Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 22, 2013

WHOLE FAMILY: Commitment and sacrifice drown out karaoke


— Back to “Date Night.”

Last week I told you my husband and I are having our first date in 11 years? That’s not entirely true, as for a few months, we attempted to set a “date night” and keep it every week.

We did manage to be out together — almost alone — a few times.

Our baby was a real baby then, so we took him with us rather than torment our volunteer babysitter with diapers and spit-up and three other children. On top of the fact that we had a baby with us each week for our “date,” most times I would end up filling up the precious few hours with tasks — grocery shopping, a post-partum visit, an errand.

Once, I think, we did have a cup of coffee in the grocery store deli while our baby gummed soft fruit from the salad bar.

Those were nice enough “dates.” It felt wildly free to be almost alone in the van, for one. But, I’m sure we largely missed the intention of “date nights.”

SO, WHAT ARE those intentions?

We all have resources we like — books, radio programs, blogs, podcasts, whatever. Although the organization and some of its materials sometimes make me cringe, the Christian organization Focus on the Family offers a wealth of information on all things family, including date nights.

In a series of web articles, Focus’ Greg Smalley writes that an habitual date night can “powerfully work to strengthen and enrich your marriage.” He writes the organization’s research shows that 92 percent of couples who make “date night” a priority have “increased satisfaction in their relationships.”

So that’s the goal — to strengthen and enrich your marriage.

If you’re convinced a regular “date night” is a good way to do that, here are some of the tips from Focus with some of my own thoughts as a garnish:

• On your dates, always act like you’re trying to get a second date. You know, “woo” your partner? That means dress up a little, hold hands, whatever. If you dated before marriage, you likely did all these little things. Even though my husband and I did not date, I certainly wanted him to like me, so I took time to look nice, freshen my coffee breath and be altogether ladylike around him. I suppose I could revive that intention, eh?  

• Don’t use your dates to conduct everyday household business. Oops. That’s where we messed up. Instead of seeing the date as a time to focus on each other, to, maybe, do something new, I saw it as time to “catch up” on life. Apparently, that’s not the right use of a date night. The Focus articles say refuse to argue, too, saving all disagreements for discussion later.

• As for WHAT to do on dates, the Focus crew says to try something new. If you’ve never been to a drive-in theater, go for it. Rollerskating? A dance class? A restaurant or a type of food you’ve never tried? Focus suggests laser tag, karaoke, stargazing or, even, volunteering together at a charitable organization.

• If money is an issue, there are lots of inexpensive ways to “date.” Try a walk in a park, a dollar movie theater, a program or concert series that’s low-cost or free. Head out for just dessert rather than a whole meal. Maybe take a drive — pretty fall colors on their way. You could have a reverse date, too. Send the children to a grandparent’s and stay at home alone for an evening. (We probably would just sleep.)

AFTER ALL THAT ADVICE about date nights, however, I have to admit, we likely won’t be making a date with date night anytime soon. We do have a dinner planned — one to which we were invited, one for which someone else is paying, one that’s loosely related to “work” for me — and we plan to make the most of it.

But really? We’re too busy for regular date nights. I know, I know. You make time for what’s important. I’m the first to say it. But school for everybody, work, keeping fit and running a household already have my husband and I maxed out.

I do like the idea of “date night” and might try to incorporate it as soon as something lets up. Maybe we’ll actually “date” with regularity by our silver anniversary. Until then, well, it’s the same as always: Commitment and sacrifice — definitely not karaoke — keep us together.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”