All the former Flourish girls would tell you, along with any of Stephen’s clients, that every Wednesday night is Stephen and Vanessa’s date night. My husband and I have a standing weekly date night on Wednesday’s and have for about five years now. We have only missed a handful and it is something we look forward to with joy.
About five years ago my husband went on a retreat for Christians in Commerce, an organization he belongs too. While there, one of the pastors at the event told him that he needed to work on his marriage. He was shocked to hear this because we both believe our marriage to be one of our biggest blessings in this life, and felt it was rock solid. This was not a pastor who knew us well either…it was just something he felt moved to tell Stephen. With further reflection and conversation at the retreat, Stephen came away with a couple ideas and much advice from those older and wiser. Here’s what he told me when he came home from the retreat.
- Let’s read The Five Love Languages. This book by Gary Chapman was recommended to him by several people there at the event. The same pastor who told Stephen to work on our marriage told him how this book helped him see little ways to love on his wife that spoke volumes to her. Every morning he now makes her a cup of coffee and sets out a donut for her. She feels loved when he does this simple act of service. But they discovered that acts of service like this gesture were important to her or “one of her love languages” by reading this book together.
- Let’s have a weekly standing date night. We did at the time, of course, have the odd date night out. But several of the men at the event suggested upgrading to a standing date night in a habitual way. They shared how the ritual of making time for their spouse and making sure they stayed in communication opened new doors of friendship and intimacy.
At first when Stephen shared all this with me, I felt a little defensive. Our marriage was great I said. But, then I decided to focus on how loving it was that my husband WANTED to invest even more in our relationship and I agreed to give these two goals a shot.
We read the book and filled out the surveys on our next vacation. It was amazing to see how both us had the tendency to try and love the other person the way we wanted to be loved… We were using our preferred love languages, rather than learning the way each of us needed to be loved in turn. Stephen values acts of service, words of affirmation, and physical touch highly….but he places almost no value on gifts. I, on the other hand, value words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts. By growing in this knowledge of one another we grew in understanding on how to better love each other. I could see that when I bought Stephen a new sweater and he seemed only mildly thankful, he just did not understand the time and love I put into the gift…it wasn’t his love language even though it was mine. But conversely, I could see that when I rubbed his back or told him how proud I was of him, that those things really helped him feel loved and cherished. The book ultimately really helped transform our marriage for the better and we reference it all the time to this day.
Date night, too, became a method for continual and purposeful deepening of our marriage. The very first date night Stephen went to great lengths to make it romantic, taking us back to the spot we first met and got married, at Trinity School, and then on to a delicious dinner. Over time we found that our budget and schedules necessitated easier, less extravagant dates. But nonetheless, for the better part of five years now, every Wednesday, we go on a date. (Bless my mom for baby-sitting so religiously).
For several years we almost always went to dinner and a movie. Now with a nursing baby, we more often only get to dinner. But the time spent over dinner is the most important anyway. We turn off our phones. We connect. We talk. We dream together. Sometimes we cry together. And once in a while we even argue…the time alone allows us the chance to bring up conflict that may be residing just under the surface. But it’s the time we need to resolve those issues so it’s just as important as the time spent laughing and loving.
I encourage you to consider a standing date night with your spouse. Life is busy, and you may not feel you have the time. But remember your priorities should rank: God, then your marriage, then your children, then your career, and friends. If you look through your calendar and you are making time for all the other priorities but not your spouse…that’s not a recipe for a strong and fulfilling marriage. Make the time for him/her. You won’t regret it!
Here’s a little document of last week’s date night.