I recently spoke with a woman who said that weekly date nights with her husband “aren’t working.” She went on to explain that she has been told by every book, blog, and Bible teacher that a weekly date with her husband will infuse romance, emotional intimacy, and deep conversation with her husband, but their dates are usually forced, disappointing, and often end in an argument.
That’s because a couple struggling with selfishness, pride, anger, and unmet expectations who goes out to dinner and a movie will return home from their date a well-fed and entertained couple struggling with selfishness, pride, anger, and unmet expectations.
Nowhere in the Bible is a date night a prescription for marital success. Yet, according to most marriage “experts,” having weekly date nights is the first prescription for a struggling marriage and usually cited as “absolutely essential” for couples. The conclusion is, then, that not dating your spouse is the fast track to divorce.
“Dating,” as we understand it in western culture, is a relatively new concept, and has only been popular for the last century. For thousands of years, right after the wedding, married couples shouldered endless labor on homesteads, carried on in systems of arranged marriages or slavery, and struggled to survive through plagues and droughts and famines and wars all while raising children. They did all this expecting to remain committed to one another for a lifetime. Suggesting our modern-day weekly date night to our marital ancestors seems almost laughable.
Likewise, I have missionary friends who currently live in the African bush and have nowhere to go on a date even if they could arrange an evening alone. Deployment, chronic illness, children with special needs, moving to a new area with no childcare options, caring for elderly parents… there are so many situations that make outings alone nearly impossible. If a weekly date night is given to these couples as the litmus test of a healthy union, they are all in trouble.
Our Christian subculture is rightly trying to preserve marriages, but our emphasis is misplaced on date nights being the solution for what is a much deeper need.
God’s design for marriage transcends every era, culture, and season of life.
Rather than insisting on a weekly date, what if we individually insisted on outdoing one another in service, esteemed one another as more important than ourselves, spurred one another on to love and good works, pursued godliness with contentment, died to ourselves, and looked out for one another’s best interests? That would probably be better for our marriages than getting a sitter for Taco Tuesday.
Dating your spouse is a lovely treat and can be a great addition to your marriage, but it’s not vital to marital success. Don’t hang your hope on a cultural practice. Rather, hinge the success of your marriage on eternal truth.
God still expects the marriage union to display His glory to the watching world as believing spouses love and serve one another - whether they have date nights or not. It is entirely possible to have a godly, intimate, rightly prioritized marriage and never have another date night for the rest of your marriage.
Going out with your spouse is a wonderful treat to enjoy, but not an essential practice to hold your marriage together. It is only one tool in an entire box of options to enjoy one another, foster intimacy, and maintain communication.