How do you put a value on having something to look forward to? Especially during challenging, stressful, or monotonous days or weeks as a parent, having something enjoyable to look forward to makes a world of difference. I’ve learned this from experience.
I haven’t always been great about making sure my wife, Danielle, and I enjoy a weekly date, despite being told from the outset of our marriage that it’s something we should do. My social cup was getting filled by my job, so when the weekend came, I was content with just being home and watching a movie together. I was a bit oblivious to Danielle’s needs and undereducated on what a weekly planned date could really do for us.
Part of my awakening happened after our fourth child was born. I was able to take a week off to be home. My eyes were opened to realities I hadn’t considered! For example, I discovered that it’s somehow possible to pick up the same hairbow three times in 10 minutes, and that there is nothing convenient about kids needing to go to the bathroom in stores. Nothing.
During that week I also learned what having a planned date for the weekend—an actual event that you know is going to happen and will be different from the regular activities of the week—can do for you. In moments of parenting exhaustion, knowing that a date night is on the calendar can spark your energy to set out the seventeenth snack of the week or trek across the store with a nearly full cart for one more potty break!
The Benefits of a Planned Weekly Date
Our emotional health is strengthened when we have enjoyable things to look forward to. Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage, notes, “Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. . . . Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain much as the actual reward will” (p. 52).
So, what is it that you have to look forward to with a weekly date? Well, throughout the week, consider the stress that you and your spouse experience. Whether it’s from parenting, work, finances, or sleep deprivation, the side-effects of stress can make life difficult to manage.
With an intentionally planned date, you’re spending time together apart from the concerns of day-to-day life, engaged in an activity you enjoy and that helps you connect and rejuvenate. There’s also a sweet satisfaction that comes from realizing you’re being intentional about doing something good for your marriage. You and your spouse can both come away with reduced stress and better energy for managing what life throws at you!
The Key Is Planning
The key to building these date nights into your routine is planning—setting the time aside and identifying the activity. The good intentions of too many couples are lost by seeing if it works out. Whether you take the lead for making dates happen in your relationship, or you and your spouse collaborate on this, the planning is best done when you have at least a few ounces of creative energy.
Some couples plan their date during a weekly planning session, whereas other couples set the times and plan the date activities for the entire month at the beginning of the month. It doesn’t need to be stressful or complicated—it can be as simple as blocking two hours out on Friday nights—but planning in some form is essential.
Deciding What to Do
Coming up with a date activity each week can be daunting. I used to get overwhelmed by it, until I started compiling our date ideas on a note-taking app. This gave us a storehouse of ideas to pull from as part of our planning.
Eventually, Danielle and I compiled these date activities into a book. Our hope has been to encourage other couples to reap the marital, personal, and parenting benefits that can come from having consistent, enjoyable dates. This book, Continuing Courtship: A Date Activity Resource for Couples, contains 52 date activities, most of which can be done at home. Realizing that date activities didn’t have to take place outside of the house to “count” as a date opened up a lot of possibilities for us! We’ve also created a YouTube channel (“Date Night Documentaries“) with short videos of date activities and tools for making date night happen.
A Success Story
For a few years, Danielle and I would set a goal to have at least one planned date each month. Some years we did better than others. For 2019, we set a goal to have one planned date activity for 50 weeks of the year. We’ve got six kids, so given random illnesses or emergencies, we figured shooting for 50 would be both ambitious and realistic. And we did it! Actually, we surpassed it by managing a planned date 51 weeks of the year! More important than the number is the greater happiness and closeness we’ve experienced in our relationship. It truly has become something we look forward to each week!
At the time I’m writing this, I’m home again for a week while Danielle is away for an extended family event. So when snack number eighteen is requested and it’s only Wednesday morning, I know I can do this. Why? Because on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., I’m meeting up with the woman of my dreams in our basement for an awesome at-home hilarious-YouTube-clips competition date night!
QUESTION: What benefits would weekly planned dates bring to you and your spouse individually and collectively in this season of life?
CHALLENGE: Plan a simple date for this weekend! Send a text now to ask your spouse out!
Edited by Kimberly A. Price.
Image provided by the author.