When our boys were younger, my husband Gene and I would schedule date nights and scramble to get a sitter. Then we’d head out for a movie, concert, or dinner at a nice restaurant. We heard that scheduling these outings would keep our marriage healthy and give us the respite needed from the constant demands of parenthood.
While we appreciated being entertained or the luxury of being served a meal, I couldn’t see how these dates were helping our marriage. I remember one night in particular when they actually seemed to be doing more harm than good. We were in the grocery store parking lot after our date, and I found myself frustrated and angry. We’d rushed out, gone to the movie, and then had to do errands before we hurried back to relieve the sitter. We’d gone through the effort, but something felt missing. We could have stayed home amongst the usual cacophony because we certainly weren’t connecting. And it was exasperating.
I wanted to be seen….not see a movie.
I wanted to be heard….not listen to a concert.
I wanted to feel like I mattered to Gene….not be waited on (although that sure is nice).
We were doing what we were supposed to do, but it wasn’t helping us as a couple. It actually felt like more work, what with the pressure for the evening to be better than just staying home to somehow be worth the money.
So we stopped putting ourselves on the calendar with date nights. But we did attend a weeklong Friends Couple Enrichment workshop. There we learned the spiritual practice of dialoging with your partner. For that week, we put the emphasis on our life as a couple, a game changer for us as parents. Recently, we began training to lead workshops of our own. As part of our training, we decided we wanted to regularly practice what we hoped to teach. So, we put ourselves back on the calendar with a weekly dialogue. On Tuesday nights we don’t go out, we instead tell the kids that we are going to have some private time for a dialogue.
It wasn’t easy at first. We were out of practice. And we were doing this without the benefit of a community to witness us in dialogue. Still, we managed to treat this time as sacred, to start in silent worship and then take turns as either the listener or speaker. We’d reflect back what we thought we heard and check in to make sure we got it. As we got better at the practice, I noticed I wasn’t so angry anymore if the kids interrupted us during the week. I knew we’d have our dialogue night. Plus, the more we learned about each other, the more we wanted to learn. That curiosity now spills over into our regular conversations.
We now have something to look forward to that goes beyond date night and are grateful that Friends Couple Enrichment helped put us back on the calendar.