the budget, try tasting another country from the comfort of home. Plan to make a new pasta dish together, experiment with a couple of curries or grab Chinese take-out from somewhere you’ve never tried before. Put the kids to bed, light a candle, turn on some music, and enjoy the flavors of elsewhere.
Make the most of celebrating milestones and accomplishments together. Though you will likely include family for birthdays and Christmases, wedding anniversaries are reserved for the two of you. Consider them a wonderful excuse to be romantic with a special meal in a favorite restaurant or a candlelit dinner at home once the kids are tucked in bed, or enlist a babysitter and plan an overnight getaway. Make it a tradition to toast one another, dream together, share future plans, let compliments flow, reminisce, and belly laugh!
“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.” TIMOTHY J. KELLER
Of course, a great marriage isn’t all about dates and fun. We weather the darkest storms together, and we hold one another up in times of trouble. We put one another’s needs ahead of our own and choose to serve our spouse in order to thrive as a couple. And ultimately, as Christians, we love God more than anything, even each other—knowing that it is His love that binds us together. Dating, spending that special time with your husband, only helps to strengthen that bond, enhancing the marriage journey by making it one of deep joy, and by keeping the romance alive.
Will you make time to date your mate? I hope you will join me in making fun a priority—viewed not as a frivolity, but a long-term investment in the future of your marriage.
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