Running a nonprofit ministry geared toward moms of young children means our inbox continually fills with questions about parenting and marriage. One of the most frequent is, “How do you do date night?”
As married moms of littles, we understand firsthand where this question is coming from. Like our podcast listeners, we look for reasons to hire a babysitter and spend one-on-one time with our spouses. Out-of-the-house date night without children in tow feels like the secret ingredient to a healthy marriage. Marriage “experts” gush over its ability to reboot romance in any relationship, and we all eagerly agree, welcoming any change from the daily juggle of work, household chores, and family routines.
But sometimes date night—complete with the babysitter and nice dinner—just feels impossible, and our unbroken evening routine leaves us wondering: Must two tired parents go on regular date nights away from the pressures of home life to maintain the joy and intimacy of marriage? Is that the Christian ideal?
When considering date night’s role in marriage, here are four things to keep in mind.
1. It’s a Fun Treat
When we can go to dinner, a movie, a show, or even a hotel without children, the world seems to slow down and blur soft around the edges. We laugh while we scoop queso onto chips and chat about the lighter side of life. With the responsibilities of rowdy children, messy kitchens, full calendars, and financial strains out of sight, we reach for each other’s hands. We might sit a little closer and connect a little deeper.
Spending time away provides a great opportunity to foster intimacy in marriage. If you’re able to make space on the calendar, by all means, do it! It’s a nice treat. After all, your marriage likely won’t suffer from too much intentional connection.
But while God can use date night as a way to treat us to the joys of marriage, he has many methods of strengthening relational intimacy and helping us thrive in marriage. Date night is just one tool in our toolkit for togetherness.
2. It’s a Modern, Western, First-World Phenomenon
In our modern, Western, first-world culture, our margin for romantic love is a blessing. Many of us have the freedom to select a spouse who matches our preferences and makes us feel weak in the knees—particularly in those first few months of dating. This is a joy and a privilege. As those ideas carry into marriage, we tend to continue emphasizing the importance of romantic feelings. But are cultivating these feelings through date nights essential in God-honoring marriages?
For many married people throughout history (and even today) this type of togetherness has been unimaginable. When both spouses shouldered never-ceasing farm labor, were married and in slavery, or were bound in systems of arranged marriage, the prospect of going out on a modern away-from-home date night almost seems laughable. God still makes ways for the marriage union to flourish and display his glory to the watching world as spouses faithfully love one another and serve for the sake of the kingdom.
God’s design for marriage applies to every era, culture, and life circumstance. His truths—the ones that command us to love one another as Christ loved us (John 13:34), to remain steadfast (1 Cor. 15:58), to spur one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24), and to remain faithful to each other unto death (Rev. 2:10) are relevant to every marriage and are things we don’t need a date night to pursue.
3. It’s Not Always Possible (Even in Our Modern Lives)
When we assume regular date nights are the litmus test for good marriages, we cause people with fewer resources to question the soundness of their marriage. Sometimes a couple would love to spend more time together without the kids, but for a variety of reasons, that’s not a realistic option.
Maybe one spouse is deployed, works long hours, or travels. Maybe the couple doesn’t have much financial margin for a babysitter or is still trying to build a childcare network in a new community. Maybe a couple has a child with special needs, and finding a caregiver requires locating someone with special training and credentials.
When we falsely believe a date night out is the only way to grow in marriage, enjoy one another, foster intimacy, and maintain a healthy commitment, we’re bound to continually feel defeated and disappointed. God is gracious to provide many ways for couples to connect and grow deeper in their love for one another beyond a night out. In fact, date-night dry seasons might be the times we best reveal the beauty of our covenant, as we steadfastly love and serve each other in difficult times.
4. God Can Bless Your Marriage in Many Other Ways
A healthy marriage isn’t created by checking the weekly “date night” box so we can say we’ve pursued each other. It’s about pursuing Christ first and reflecting his love to each another. Jesus doesn’t have to “date” his bride just on special occasions, because he’s always for her—in the mundane and the spectacular. The church doesn’t have wait for an extravagant event or spiritual revival to express love for Christ, because she should always serve and follow him in love.
With a holistic view of married love and an understanding of the way our union fits into the ultimate redemption story, spouses can labor together for the gospel—when we get a date night, and when we don’t.
This post originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition, published with permission.