My husband, Trevor, and I have a bad track record when it comes to date nights. Often we return home unhappier than when we left.
A couple years ago, I surprised him with tickets to Cirque du Soleil. A friend told me she and her hubby loved the show, so I assumed we would too.
Ticket prices were steep, so I had to get creative with our budget. I depleted our date night category . . . discretionary category . . . garden category . . . and charged the rest to my personal spending category. (How did I think this was a good idea, being married to an accountant?!)
The evening began, lighthearted and fun, with Trevor guessing what we were doing and not getting even close. When we pulled up to the stadium, he was convinced it was a hockey game. It wasn’t until after we’d walked through security that he saw a sign advertising Cirque du Soleil.
Another Date Night Goes South . . . Again
We began our ascent up, up, up. My friend had told me there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, but apparently she hadn’t ventured this far up. Our seats were in the very last row at the tip-top of the stadium, and an arch was obstructing our view. And that’s when the whole tone changed. Trevor grew silent and sullen.
When the lights went down thirty minutes later, I moved to a better seat, Trevor trailing behind me. (He wasn’t thrilled with moving seats, as he’s more of a rule follower than I am.)
I didn’t feel I could enjoy the show, knowing that Trevor wasn’t thrilled. Even if he had been upbeat, though, the performers were speaking some gibberish language, and there didn’t seem to be a coherent storyline to follow.
To his credit, Trevor thanked me a couple times at the end, but it seemed forced. When we went to bed that night, he wasn’t looking me in the eyes. So much for my epic date night.
Many times I’ve just wanted to give up and say, If they’re gonna hurt this bad, let’s just forget date nights. Have you had a similar experience?
I always knew that wasn’t the answer, though. Here are a few problems we’ve bumped into on our date nights, as well as a few solutions we’ve found:
Date Night Problems . . . And Solutions
Problem #1: You don’t have a plan beforehand.
Solution: When we realized that coming up with a plan “on the fly” wasn’t working for us, we tried surprising each other by planning a date night for the other (as I did with Cirque du Soleil). However, it didn’t take long for us to realize that was not a good idea for us.
So we compiled a Google document of date night ideas that we’d both enjoy. Give it a shot, and consider adding categories like:
- Indoor date night ideas
- Outdoor date night ideas
- Winter date night ideas
- Summer date night ideas
- Cheap date night ideas (ahem, Paula!)
- In-home date night ideas (for when you have kids)
Save yourself some heartache and don’t try to figure out what you’re doing as you’re climbing into the car. Be intentional in planning ahead.
Problem #2: Someone suggests an idea and the other agrees to it, only to learn later that the person who agreed to it wasn’t really excited about it.
Solution: Communicate your desires plainly. If you’re not excited about an idea, say it. Honesty is always better than a halfhearted yes. I know you don’t want to hurt your spouse’s feelings, but in the long run, the best way to love your spouse is to communicate kindly and openly with them.
Problem #3: You feel crummy and more distanced from your spouse than before you left the house.
Solution: Rather than focusing on how pathetic you two are at planning date nights, remember that these date night flops can be really, really good for your marriage if you let them. Ask yourself, How can this experience help me better understand and love my husband moving forward?
For example, after our Cirque du Soleil date night, I was shocked to learn that Trevor doesn’t enjoy theatre. He had considered it as a major in college, so I just assumed he would love watching it. But as we talked afterward, I learned that he considers his growing-up years in theatre as “foolish, ambitious dreams” he had, because it’s what all his friends were into at the time.
Problem #4: You try to talk through your date night flop after the fact, and you get nowhere.
Solution: Do talk; don’t let things pile up. However, don’t feel compelled to sort it all out that evening. If you can, great!—more power to you. But I’ve found that often we’re in a much better frame of mind to listen, communicate, and see things clearly the following morning.
Just because the Bible says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26), doesn’t mean you are literally required to sort through each conflict before 7 p.m. I’ve learned the hard way that pushing for peace while I’m still dragon-breathing-fire-sort-of-angry is not best. Better to vent to God, remind myself of truth, and calm down rather than try to force peace. If you’re getting nowhere, try to get a good night’s sleep, talk to God about it, and then sort it out with your spouse.
Problem #5: No matter how hard you work at it, date nights continue to go south far more often than you’d like.
Solution: (I saved the best for last!) Spend a little quality time together each day rather than relying on a date night to connect deeply each week. There’s less pressure that way.
Someone recommended this approach to us, and it has been so sweet to shoot for quality time together each day—even just fifteen or twenty minutes. (If you don’t yet have kids, you might scoff at such a short amount of time, but it can be a real feat.)
If you’re not even sure how to spend quality time together, here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Listen to a sermon and share what stood out to you.
- Watch a show and talk about it.
- Set a timer for five minutes and write down as many desires as you can think of: character traits you’d like to change, places you’d like to go, problems you’d like to solve. When the time is up, share them with each other and pray through them.
- Give each other a massage.
- Read God’s Word and discuss any questions or observations you have.
- Work on a fun project like painting a picture or doing an easy woodworking project.
- Cook. Trevor likes cannolis, so I’d like to make these one of these days.
Do you feel like you’re one of the only married couples who doesn’t have wonderful weekly date nights? Know that you’re not alone. At the very least, the Marstellers are with you! We hope and pray that our struggles and attempted solutions help you to pursue deeper intimacy and enjoyment of one another.