Was that a dream? Was that a former life? Now that you have a busy job, church and community commitments, and young kids, planning a romantic and fun date with your wife maybe be one of the furthest things from your mind.
If you only imagine a date night to be dining at a five-star restaurant, hiring an expensive babysitter, and heading to the theater for a Broadway show, very few of us would ever be able to go! But what if we defined “date night” by havingintentional time with your spouse (without your children!)?
This is an area in which we as husbands can grow to be more loving and sacrificial leaders. And as we do, our marriages will grow stronger and sweeter.
God’s word calls you to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). This is one facet of your relationship where you can live that out.
Here are six specific ways you can take the lead in making those intentional times together a reality — and a joy.
To have intentional time with your wife, it’s best that you both be awake and alert. I know that’s hard to come by when you have young kids. So one thing you can do as a husband is make sacrifices for your wife’s sleep.
If you can get up with the crying baby at night, or give your wife some down time in the early evening by cleaning up after dinner or putting the kids to bed, that will make your intentional times together more meaningful. Exhaustion is a common hurdle, especially for moms.
What can you do to bear some more of that burden?
Of course, it’s not just young kids that contribute to a couples’ exhaustion. It’s also our out-of-control schedules. We need some realism in our planning in order to safeguard the margin we need to have intentional times together.
Perhaps you’re active and ambitious. You probably have a hobby or two. Nothing wrong with that. You’re probably also an involved father. That’s important! And you may be significantly involved with your church family. Also a valuable commitment. But if your career goals, hobbies, children’s activities, and church calendar are running you (and your wife) ragged, then something needs to change.
Take the lead in saying no to some stuff. Prioritize the most important things. And then say no to a few things, even if it means lagging behind the Joneses.
There’s something romantic about remembering. Sometimes we will watch our wedding video (which has now made the journey from VHS to DVD to MP4). Other times we’ll leaf through a photo album or watch short iMovie projects I’ve made of special trips we have taken. From time to time, I’ll pull out one of my journals from the late 90s when we were dating and engaged.
After changing a dirty diaper or cleaning spit-up off your shirt, it’s fun to escape to that former life.
4. Remove Distractions
Our electronic devices can make it difficult to have a sustained and significant conversation. If a text message appears on the screen, a phone call comes through, or if the television is on, it will be hard to really focus on one another. We enjoy looking at Facebook and Twitter, and relaxing by watching Netflix. But we also know that sometimes all of that needs to be turned off.
A messy house might also be a hindrance to intentional time together. If your entire house is covered in piles of laundry and stacks of papers, and the kids have left their Legos all over the place, that’s going to make it difficult to focus on each other.
Take some time to think about your home, and any house projects you might need to tackle, so that it can be a haven, a retreat, a place for you to enjoy being together. When we moved into our current house, the master bedroom had wallpaper that looked like something you’d see in a nursing home cafeteria. Not very relaxing or romantic. So I removed it and painted the room with a nice color my wife picked out.
5. Remove Yourselves
Most of us know that the piles of laundry and stacks of paper will never completely go away. We’ve seen some folks who, even with several kids, are able to remain extremely organized. But we’re not those people. So it’s important for us to remove ourselves from the home periodically.
This is what we would call the traditional “date night.” A couple times a month we get out for a special evening together. It’s usually nothing extravagant. The main thing is simply intentional time together without the kids. And again, this is a great way to take the lead.
Instead of waiting for your wife to drag you out on a date, you take the initiative. Give it some forethought. Arrange for the babysitter. Study your wife to know what she would enjoy. And come up with some ideas ahead of time, so that you’re not stuck asking each other, “What do you want to do?”
I wouldn’t call myself an expert at romance. But I do think I’m learning to really listen to my wife. And I think she finds that romantic.
When I look into her eyes and remain attentive to the things she wants to tell me about her day, about her struggles, about her joys, it deepens the bond between us. Most men aren’t wired this way. I’m not. So it requires some effort and sacrifice. You can’t talk about yourself all the time. And you can’t look at your phone or the television or a book all the time. You need to look into your wife’s eyes, listen carefully, and ask follow-up questions that show her you really care. And then speak words of encouragement, compassion, truth, and love.
Date night may feel like a thing of the past. It will at least look very different during a season of intense child-rearing. But don’t let it slip away altogether. Enjoy the exciting and exhausting ride of work, ministry, kids, and activities. But make sure there’s margin for intentional, face-to-face time with your wife.
Show her your love by making sacrifices to keep those date nights alive.
This post originally appeared for the Desiring God blog here on Feb. 23, 2016.