My marriage needs date night for a different reason than you might think. Does any other married couple out there have certain days, times, situations, when a fight seems inevitable? We do. Let’s see: Saturdays, always. Sundays before church. Budget night. When we’re overwhelmed and the house is a mess. When we’re late, any time, which is a lot of the time. When I’m tired. When he’s tired. When we’re not getting along with his family or mine. When the kids keep misbehaving, and we aren’t on the same page concerning discipline. When we’re broke. When we’re hungry. Oh dear. We fight. Quite a bit. And that is precisely why our marriage needs date night.
There is a scene in the movie, The Notebook, that sums up my marriage perfectly:
Noah: “Would you just stay with me?”
Allie: “Stay with you? What for? Look at us! We’re already fighting!”
Noah: “Well that’s what we do! We fight! You tell me when I’m being an arrogant son of a b**** and I tell you when you’re being a pain in the a**. Which you are, 99% of the time. I’m not afraid to hurt your feelings, you have like a two-second rebound rate and you’re back doing the next pain in the a** thing.”
Allie: “So, what?”
Noah: “So it’s not gonna be easy, it’s gonna be really hard. And we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I wanna do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever. You and me. Everyday.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
My marriage isn’t perfect. Some times we manage to get through a skirmish with just a few grumbles. Or, one of us will slink away to avoid a fight over the same old thing. Sometimes there is yelling. Okay: I try, but I usually cry or yell. I come from a long line of yellers. I’m trying. I’m praying. I’d like to think I’m growing . . . very slowly.
Our Marriage Needs A Date Night Because Day-to-day Life Is Hard
One Saturday about a year ago, we secured a babysitter. To have a sitter, the money to actually go out, and the time to do so rarely happens. We woke up that morning, cheerfully drank our coffee, and talked about our day without getting into a fight. The thought of a night off sweetened our usual accomplishing-as-many-chores-in-one-Saturday-by-5 o’clock routine.
I must say: we were so excited for our date. I actually had a dress to wear and the forethought to plan my outfit. I tried to cram in a pedicure to up the glam factor for our date before I stopped at the grocery store. I walked in the front door, toes glossy in my flip flops, arms full of groceries, with a good forty-five minutes left to primp for our date. That is, until I surveyed the house. Somewhere in my girl mind I envisioned returning from errand-running to a clean house. At least, I imagined that the floors would be gleaming and the kitchen counters would be crumb-free.
I set the groceries on the dining room table and walked around our still-very dirty floors in my glossy flip-flopped feet. The boys were still taking their naps, and Jack was nowhere to be found. I walked in circles, frozen, as a tidal wave of frustration swept me up in a flood of self-pity and hopelessness: Life is too hard. There is never enough time. What’s the point of going out on a date when there is so much work yet to do? Couldn’t he do more while the kids were awake? Why does he always have work to do when I need him to do something?
By the time he came downstairs, my cheeks were red with tears and self-pity. The verdict was in: Jack didn’t care one bit about my needs. He didn’t care at all.
His face, strangely, blanked. “Why are you crying?”
“The house! The floors! It’s a mess!” I blubbered.
“You were supposed to clean while I ran the errands–”
“Um, I told you I had work to do–”
I completely forgot Jack’s mention of a “little extra work to do” during our cheerful coffee conversation that morning. In all of my excitement, I hadn’t heard him. As I remembered this very important fact, I should have stopped myself. I should have said, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot.” But my humility had run away with any modicum of reason by that point. I already held the verdict in my hand: Jack was guilty.
So, there we stood in the kitchen, yelling, me crying, Jack incredulous. My unrealistic expectations cause more undue strife in my marriage than any other one issue . . . and that’s saying something.Our Marriage Needs a Date Night Just To Change the View
After fifteen minutes of fighting over–well, nothing, really–he looked at me, “I’m going to cancel the babysitter. This is ridiculous.” He was right; it was. I was.
I grabbed his arm, right as he reached for his phone: “No, we can’t. She’s already given up her Saturday night. I’ll just go get ready, and we can just get out of here. We can split up if you want to. We don’t have to go somewhere together. We just need to get out of here for a night.”
He agreed. I primped and Jack dutifully cleaned. We left an hour after the babysitter arrived.
Once in the car, I looked at my handsome husband, jaw set tight the way he does when he is so angry with me. My words cut through the dark silence: “I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. I just didn’t think you cared–”
We filled the car with every stress and every fear and every unmet need that builds in the niceness, in the trying, in the Saturday mornings and Tuesdays nights at 3 am when the baby will not sleep. We counted up the stressors, the reasons, the sorry’s and I-forgive-you’s until we were back to neutral. Just talking it all out and being real about how hard every day is was exhausting enough to turn the car around and go to bed early.Our Marriage Needs A Date Night Vacation from Our Problems
We sat silent, his jaw a little more relaxed. “I think we should still go to dinner,” I said, breaking the silence. “But I don’t think we should go as us. Let’s be another couple tonight. Let’s be a couple with healthy, perfectly behaved children. Let’s be a couple without a million expenses and worries. Let’s be interesting. Let’s small-talk politics and magazine articles; let’s drink too much wine and have to sit and drink coffee to sober up. Let’s be who we’d be without all the hard.” I grabbed his forearm as another tear ran down my cheek. “I just want to be the old us, you know?”
He turned to see me for the first time since my kitchen explosion. “Okay, I can do that.”
We went to our favorite restaurant and we sat for four hours. We laughed at each other and flirted like we were light, like the corners of our world weren’t just about to tear open and gush the flood in. I forgot to see him as child care relief, as garbage take-out man, as budget keeper. I remembered how much fun he is, how we don’t need entertainment when we go out because we have so much fun just talking. I remembered him: the man I love.
We drove home and paid the babysitter, all the details of our life flooding in as we walked up the stairs to bed. And it may have only been four hours, but it felt like oxygen to us, after months of holding our breath trying not to drown.
We decided date night would have to fit in the budget more regularly, because we all have to breathe sometimes.
So, go on date night anyway. We do.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8
Ever so humbly,
First published February 2014