“If you want to have a healthy, thriving marriage,” they say, “you must make it a priority.”
True. Absolutely, completely, and unequivocally true.
“It is essential that you make time for regular date nights and romantic weekends away with your husband.”
That’s where we part ways.
I mean, yes, in an ideal world. No one is a bigger date night cheerleader than I. And as for entire romantic-packed nights away from the kids? Sign me up. But do you know how long it’s been since Dan and I took a vacation alone? I do. I remember exactly — not because I’m a great record keeper or have a good memory (I’m not and I don’t) but because our oldest son had his birthday last week and our last vacation alone together took place right before he was born.
It’s been more than ten years.
When our huge-hearted friends Hannah and Valerie first came to watch the kids for us nine or so months ago I made a comment about how this was the first time we’d gone out on a date in over two years. Oh, girls, you should have seen their gorgeous eyes widen. They are the cutest.
But it was true.
Since making that comment we’ve gone out together alone countless times thanks to their generosity and have savored each and every second. But our marriage doesn’t rely on date nights. It benefits from them, sure, but its health is not dependent upon them.
I was thinking about all of this the other day after I read an email from a sweet gal who confided to me that it had been a very long time since she and her husband had been out on a ‘real’ date. She said that her husband works long hours and that they are currently pinching pennies — as so many of us are. They have a passel of little ones (including a baby) who make it difficult to get out of the house without the babysitter they can’t really afford, and they have no family in town. She was worried that this date-less season in which they find themselves might cause their marriage to suffer. She feared it might mean that they weren’t doing enough to make their marriage a priority.
I don’t think she has a thing to worry about. It wasn’t hard to see — even from our brief exchange — that she and her husband are deeply in love and committed to their marriage. They make it a point to connect regularly and spend lots of one-on-one time together . They just have to be a little more creative than couples who have more freedom and flexibility. Romantic time for them these days demands frugality and ingenuity.
I know that people who exhort couples to spend time alone out of the house are only trying to help and their advice is excellent for those who can can follow it, but as a woman who has spent a lot of time dating my husband within the walls of my own home, I’d like to offer a different kind of encouragement.
Here’s what I’d like to say to all you adorable adoring wives out there who are trying to cultivate love and romance amidst difficult circumstances:
When you’re going through lean times, financially-speaking, and yet spend hours thinking about frugal ways to have romantic stay-at-home date nights, you are making your marriage a priority.
When you write your husband love letters because you can’t afford to buy him a gift, you are making your marriage a priority.
When you can’t afford fine lingerie, and so have no choice but to show up for romantic rendezvous of the more intimate variety in your birthday suit alone, you are making your marriage a priority.
When your husband seems embarrassed that he can’t afford to take you out for a night on the town and you assure him that all you want is to be with him — anytime and anywhere, you are making your marriage a priority.
When your husband is struggling with depression or other illness and can’t find the energy or desire to take you out and you choose to shower him with love and mercy in spite of your disappointment and hurt, you are making your marriage a priority.
When you dig down deep to find ways to love your husband and cultivate romance in spite of all exhaustion, frustration, and financial limitation, you are making your marriage a priority.
When you worry about whether you are making your marriage a priority? You are making your marriage a priority.
I’m not denying that time spent alone with your husband (outside of the house) is a worthy goal if you can swing it. But date nights are not the be all and end all of marriage. And certainly not a prerequisite to having a strong, healthy union.
Do know what is a prerequisite to having a thriving marriage? Faith, a spirit of self-sacrifice, and a heart full of love. From what I’ve seen, you girls are all over that.
So be at peace. I’m just as sure as sure can be that when God sees you pouring love into your marriage in spite of all hardship that he smiles a God-sized smile in your direction. After all, you are living out a true sacrificial love story, and that’s his favorite kind, I hear.