What's so important about a date night?

5 min
Nicky and Sila Lee
Authors of The Marriage Book

To deprive a marriage of time spent together is the equivalent of depriving a person of air or a plant of water. Some plants can survive longer than others, but eventually they wilt and die.  

Rob Parsons, founder and chairman of Care for the Family, describes what he calls “the great illusion”:  

You can run several agendas in life, but you cannot run them all at a hundred per cent without somebody paying a price . . . We have so many excuses. The main one is that we convince ourselves a slower day is coming. We say to ourselves, “When the house is decorated, when I get my promotion, when I pass those exams – then I’ll have more time.” Every time we have to say, “Not now, darling…” we tell ourselves it’s okay because that slower day is getting nearer. It’s as well that we realise, here and now, that the slower day is an illusion – it never comes. Whatever our situation, we all have the potential to fill our time. That’s why we need to make time for the things that we believe are important – and we need to make it now.1

The former Beatle, Paul McCartney, and his late wife Linda, despite the pressures of fame, were very particular about making time to be together. Hunter Davies, their friend and biographer, recalled that Paul had decided that there were two things that were most important to him: being with his family and playing music.  

He was willing to go backwards, to start where he had begun, playing in local halls, college campuses. It struck me as so mature, so clever, so adult, to realise that and act upon it. And so Wings was born, putting his two passions in life together. He would take Linda and the children on tour with him all around the country, sleeping in caravans if need be. Naturally the critics were horrible to Linda, criticising her musical skills or lack of them, and were snide about Paul, saying how stupid to drag her round. Wings weren’t all that brilliant at first, but they got better, learned and improved together. Just as they did in their marriage.2

Time together with the people who matter most does not just happen. It requires a deliberate and determined decision. Before they get married, most husbands and wives contrive to spend every available minute together. Gary Chapman, bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages, describes it well:  

At its peak, the “in love” experience is euphoric. We are emotionally obsessed with each other. We go to sleep thinking of one another. When we rise that person is the first thought on our minds. We long to be together . . . When we hold hands, it seems as if our blood flows together . . . Our mistake was in thinking it would last forever.3

We have been led to believe that, if we really are in love, such emotions will never fade. Psychologists’ research, however, indicates that this state only lasts an average of two years. After that a couple can no longer rely solely upon their feelings. They must choose to put each other first.

In marriage, time together can quickly cease to be a priority. As we are living under the same roof, we all too easily think that we no longer need to coordinate our diaries; we can begin to take each other for granted. However, we are convinced that married couples need to continue planning special times for each other. The effort that went into meeting when we first fell in love, the anticipation, the excitement, the variety of times and places all added to the pleasure. If once we’re married we continue to make time for each other, the romance will be kept alive, we shall have the chance to communicate effectively and our understanding of each other will deepen. The regularity and nature of this time together will create the fabric of our relationship over a lifetime.  

In our own marriage we have sought to set a pattern of fixed times for one another. What is possible and workable will vary for each couple, but we know that without such a pattern we would have failed to spend enough time together to stay closely connected. When people ask us for one thing that a couple could do to keep their marriage alive and their love growing over the years, our answer would be this:  

Plan a regular time every week of at least two hours to spend alone together, to relax, to do something you both enjoy and to have fun.  

We, like many couples, call this our “date night”, although our weekly date will not always be in the evening. This time is intended to be different from the other hours spent together during the rest of the week. An evening at home can so easily become just another night when the bills are paid, the broken door handle is mended or the ironing is done. These dull domestic necessities are an inevitable part of married life, but if we only meet around the bank statement or the toolbox, meaningful communication will be stifled and our love will struggle.  

Carefully planned time together rekindles romance in a marriage. Exhausting organisation is not required: candles on the table, music in the background, ordering a takeaway (to give the cook a break) and putting phones away are all that is necessary. These times should be fun and memorable. We could go to the cinema or out for a meal. In fact, not setting the bar too high on what we do and where we go makes a weekly pattern more easily sustainable. It is time to hold hands, time to laugh, time to enjoy being together and, above all, time to talk. This is the time to share our hopes and fears, excitements and worries, struggles and achievements. Such sharing builds intimacy. It’s simple but very powerful.