At Woodland Hills Family Church, doctrine is foundational. We believe in the inspiration of scripture. We believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ. We believe in the royal priesthood of the saints. We believe in date nights. Keep them holy!
A weekly withdrawal is a getaway from home. To be successful, it requires planning, time, and money. This weekly withdrawal carves out extended time each week to a special spot somewhere in or around town.
In the Song of Songs, Solomon picks up the Shulamite woman for a date. They are not yet married, so he must go to her home to get her. The text pictures Solomon in a hurry to get her and take her away for the night. It is a scene of excitement and anticipation:
“Listen! My lover!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Look! There he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattice.
My lover spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me.”
Song of Songs 2:8-10
According to this text, a date has 3 key components. First, there is anticipation. He stands behind the wall looking forward to seeing her, hoping to catch a glimpse. And no, he’s not a peeping Tom or a stalker. Second, he picks her up. Third, there is an invitation to get out of the house. He says, “Come with me.”
I know the stereotype is that women don’t like to be surprised, but I challenge that. What women love is planning for a getaway. When a husband calls home to say, “I’m coming home to get you and I’m taking you out tonight,” a wife’s first thought is, “I wonder where we’re going?”
I believe a husband’s initiative trumps the fear of surprise. Knowing that he’s thinking and planning something special is enough for her to call and brag on him to friends.
My wife, Amy, and I prioritize dating. To be honest, I prioritize lunch dates with my wife so much that my role as senior pastor suffers at times. I get requests often for coffee and lunch that I decline simply because I want to be with my wife. Church staff and members have taken this personally in the past, but it has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with my marriage. Amy and I have our favorite two or three spots that are our “go-to” restaurants. We live for menu changes season to season. We enjoy small plates and great conversation. Lunch dates are just part of our regular dating. We consider a date “official” when it lasts 2 to 4 hours.
The University of Virginia releases a study every year as part of the National Marriage Project. In recent years, they’ve studied date night initiatives popping up all over the country. Their research identified key components of date nights and quality couple time that lead to increased marital satisfaction. Here are the four keys to great married dating:
Dating is the perfect time for couples to try something new
Let’s go against the grain and break the routine of “dinner and a movie.” A regular date night gives couples the opportunity to try something brand new: “Most couples experience a decline in relationship quality after a few years, partly because they become habituated to one another and are more likely to take one another, and their relationship, for granted. Thus, date nights should foster this higher quality, especially insofar as couples use them to engage in exciting, active, or unusual activities.” Instead of another movie, go roller skating, skeet shooting, rock climbing, or take a cooking class.
Dating rediscovers passion and sparks sexual intimacy
Over time, couples see a decline in the romantic pursuits. “Date nights allow couples to focus on their relationship, to share feelings, to engage in romantic activities with one another, and to try new things. Date nights may strengthen or rekindle that romantic spark that can be helpful in sustaining the fires of love over the long haul” (page 4).
Dating shows commitment to the marriage
It is a signal to children, family and friends and says, “We take our marriage seriously.” It also says, “Our time together is valuable.” “Date nights may solidify an expectation of commitment among couples by fostering a sense of togetherness, by allowing partners to signal to one another—as well as friends and family—that they take their relationship seriously, and by furnishing them with opportunities to spend time with one another, to communicate, and to enjoy fun activities together” (page 4).
Dating gives couples extended periods to de-stress
It provides the perfect platform to remove stress and distractions: “Date nights may be helpful for relieving stress on couples, as they allow them to enjoy time with one another apart from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life” (page 5).
With all the benefits dating brings to married life, why in the world do so many couples neglect it? The two most common excuses for skipping date night are kids and money. I hear it all the time. “We have kids and no money.” Prioritizing dating requires decisions as to how you spend your time and money the rest of the week.
It is more than possible to enjoy reasonably priced dates while the kids are cared for by capable family and friends. I asked my Facebook friends for help on this one. Here are some of their ideas for solving the childcare and resource challenge:
We did a date co-op when our kids were little with some of our friends. We swapped babysitting for each other so we could get some alone time. The kids thought it was a play date for them!
We discovered the beauty of having lunch dates at the nicer places. The prices are usually much lower, the portion sizes are smaller, and you still get the fancy feeling. Sometimes, if the lunch thing didn’t work out, we would eat a light meal at home and then just share an appetizer and dessert at a restaurant.
At-home dates, after the kids go to bed. Play board games, romantic dessert date with candles, snuggle by the fire, babysitting exchange with friends, $10 dollar store challenge (see who can come up with the most creative gift), cook dinner together (new recipe).
We don’t have small children, but we go on many dates that don’t cost a thing. We dream together at Barnes & Noble as we look at books and magazines about home building. We walk hand-in-hand at The Landing talking about our days or upcoming week. We occasionally take a dessert date to Vintage Paris or CherryBerry which doesn’t cost much. Make your regular planned meal, but pull out the fine china and candles. There are so many things you can do without a financial hit!
I have four kids, so getting out is not easy. One thing we do is have a weekly at-home date night. We put the kids to bed or have the oldest watch the baby. Then we make stir fry together. We eat it while watching “Smallville.”
Look for babysitters who tithe their time. A couple of my daughters chose to babysit for free at times as a tithe to the Lord. Not only did the parents get blessed, but the Lord brought in funds for my girls in other ways.
Some of my most successful married dates haven’t cost a dime. A lot depends on your spouse’s love language. Go for a drive or find an old “parking” spot to bring back sparks from the past. Spend the evening reigniting memories of falling in love. Good, old-fashioned quality time is still the best date in my book. Pack a picnic dinner and create your own “dessert”!
My husband and I spend time together after putting the kids to bed early. My husband calls it a “state”…stay-at-home date.
We used to do our grocery shopping in towns that were at least a half hour from the house. That way we would kill two birds with one stone.
We meet on our lunch hour with packed sandwiches while kids are at school -cheap and no sitter.
I know of at least ten singles that would be happy to sit at no cost and that includes me!
I’m sure there are plenty of Lisas who care for kids on a regular basis in your neighborhood or church. It’s time to adopt some parents and grandparents, save your pennies, and start dating!