I've learned there are different seasons in family life. It seems there are weeks that are slower-paced and the waters seem to be calm. And then suddenly the rapids set in. Torrential winds arrive and the speed of life picks up, almost blowing us over day after day, week after week. The faster pace can vary but tends to include travel, work, kids' practices, speech therapy, doctors' appointments, grocery shopping — need I continue — an endless list of activities and responsibilities that keep a mom on the go.
You know what I mean. In this season of raising a family, I can begin to feel lonely and isolated as I chauffeur my kids around. Praise God for the 5 o'clock hour when my husband, Greg, clocks out of his full-time job to share in the family fun!
Although I am learning this will only last for a season in our married life, I understand Greg and I need to make an intentional effort to step away from the steering wheel, grocery cart, laptop and laundry room to connect with each other. It seems that many couples, including Greg and me, get into the rut of just being too tired. We buy into the lie that our time will come later — we can do everything together once the kids graduate and head off to college. Unfortunately, I have seen this untruth destroy marriages. My marriage — and your marriage — needs regular attention, much like my minivan needs regular oil changes and tire rotations.
Because I desire connection with my husband throughout the crazy seasons of family life, I've learned there is one particular thing I can do to stay in sync with Greg. Although I too often desire to pull on my PJ's as soon as I arrive home in the evening, I've committed to put on my party dress and head out the door with my husband by my side. OK, I'll be honest. Sometimes I'm actually wearing the sweats I've had on for the last three days. But date night makes a difference. I've learned from experience that intentional pursuit of my husband is worth the effort. Our marriage is worth it. Our family is worth it.
The little ones in our home sometimes despair when they see Greg and me approaching the front door to leave together. But an extra 10-minute conversation with them, in which I explain the benefits of a date night for Mommy and Daddy, helps to calm them.
So, as a wife, what do you make of date night? I came across some statistics in a recent Redbook magazine on how women view date night. Here are a few of the specifics:
• 23% of women said date night is about romance
• 59% said date night is about getting back on the same page
• 62% of the ladies said they always dress up a little for date night
• 50% say the No. 1 reason date night gets canceled is because they are too tired to go out
Apparently I'm not alone in feeling exhausted and wanting to just stay home. Regardless, this is what I know for sure: Date night helps to maintain our marriage and puts Greg and me back on the same page. Yes, I like the romance part of it, too, but the connection part for me brings the romance.
A few months ago, I felt the distance creeping into my marriage. You know, that feeling you get when you look at your husband and he might as well be on the other side of the Grand Canyon because you have absolutely no idea what he is struggling with or thinking about? I thought about confronting Greg for being too busy and absent from our relationship, but then I decided to take the "back door approach" and invite Greg to join me on a hike.
Whereas women can sit down and have coffee and connect through conversation at an emotionally deep level rather quickly, guys typically do much better connecting emotionally when they are engaged in an activity. The great news in this case was that Greg didn't even realize my true intent for heading out the door. He more or less begrudgingly agreed to walk with me because he, too, was exhausted. But as we walked along a beautiful tree-lined Colorado trail, we began talking and sharing about what had been going on in our individual lives. I asked him questions to get a better understanding of the struggles he was facing. And he asked the same of me. The sun soon began to set and we realized we had to turn around and head home. By that point, I think we could have walked another half a day. We were talking, learning about each other and connected — and Greg had no idea that that's what I was really looking for when we left the house.
Although a hike may not be the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date night, it's something new and adventurous. I encourage you to keep dating your husband. Keep pursuing connection and romance within your marriage, remembering that maintenance may look different in each season of your marriage. Whether it's a party dress or dirty sweat pants, a movie or a hike, I encourage you to just keep doing something!
Your marriage is worth fighting for, in all its changing seasons. It needs continuous maintenance, just like your other best friend — the minivan.
When you feel the distance creeping in and you want to scream, "Return to me!" — plan a date night with your husband. Even better, make it a habit to plan a date night with your husband every week.Erin Smalley serves in the Marriage and Family Formation department at Focus on the Family. Erin is a coauthor of The Wholehearted Wife.