Taylor and I loved dating each other. We just couldn’t wait to spend time together. We planned early morning walks so we could see each other before work and we would go out after work. Sometimes we even talked on the phone when our date was over.
Then children came. We were so exhausted and sleep deprived for several seasons we felt we were just passing in the hall if we weren’t intentional. But thank the Lord in Heaven we were in a church that placed a HUGE emphasis on marriage. Teachers at marriage retreats and marriage classes kept reminding us to continue dating. They were so right. I am so glad that we listened.
Our parents helped us make dating possible. But we created other options too. Some parents got together and started a parent’s night out at church. Once a month we had all the kids come to the activity center and a few sets of parents stayed to do activities with all the kids while all the others went on dates. So many participated that we only had to keep kids a few times a year.
We also had two couples we were really close with. Our kids did well together so we started swapping nights. Once we would keep kids and they could go out and vice versa. The children had a ball and we got to have our time together.
And I need to throw this caveat in right here…double dating is fine..occasionally. I just have a question? Are you inviting others to go out with you every time you have a chance to have a date? Why? You might want to seriously consider the answer to this question. When your dates are few and far between you need time to focus on the two of you without your friends.
Just a few reasons date nights are so important are:
We need to make intentional space for each other.
We need to show our children that marriage is valuable and worth investing in…at EVERY stage.
Even as grandparents we need to show this same lesson to our grown children.
I am turning my thoughts and attention to my spouse and saying they are most important during this time.
It is valuable to have conversations without the interruption of kids (or the TV.)
Setting a goal can help. Maybe it’s just once or twice a month to start. But put it on the calendar and guard it as closely as a hair appointment to get a color. To cancel would cost you. It is that important. I am not trying to get you under the law here…but to show you how precious this time is.
If you have already disqualified yourself for some reason please be honest with yourself as you figure out why.
Maybe you think your child won’t do well. Breaking news…he or she doesn’t want you to leave. Very few times in our 20+ years of marriage have our young children cheered as we left the house. But the bottom line is they won’t die. They usually will pitch a fit just long enough for you to make it to the car and they stop. At best they can just make you miserable and feel guilty while you are gone. Don’t get distracted from this very important work of caring for your spouse.
If money is the issue, get creative. Or just go on Pinterest and find many lists with lots of ideas that cost little or nothing. A picnic on a park bench. Take a hike. Ask for restaurant gift cards for birthday presents! We have some friends who are super intentional with this one (or it couldn't be called a date). They dress up and plan a date with each other and put the kids to bed early. If you struggle with boundaries with your kids this one is not for you. But the truth is where there is a will there is a way.
Please here me. YOU ARE TEACHING THEM HOW TO BE A GOOD SPOUSE. All of your life doesn’t revolve around being world’s greatest parent. You won’t make it. Nobody does. It is a never-ending, unsatisfied lie from the pit of hell that we have to try and achieve this very unattainable goal. (I am definitely on my soap box here.) If parenting rankings depend on the opinion of the child then we will only score as high as their latest fleshly desire is being met. Is that really the measuring stick we want to be measured by.
Another challenge is when the schedules of our kids begin to dictate our lives. This just isn’t the best option. But is one that can be overcome. How about teaming up as parents. One set take the kids one week and the other one go on a date and vice versa? By working smarter we can let them go to their practice (corporate gasp that a kid can go to practice without a parent…refer to former paragraph) and still get intentional time together.
I have to be honest. At the writing of this blog Taylor and I are in our hardest dating season yet. There are lots of challenges to keep us from prioritizing date nights. But as we brainstormed this article we realized how we have to fight the opposition. We have been called to help others gather and there has been an all out attack on our personal gatherings. Ughh. We are going out tonight. It is valuable and important…but not always easy.
The challenges for Empty Nesters are there too. You have the whole house to yourselves and there may be a temptation to think dating isn’t really necessary anymore. PLEASE. STOP. On behalf of all of us still-full-nesters, please make a list of all the things you dreamed about doing when you were where we are. Do every single one. At least do some and give us hope.
Seriously, (although I was serious about the list) are you appreciating where you are? Maybe you need to dream again. Not the same dreams. The ones when you had endless energy may not be for you now. But what are the ones that would get you excited now?
Where would you like to go?
Maybe there is something you have never tried but have always wondered if you might like it.
Get out of usual surroundings and start making new shared experiences.
Ask your spouse to dream with you.
Go on adventures.
Show your kids how much fun empty nesting can be.
My parents are both retired. I noticed recently they have gone out to eat for lunch more often. They were talking about trying a new place just the other day. This makes sense. They both are big morning people. So they often get tired early. Lunch is a great date option for them. They also love dressing up and going once a month to the symphony. in the last few years they have gone to cities and countries they never would have been able to go to when raising children.
Some dear friends of ours are in the midst of selling their business and the husband heading into retirement. They have been planning adventures to go on the road in their RV for awhile. As they are within the home stretch, the last month, they have both had multiple health issues. Last night our Bible Study group decided to start praying for them. It really wasn’t so much that we were worried about their health as we were to protect their dreams and plans.
Wherever we are in this journey, we are in it for the long haul with our spouse. Let’s make this time that we have together the very best that it can be. We married our spouse and chose them for life. Let’s determine today to cultivate that relationship intentionally for the rest of our lives.
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