“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and with it the expectations. The hopes and ideals, the ideals that usually involve some kind of date night out. See a fun movie, go restaurant-hopping, buy her flowers. Many of these date-night ideas are passed down by well-meaning Christian authors, and they are truly great advice for those couples who have the right resources:
1) Either funds to pay for childcare, or kind and willing family nearby to help; 2) Time enough together to spend on a date night; and 3) The willingness of both spouses.
If you have all three of these resources at the ready, and you do not anticipate a break in any of them any time soon, I won’t be offended if you stop reading now… this post may not be information you need.
But this writer’s heart beats for the hurting. And I know you’re out there.
I know you’re out there, tired wife and mama with a deployed husband.
I know you’re out there, weary mom with no family nearby and no help on the horizon.
I know you’re out there, lonely woman whose husband is struggling through health or personal issues, and time together is not on his mind.
I know you’re out there because of this little post I shared on my Facebook page a few days ago. I shared a picture of us on a date, with a little note about what a rare and welcome treat it was. Wrote about how few and far between our dates have been through the years. Wrote about how we’ve been tempted to complain, to compare, but ended up deciding to Do The Best We Can With What We Have. Wrote to say, “Is there anyone else out there? Can you tell me we’re not alone?”
By the comments that came, online and off, now I know. Now I know that we are not the only ones who’ve struggled to do a date night out of the house. Now I know that we are not the only ones who want to walk towards Jesus together but sometimes it looks more like a drag/limp than a stroll. Now I know that maybe, just maybe, some of the tricks we’ve used through the years… secrets, really, about keeping our coupleness in times of trials and stress… maybe it’s time to pass them on to someone else. To you.
So I’m taking a break from my usual storytelling-type of writing to offer you this short list. Keep it in your back pocket for a rainy day… send it to a friend who doesn’t have the option of going out on a date night right now… use it yourself, for Valentine’s Day, if you need to.
These are six simple, but impactful, things that Jeremy and I have done to Keep our Coupleness through the years when date nights were not an option:
- Go walking. When the Little Loves were really little, that meant putting them in the stroller and exploring our neighborhood, and he and I would use that time to enjoy a little quiet, and to chat together. This works if you’re in New-Baby Land and don’t have the ability to get out of the house together without baby.
- Pizza! (Shall I end the post right here so you can go get some?) If pizza’s not your thing (shudder), insert your favorite treat. We have put the kids to bed early (shhh! Don’t tell them!) on more than one occasion, to order pizza. For ourselves. And enjoy it, without any little hands stealing all the olives, like we used to do when we were dating. No, it’s not glamorous. No, it’s probably not healthy, either. But it’s fun. And it’s special.
- That other thing. You know what I’m talking about. It goes on the calendar. If you have a busy family life like I do, scheduling it can help for many reasons. (Something to look forward to, something to look back on and remember fondly…) Scheduling intimacy is not unromantic. If anything, it is more romantic, because it says to your spouse: “Time with you is a priority to me.”
- Do a puzzle together. (I mean I wrote #3, I can talk about puzzles now, can’t I?) Or insert your own crafty idea. My sweet friend and her husband once painted coffee mugs for each other as a date night. Can you think of a project you can work on together? Something you both enjoy doing with your hands? They say that men connect while working on something together. We’ve found it’s not such a bad idea. Working on a project bonds you together and gives you the opportunity for lighthearted, fun conversation.
- Find fifteen minutes. When Jeremy worked the 3-11pm shift, that meant giving the kids an activity (sometimes a video) so that he and I could just have fifteen minutes together. It may not sound like much, but we used that time to just breathe, to make eye contact, to ask each other, “How are you?” and to pray together.
- Use your words. Maybe all of the above will fail. Maybe he’s out of town for work. Maybe one of you is ill. Maybe your marriage is in such a rough, very rough season, that items 1-4 are not possible. Oh, friend, if that’s you, I’m sorry. But if you are breathing, if you’re reading, then you have your words, dear one.
It may not feel like a very hopeful place if all you’ve got left is your words. But it’s actually one of the most hopeful places you can be in. God’s spoken words started the universe spinning. Man’s written words have started wars and ended them. Words of life can save a marriage. This is how I know:
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21).
If your spouse is nearby and you can speak words of love, words of life, to him, do it. You will not regret it. If he is not nearby but craves your words of affirmation, send a text, send an email. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something as simple as Thank you for going to work, even though you were tired today… or You are handsome, can brighten a day and lighten a load. If your spouse is not receptive to your words, write them down. Write them down for yourself, write them down for the Lord, write them down for later.
Now that I’ve shared our little list with you, I’ll let you go practice… after these very quick last encouragements:
This little list I’ve shared? It’s not meant to take the place of date night. If you have the ability to do a date night, please, do it! In fact, Jeremy and I are in a better place now, where regular date nights are more of a possibility. This list is not meant to discourage date nights, it’s meant to help you get through Survival Mode, if ever you find yourself in it.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that date nights are a cultural thing. There are many families across the globe for whom putting food on the table is enough of a struggle. If we wake up together, air in our lungs, roof over our head and breakfast as easy as pouring cereal in a bowl… we have a lot to be thankful for.
Lastly, friends, if the above resonates with you? I’d love to be able to connect with you regularly. Really, it would be an honor, a gift. Please know that you are invited to hop on over to the Facebook page I’ve set up for the blog, and follow along there. That way you will be able to stay up-to-date with blog posts and other encouragement that’s shared, and you’ll also be able to join in any discussions that are posted.
Thank you for being here. Here, where we rejoice in the truth that because of Our Savior’s Great Love, there is Hope, there is Healing,
And a kind wife and mom can come from anywhere.