Focus on the Family

Date Night

by Greg Smalley

Welcome to the Date Night Challenge from Focus on the Family, in which we’re challenging couples like you to go on three dates in three weeks — 21 days to a new habit!

Of course, we hope you’ll see such a great value in a having a Date Night that it becomes part of your life as a couple. We’re convinced that this new habit will powerfully work to strengthen and enrich your marriage.

To help make that a reality, we’re committed to providing you with fresh Date Night ideas that you can download for free. With each new month, check in here for new creative Date Night ideas.

We know for certain that the Date Night Challenge works! Our research tells us that 92 percent of couples who make Date Night a priority have increased satisfaction in their relationships. How refreshing!

And what a refreshment it can become in your marriage as well, especially as you keep in mind these three encouragements:

So keep checking in with us for monthly Date Night ideas. We’re here to help your marriage grow stronger . . . to help your family thrive!




Date 1: Remembering the Past

Sometimes, the sweetest, most tender memories are those that happened during moments that were unplanned and that may seem unremarkable to the casual observer.

by Dr. Greg Smalley

Date Night #1—Remembering the Past

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The first Date Night in your 3 Dates in 3 Weeks adventure is all about reminiscing. And you’ll both need to do a bit of advance preparation before heading out on your date.

When we think of reminiscing, we often remember those really big events from marriage: the wedding day, the birth of a child, a dream vacation, and so on. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But what about the little things—those everyday occasions in married and family life that aren’t accompanied by a great deal of fanfare? Sometimes, the sweetest, most tender memories are those that happened during moments that were unplanned and that may seem unremarkable to the casual observer.

Before heading out on your date, spend time apart thinking about some of those special occasions with your spouse, whether big or small. From “events” such as the night you got engaged, to mundane tasks such as doing yard work together, consider the unique qualities and character traits of your spouse that made those moments special. What is it about your spouse that made these times magical? Was it his sense of humor? Her love for adventure? His thoughtfulness? Her compassionate heart? As you recall the special memories, make a list. Write down five things you appreciate and admire about your spouse, and then take that list on your date with you.

Pastor Ted Cunningham has written at length about these types of lists. And he learned the practice from Dr. Gary Smalley. Here’s what Gary says about “honor lists” in Ted’s book Fun Loving You: “They are key to keeping honor high in marriage. Reading through these lists keeps me sane, in love, and having fun. Whenever Norma and I are in disagreement, I go to the honor list. It only takes reading a few lines for me to remind myself why I love that woman.”

Remember, work on your lists separately and individually, and then bring them on your date!

DATE NIGHT

The first rule of Date Night is this: always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our spouse. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate—hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Do something that stirs up old memories.

Perhaps you had a favorite coffee shop when you were first dating in Louisville. Even though you live in Denver now, see if you can find a similar coffee shop that helps recall those early days. Or maybe your first date was at a bowling alley. Go bowling again and relive the experience! Or perhaps it’s something as simple as a park, hiking trail, or even a shopping mall that you haven’t visited in a while that holds special memories. Visit it again and talk about the good old days!

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

After your activity, go someplace quiet for dessert or coffee. Take out your lists and exchange them. Take turns talking about the five qualities or characteristics on your respective lists that you cherish about your spouse, and the memories associated with them. When you’re done, answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging. 

Step 4: Home Sweet Home.

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Think about additional ways you can build special memories in the days ahead—and be prepared to add to the list of things you cherish about your spouse as they come to mind. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

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Date 2: Unwrapping the Present

Studies show that the average couple spends only four minutes per day engaged in meaningful conversation. Four minutes! Can couples really expect to foster intimacy with so little time devoted to positive communication?

by Dr. Greg Smalley

Date Night #2—Unwrapping the Present

There is only one rule for being a good talker: learn to listen.—Christopher Morley

In the first of your “3 Dates in 3 Weeks,” you focused on the past—reminiscing about special memories in your relationship and making lists of the things you admire and appreciate about your spouse.

For your second Date Night, you’re going to focus on the present—the here-and-now. This date is all about fostering positive communication in your marriage on a daily basis. Studies show that the average couple spends only four minutes per day engaged in meaningful conversation. Four minutes! That’s about the length of one song on your iPod. Can couples really expect to foster intimacy with so little time devoted to positive communication?

Keep in mind here, the key word is positive. Perhaps you and your spouse do spend more than four minutes a day talking—but what do you talk about? If you’re like most couples, it’s all business: challenges at work, overcrowded schedules, discipline issues with the kids, and other pressing concerns. This type of communication is necessary, of course, but it’s not the way to foster a close bond. It’s more like a business meeting. Over time, spouses can condition each other to believe that it’s not very fun or safe to engage in conversation, because it always results in stress and arguments. And so they give up talking altogether.

Good communication requires an active effort. It involves setting aside time to engage in life-giving conversation that doesn’t revolve around administrating your household and solving problems. Rather, it allows you the opportunity to open up with one another—to share your hearts and to be vulnerable. It fosters closeness and intimacy even as you encounter the challenges of daily life. The goal is to stay current with one another and remain curious about your spouse without letting every conversation devolve into a business meeting.

  DATE NIGHT

Remember: always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Whether you’ve been married two weeks or 20 years, it’s important to “woo” your spouse. Dress up a bit. Wear that nice perfume or cologne. Be polite and open doors. Be affectionate—hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Protect your date night from conflict by setting aside arguments and agreeing to talk about those issues at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Do something fun.

Remember, couples who engage in fun, interesting and new activities report higher levels of overall marital satisfaction. Consider one of the following pursuits, or plan your own: 

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

After your activity, go someplace quiet for dessert or coffee. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging. 

Step 4: Home Sweet Home.

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about other ways you might foster intimacy through regular, meaningful conversation. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Download Printable PDF Here


Date 3: Back to the Future

Now you’re married and juggling a career, childrearing, and a thousand other challenges. Who has time to dream big when you’re stuck in survival mode?

by Dr. Greg Smalley

Date Night #3—Back to the Future

Love is not just looking at each other, it’s looking in the same direction.—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

When you were a kid, you probably had opportunities—whether lying in bed at night or simply looking out the window—to dream big dreams. You envisioned being an astronaut, or a scientist, or a famous singer. But as you got older, those dreams likely gave way to real life and the world of routines and responsibilities. Now you’re married and juggling a career, childrearing, and a thousand other challenges. Who has time to dream big when you’re stuck in survival mode?

But here’s the deal: dreaming—and especially dreaming together, as a couple—can greatly enhance your marital intimacy. There is something beautiful about two souls imagining a future together and then working every day toward that distant vision or goal. Dreaming implies that you anticipate a hopeful future together. And it deepens your level of intimacy and connection because it allows you to look into your mate’s heart. This is the essence of “two becoming one” in marriage! Instead of two people going in different directions and pursuing their own goals, a merging occurs.

Your combined abilities, experiences, and passions create an incredibly God-blessed synergy. As you dream together, you are imagining great works being accomplished for the Lord—through your marriage! As Dr. Neil Clark Warren writes, “Magnificent marriages involve two people who dream magnificently. The partners encourage each other to dig deeper and dream bigger, and in the process they get in touch with a level of being and doing that would otherwise be beyond them.”

This week’s Date Night is all about looking to the future—and dreaming big!

DATE NIGHT

Remember: always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Just because you’re already married doesn’t mean you should stop trying to “woo” your spouse. Put on nice clothes, and wear perfume or cologne. Be polite and open doors. Show affection for one another by holding hands, cuddling and stealing kisses. Set aside arguments and agree to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine.

Step 2: Do something goal-oriented.

Try to come up with an activity that requires setting a goal and working as a couple to achieve it. You want it to be something fun, of course, but also something that you can work on together. For example: 

Step 3: Relax and unwind.

After your activity, go someplace quiet for dessert or coffee. Answer the following questions. Be sure to keep your responses positive, uplifting and encouraging. 

Step 4: Home Sweet Home.

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about other ways you can foster intimacy by “dreaming big” together. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

Download Printable Version PDF


Date Night Ideas

A marriage that can ascend to the heights of intimacy requires careful navigation and routine maintenance.

You know dating your spouse is good for your marriage. But in the midst of raising kids and balancing commitments, have you put dating on the back burner? It's time to save the date! Do something fun together, just the two of you.

The good news is that you don't have to make elaborate plans or spend a ton of money to have a great time together. Take your cue from these creative ideas — compiled from a recent Focus on the Family Facebook contest. With these low-cost (or no-cost), easy-to-plan dates, you can make memories together without blowing your family budget.

Coffee Q&A

One evening my husband took me out on a surprise date. My wheels were turning trying to think of what he was up to when we pulled into Starbucks, ordered coffee and grabbed a table.

I figured we would just sit and chat, catching up on each other's day. To my surprise, he pulled out a stack of 3x5 cards and said we were going to play a little game. He had written a question on each card: What is something your spouse does very well but doesn't know he does well? What is your favorite joke? What's a childhood memory you'll never forget?

One of us would pull a card and read the question. Then the other would answer. We took turns reading and answering until we were at the bottom of the stack. We laughed. We dreamed. We reminisced.

A cup of coffee, some 3x5 cards, and I can honestly say it was our best date ever!

—Emily Peterson, Virginia

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

My husband and I have two little ones, so we don't get much time away together. One great way we enjoy couple time is by spending an evening at home with special food and memories.

I make some of our favorite finger foods to enjoy after the kids go to bed. We lay a blanket on the floor, light a few candles and watch a home movie — our wedding, kids' birthdays, family vacations. We also have old photo albums or yearbooks close by to continue the reminiscing and giggling!

Remembering the happy moments, laughter and tears is the perfect way to reconnect and just be together.

—Lisa Carey, Idaho

Gift Cards & Coupons

My husband and I combine the gift cards and various coupons in our wallets to create our own frugal date night. Using what we've accumulated, we map out all the places we can go to spend our gift cards and coupons. Between stops, we enjoy lots of conversation. This is a great way to have a fun date and clean out our wallets — while keeping the cash!

—Dionne Marriot, Texas

Romance on a Rooftop

One of my favorite dates is when my husband and I climb up onto our roof with some blankets, a radio and a sweet snack. There, under the stars and moonlight, we can talk, snuggle and listen to the radio. It is romantic, free and something we can do anytime, weather permitting.

—April Walker, Florida

Driveway Theater

My husband and I share a love for movies. So I came up with an idea that would allow us to go "out" to the movies for almost no money at all. After we've put the kids to bed, we grab the baby monitor and go to the "Driveway Theatre." With a warm blanket, a couple of sodas from the fridge and a big bowl of popcorn, we watch a movie on our laptop computer while sitting in our car. We take turns picking the feature presentation from a DVD, Netflix or Hulu (since we're still in range of our Internet connection). In our own driveway, we get to experience everything a real date at the theater has to offer—with less cost and more privacy. Plus, I get to wear my pajamas!

—Nikki Stansel, Oregon

Exchanging Vows — Hallmark Style

You would think that, after 10 years of marriage and three children, my husband and I would have said it all. Not true. For date night, we have chosen to spend some time in the card aisle at our local grocery store.

We look the cards over and find one for each other — sometimes humorous, sometimes sweet but never dull. We do not show each other the card we've selected...yet. First, we go to a fast-food place and order sodas. Then we fill out the cards and exchange our most current "vows."

—Sarah Webb, Arizona

Dollar Date

With seven kids between us, date nights for my husband and me are rare treasures that require creativity and planning. Money is always tight in our large household, so recently I came up with the "Dollar Date."

To begin our evening, I suggested a "dollar menu" dinner. We only ordered things that were $1, and our total dinner was six bucks! We then went to the local dollar store and each purchased two treats to share. After that treasure hunt, we headed to the dollar theater and saw a great movie.

We laughed and enjoyed our evening, knowing that we had stayed well within our limited budget. And we had treats left over to share with the kids when we got home!

We will be doing the "Dollar Date" on a regular basis. I love the challenge of planning dates that eliminate the stress of overspending. And I know my thrifty husband appreciates my effort. That doubles the enjoyment of our evenings out!

—Kari Long, Alabama

A Romantic Evening at Home

After arranging to send the kids to Grandma's house for the night, I pick up groceries and flowers from the store. While my wife takes a bubble bath, I cook dinner for her and serve it by candlelight.

Afterward, we enjoy dancing in our living room or watching a romantic comedy while munching popcorn. Eventually we fall asleep in each other's arms while watching the flicker of the fireplace. It's not elaborate, but it's what she likes, and it hardly costs a thing.

—Travis Oran, Florida


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The Nuts and Bolts of Double Dating

Looking for ideas to use when getting to know another couple? Take a look at these double date tips.

by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley

Double dating is an easy, exciting and fun way to invest in another couple — and strengthen your own marriage in the process. You can get together with longtime acquaintances or a couple you've just met, maybe from your neighborhood, church, school, or work. The four of you might simply enjoy a quiet meal together or you may want to try out a new adventure, all the while sharing your stories, your experiences, and your lives. And you don't have to commit to anything beyond one date, though you may have such a great time you end up wanting to get together again and again.

It's not just about hanging out with couples who are in the same stage of life as you, either. In fact, there are three distinct categories of couples to consider as you double date:

Younger Couples

Even if you've only got two or three years of marriage under your belt, there's likely a just-married couple nearby — in your church, at work, or even an extended family member — who would enjoy spending time with a couple just a few years into their marital journey. They can learn from your experience while at the same time feeling like they're on equal footing with you.

Peer Couples

Peer couples are those in the same general stage of life as you. This could include close friends as well as casual acquaintances from church, small group, work, the neighborhood, or your kids' school. There should be no shortage of conversation topics for your double date: the challenges of career, the joys and frustrations of raising kids, common interests, or shared spiritual beliefs.

Older Couples

Whether it's a couple that has been married just a few years longer than you, or one who long ago celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, you might be surprised at how many older couples would relish the opportunity to hang out with young whippersnappers like you! It can be both fun and rewarding to interact with someone who has stood where you now stand. And the older couple can learn from you, as well.

Double Date Activities

Once you've identified some potential couples, it's time to make your double date happen! Use your creativity to identify interesting, interactive and new activities for your double dates. And don't forget that the other couple likely has thoughts to contribute. So put your heads together and have fun! Here are some ideas to get you started:

 

Baseball Game — A warm summer evening at a baseball game might be the perfect double date activity. There's enough going on down on the field that you don't have to feel pressure to fill the entire evening with conversation. At the same time, if you and the other couple do have a lot to talk about, it's perfectly acceptable to ignore the game altogether and just chat. You won't be disturbing your fellow patrons in the same way you would be if you started talking in the middle of a movie or a ballet.

Miniature Golf — Play couple-against-couple or guys-against-girls, or just have a good old-fashioned four-way competition. You can employ the same approach with bowling, darts, and other low-impact sports.

Cooking — This activity comes in handy when your babysitter falls through. Stay home (or go to the other couple's house), set the kids up in the basement with an assortment of toys and games, and spend the evening working as a team to create a culinary masterpiece.

Service Project — Look for volunteer opportunities in your community, and then turn one of them into a double date. This is a great way for couples to give each other a window into the things they feel passionate about (mercy ministry, homeless outreach missions, etc.).

Sharing Hobbies — Do you and your spouse like museums? Do you enjoy hiking? Invite another couple to enjoy that activity with you, and then be prepared to engage in an activity that they enjoy. Have fun expanding one another's horizons.

Tour Group — You'd be surprised at how many people in Colorado Springs have never visited the top of Pike's Peak! Touring local attractions with another couple is a great way to build friendship while experiencing the wonders of the world around you.

Camping — This requires more of a time commitment, and may also necessitate the involvement of your kids. And it's probably not something you'd want to attempt with a couple you barely know. However, under the right conditions, camping can be a great way to deepen your friendship with another couple, only without the time constraints of a two-hour date.

Double Date Discussion

The topics of conversation on your double dates will depend on a number of factors, including how well you know the other couple, and what stage of life each couple is in. Here's a brief list of potential subjects you might explore:

Introductory Information — The usual "conversation starter" topics work well for first-time double-daters. "What do you do for a living?" "Where do you work?" "Describe a typical day in your life." "Tell me about your kids." "What are some of your hobbies and interests?"

Digging Deeper — Take turns telling your love story: how and where your met, what your courtship was like, funny anecdotes from your wedding and honeymoon, and so on. Additional questions might include: "What were your childhoods like?" "Tell us about your families of origin."

Spiritual — If the couple you're double dating shares your faith, then you already have a bond that goes deeper than friendship. Share your personal testimonies. Talk about what God is doing in your lives. Discuss your church experiences (but stay positive!). Ask, "How can we pray for you?"

Giving and Receiving Advice — Perhaps you're struggling with an issue at work that you could discuss with the other couple. Or maybe the other couple is experiencing in-law troubles, and you can offer a friendly word of caution based on your own experience. This doesn't mean your dates should turn into negative venting sessions. But there's nothing wrong with broaching serious subjects.

Parenting — For couples immersed in the childrearing years, it can be tempting to fill every conversation with talk about kids. If you allow this to happen, you'll likely find your dates to be less fulfilling and enriching. But there's certainly nothing wrong with sharing stories, anecdotes and advice about childrearing when appropriate.

Ok, you've got some date night ideas. You've got some conversation topics. So what are you waiting for? Get started by identifying just one couple, at any age or stage of life, and ask them out. As you begin to enjoy the benefits of double dating, you may identify other couples in other life stages. But start with one. Muster your courage, walk up to them, and say, "Do you have any plans on Friday night?" It's as simple as that!