Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Thoughts: Date Night 2013

For the record, no it’s not that we have one date night a year and this is about 2013. It’s just that these are thoughts about the subject of having a “date night” and it’s 2013.

There are two errors that I think couples fall into when it comes to “date nights” once the relationship is established. The first is this: calling every thing you do with just the two of you “date night.” I think that’s a mistake, because in the long run, it leaves you without special moments.

To illustrate, let’s consider the Hibbard family for a few moments. My wife, Ann, is currently working from home for Home Educating Family, a homeschool resource. I do school from my computer, and much of my study-related work as a pastor can be done from home as well. In short, there’s no real dividing line around here between “home,” “work,” “school,” and even “church.” It all kind of blends together.

So, Ann and I could be home, with the kids in bed or off doing their own thing, and be working. Or we could be doing necessary household chores, like cleaning or cooking or plotting the meal for the family Thanksgiving Feast. We also have several times that we travel to do work or run errands, and do it with the kids with someone else. (We don’t leave them home alone, yet.)

To label any moment it’s just the two of us “date night” gets a little odd, then. Because a “date night” isn’t just about the absence of other people. It’s about the presence of focus on one another.

That’s the key: focus on one another.

The other danger is not to have any form of regular “date” time with your significant other, be it spouse, fiancé, whatever. That often creeps in because we’re busy, or we’re broke, or we’re distracted, or we’re so-in-love-that-we-don’t-need-that-kind-of-thing.

Nonsense on it all, I say. Your schedule may prohibit using the same-bat-time, same-bat-channel every week system, but you can, and should, intentionally spend time focused on your spouse.

Remember, that’s what this is about: intentional focus on one another.

Too busy, you say? You might be too busy for one long spot of time. I’ll buy that in certain seasons of life. Adjust. Make a few small spots throughout the week, then, that are no-phone/no-social media focus times. You can’t carve out 3 15 minute segments in a week? Then you might be too busy to have a spouse. That will catch up to you eventually—so de-busy.

Too broke? You know what we do for date night? Make sure the kids are in bed with books by 645, and cook something just for us. It’s sometimes been a special meal bought just for the night, it’s sometimes something from ingredients on hand, it’s been leftovers prepared a certain way. The leftover bit? Have barbecue sandwiches early in the week, then make barbecue nachos for date night.

And then talk. Play a board game. Play cards. Stream free TV replays off the Internet. The cost factor can be next to zero, except for time and intent.

Remember what this is about? Intentional focus on one another. Can it be about movies or TV shows? Sure. But the goal is focus on one another, not checking things off the cultural update list.

Too distracted? That’s an issue you need to address. If you’re a parent, you may have some time of helping your children understand that the “date night” partition means Mommy and Daddy need to be left alone except for a major emergency. And no, your thirst is not an emergency. This requires both wisdom and flexibility on your part—a ten-year-old can grasp this, a ten-month-old cannot. But as parents, make it your goal to meet your child’s needs and then get back to your own.

You are, after all, still parents. You are a couple first, though, and that’s often how you got the parenting gig. So don’t blow the job that got you the second responsibility, ok?

Other distractions need to be minimized. Remember waiting for letters? Guess what: texts and emails can often wait, too. Make a point of it. Turn off the phone if need be, and turn it back on at an agreed moment to double-check things.

And disengage from social media altogether.All night. There is a one-in-a-million chance that you will miss a once-in-a-lifetime status. You can live with that.

Don’t need it? Hogwash. You need to build on your relationship.

What do we do?

Whatever makes you both happy. Maybe it’s watching movies. Playing games. Maybe you like to make crafts together. Try and generally do things that both of you enjoy—don’t only do the trade-off “This week, we do your thing, next week we do mine.” That works for some of it, but you find yourselves being spectators rather than participants.

And don’t make it all about sex. I’m not typically open about sex on this blog, but let me make this clear: good sex follows a good relationship. Date night is not about the one night a week you have sex. It’s about the time you spend to build your relationship so that the sex is good whenever it happens.

The other thing I hear is this: Why would we do this? We’ll get on each other’s nerves!

Married people, listen up: if you are married, then you better learn to spend time together not on each other’s nerves. Maybe you need to build up in bite-size increments, but you live together and you are committed for life.

Might be wise to not want to end that life just to get out.

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