Now that Alison's internship is starting to wind down and she's finished with her examinations and their associated preparations, we're finding more and more time to spend as a family. Don't get me wrong, she's still crazy busy and working long hours, usually far from home, but now that she has less on her plate, her home time really is our own.
When we first got married, I read a study by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project
. In the study, researchers found that there was a real, tangible benefit in having regularly scheduled date nights. Couples were not only happier, they had higher quality sex lives, a significantly lower rate of divorce, and well above average marital satisfaction. Upon reading that study, I decided to do my best to implement the practice.
Life happens and the opportunity for date night ebbs and flows, but there isn't a week that's gone by that I haven't thought about the importance of a weekly date night and a desire to have one. The other week, Alison and I finally were able to have a date night after many months without any. We played "The Office" board game, had a drink, and enjoyed the time to just be silly and have fun.
Our choice to play a board game is just one of the infinite possibilities for your date night. Although date night should be regularly scheduled, it should be anything but routine.
Having new experiences with your wife is a key component to happiness. The unknown and the excitement of surprises play right into our curious nature. Although you and your wife may be expert mountain climbers, there's always something exciting about a new trail. Although you may be professional bowlers, there's something new about going to a different bowling alley. Each week, try to change some aspect of the date night and make it something that you'll both look forward to.
Now, I know what you're thinking. You must have sex on date night. Our society has gotten way out of control with expectations about sex. Sex and dates have become so intertwined in our minds that we stop trying to separate them. The fact remains that while they can pair nicely and appropriately in a marriage, they shouldn't be a foregone conclusion. You and your wife should be able to be intimate without having sex. Even more important, intimacy, fun, and together time shouldn't be exclusive to sex. You and your wife should be able to have fun, be intimate, and be together for an enjoyable evening without having to have sex. This is especially true when you’re spacing pregnancy with valid cause. In the times when you abstain, you still need to be connecting. Sex is important, but don't make it the foundation upon which you build date nights.
We spend way too much time being serious. Let date night be your hall pass to let loose. Put the kids to bed or hire a babysitter and just enjoy being the people you are. Don't bring emotional baggage, stress, or technology. Give yourself permission to have the night off and not worry about life. Be free to be silly like you were when you were dating.
As we travel through life, into marriage and onto the journey of parenting, we change. We rise to the occasion and live our lives responsibly. Date nights are a weekly opportunity for you and your wife to focus on what is the center of your family's life, your relationship. Your family's happiness, wellbeing, and ultimately the success of your children rests largely on the quality of your marriage. We spend most of our days looking out from our marriage and caring for the needs of our family. It's critical that you regularly take time to look in on your marriage and care for your relationship's needs.
By doing something different, avoiding the trap of making it all about sex, and giving yourself permission to let loose, you can dramatically improve your weekly date night, and, by extension, your marriage.
Don't let another week pass you by.