Love in a Season of Want

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on October 17, 2013

Moxie Wife: Love in a Season of Want

“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.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. K October 17, 2013 at 5:41 am

Beautiful post, Hallie. I’ve had some of my favorite date nights with my husband over a bottle of wine at the kitchen table. The other night as I was scurrying about, kids in bed, he plopped champagne glasses on the table. A guranteed great one-on-one celebration with newborn in arms; it was a date to remember with no babysitters necessary. It was Sunday after all and we had “successfully” gone to Mass with our new family of six and met Our Lord in the Eucharist. It was a perfect reason to celebrate, plus a belated toast to our anniversary, without ever leaving the house. I think secular society pressures couples to get out and spend money on “weekly date nights” and this causes financial problems in marriages. I used to believe that routine date nights were essential, but like you wrote, now I find ways to more efficiently and effectively date inside our sweet home. XO Lisa
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Mary October 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

This is so true. I admit, I find it disheartening when I see people pull out weekly or even monthly date nights as the thing that keeps their marriage together or thriving or whatever. We’ve never had that and as nice as it sometimes sounds, I’m not sure I want it. I think of the millions of couples with lovely solid stronger than rock marriages before us that would’ve laughed at the idea of a date night as being necessary to a good marriage. That brings me comfort and helps me realize that while a date night is lovely now and again knowing how I work, I know /I/ would probably get way spoiled if I were treated to one that often and I fear it would plant a little seed of resentment towards my children as being “in the way” of our marriage, you know? Thanks for the encouragement, Hallie!
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Mary October 17, 2013 at 6:31 am

Great advice and very true!
We went 17 years without a date night or trip away, except for birth of my second child (which inspired the idea of homebirths).
The stay home dates and notes go a long way.
Beautifully expressed!
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Sarah in MI October 17, 2013 at 8:22 am

Agreed! Thanks for writing this. My nursing babies agree, too.

mary October 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

Interesting, Interesting…
It’s funny, because I think ‘date nights’ and ‘getaways’ are one of the things that makes the marriage my husband and I share strong. Although I am sure we would do just fine without them, I do love me some going out time and I find these touch bases were essential…especially in the beginning of our marriage.
That being said, I think every couple is VERY different. In the first few couple years of our marriage, things were quiet stressful. I was working in ministry, which took me away from the home at least two or three nights a week, he was taking two classes, we had two babies, etc..etc…
I think God knows what you need and as a couple you have to prioritize what you need to have a thriving marriage. My husband and I, at first, would cut other things, to be able to safeguard our date nights. Now, we make monthly date nights a priority and it is our goal to go away at least once a year overnight (ha- though we are discovering the three in diapers thing makes sitters hard to come by). For us, date nights are the best way to touch base because of our temperaments/flow of marriage, etc…
I’d never say all couples need ‘em, but I would say the ol’ husband and I have discerned we will protect ours to the best of our ability :)
Thanks for the reflection!
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Amelia October 17, 2013 at 9:16 am

Wow, I totally agree. We’ve barely gone out on any dates in 12 years of marriage. Nursing babies, financial difficulties and lack of family nearby will do that.

I like the at-home dates best anyway…more relaxed, no worrying about the kids or getting back home at x time, plus you have more privacy.
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Katie October 17, 2013 at 9:55 am

You are such a charming writer. All well said.
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Amy @ Consecrated Housewife October 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

Good post, and I agree, every time I hear a sermon preached about how you “need” to make a date night once per week or a weekend away once per year or you’re not prioritizing your marriage is off. We’re getting ready to celebrate 15 years and I can name only two times (and one was our honeymoon) where we’ve gone away for a weekend alone. We are blessed to have family nearby but they’re not always available/willing to keep 5 kids while we go out to a movie (and finances aren’t always available either). I love when my husband says “can you put on some popcorn” and we put the kids to bed (tell the older ones to stay in their room) and we get to watch a video together on the couch.

However, I also agree with Mary that if you can make it a priority early on and are able to pull it off that date nights and weekend getaways are great for your marriage. They make special memories for just the two of you. I know plenty of happy couples who attest to the fact that date nights are what keeps their marriage strong and they guard them as such. I don’t think it makes me or my hubby more “holy” to get by without them. God gives each individual couple grace to handle whatever situation or season of life they find themselves. My oldest children are almost to the age where they’ll be able to babysit for their sibilings. Will we be taking advantage of that, you better believe it!
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Mary October 17, 2013 at 10:56 am

I have learned in 25 years of marriage that my husbands love language is service. A hot meal on the table, freshly pressed shirts and a clean bathroom make him so very happy. Happier than a date-night out that happens so rarely in our world due to our circumstances.
Thank you Hallie for once more speaking to my heart and reminding me that simplicity is sometimes the very best thing. Blessings and Grace to you and those you hold dear.
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Hallie @ Moxie Wife October 17, 2013 at 11:03 am

Thanks, Amy, and I completely agree. I don’t believe and would never assert that couples who don’t go on date nights are “more holy.” As I mentioned in the post, my own marriage benefits from date nights and I think the advice is excellent if your circumstances allow. I’m simply responding to the people who say that date nights and weekends away are a prerequisite for a thriving marriage because, as you said, God gives each couple the grace to handle their given situation. :)

Mary October 17, 2013 at 11:13 am

Yes, we are also definitely excited for that time in a few years when we can sneak out at night for a quick date without needing a babysitter! It’ll be like a totally different world!
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Leila October 17, 2013 at 11:21 am

Hallie, great post!
It’s really hard to make the commitment to “make do with less” if that’s what God is asking you to do, and then reap the consequences, like simply not being able to afford going out. You make some great points to show how it can all work.
And it’s hard to commit to taking care of a nursing baby and then feel pressure to leave said baby behind. When you are tending to your infant and not leaving it alone, you are nurturing your marriage! There will be time and opportunity later.
I think you’ve done a great service here to just reduce the stress that all these committed people can’t help feeling :)
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Heather October 17, 2013 at 11:28 am

Hallie, this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Caroline M. October 17, 2013 at 11:50 am

Yep – “every couple is different.” Some of my best memories of me and my husband are of just driving in the car on one of the many long trips up and down the East Coast which we’ve had to take. For other people that might sound like hell. Whatever works….
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Caroline M. October 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

Hallie, this is truly my favorite of all your posts, which is really saying something! This emphasis on dating as a panache reminded me of the wonderful Victorian novel Middlemarch – have you ever read it? Two of the main characters end up in a loveless marriage which they entered for selfish reasons. Lydgate (who I actually like as a character) did love Rosamond, but he was more interested in professional success and having a feminine “cherub” at home to greet him. Rosamond was just a gold digger. There comes a time when Lydgate realizes that a loving couple could laugh over their shabby furniture if they love each other. The trappings are really just that….
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Mrs. K October 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm

We just did an 11 hour road trip with newborn and three other kids 7 and under. It was one of our best dates ever. The early morning coffee together, the baby’s playlist that my hubby carefully created for ten months, and just chatting or enjoying the music. Falling in love all over again with no babysitter needed.
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Kaitlin @ More Like Mary October 17, 2013 at 12:54 pm

It’s like you wrote this just for me. Thanks.
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Rachel October 17, 2013 at 1:08 pm

This is a fantastic post! It rings true on so many levels. My husband and I are constantly getting comments that we NEED a date night and that we NEED to leave our baby to have a good marriage. I get so frustrated because we do have a good marriage and we are perfectly happy with the way things are during this season of our lives. We aren’t ready to leave our baby with a sitter yet the dates we can afford to go on (going out for ice cream or for a walk) are with our baby and we love them.

Granted, we’ve only been married for a little over 2 years, so it’s good to hear from someone who’s been married longer and has had more children :-)
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Kat Crow October 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Yes! This post is spot on and I am going to use it at a talk my hubby and I are giving at our married couples fellowship group.

Amanda October 17, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Wonderful. I so appreciate reading this! Our first is just 3 months old and frankly I’m not ready to leave her. I’m a committed breastfeeding mom and honestly am not even a fan of doing pumped milk in bottles for her, since I’m not in a situation where I *have* to leave her for long stretches of time, and my husband is committed to supporting me as a breastfeeding mom. I find it discouraging when well-meaning people insist that we must leave the baby (and started insisting this from the first weeks of her life) and go out for dates or else we’re not putting our marriage first. The implicit accusation that I’m somehow doing wrong by my husband and marriage by not being willing to leave her with a sitter yet is hurtful and upsetting to feel like I’m supposed to pit the needs of my daughter against the needs of our marriage, even though I know it’s not meant that way. I just feel like it doesn’t have to be a situation where I’m choosing or ranking baby above marriage if I’m not leaving her with a sitter to go out on the town. Especially since she’s our only one right now, at-home date nights are a breeze–she’s usually asleep by around 7:30 and we can enjoy wine, board games, movies, whatever we’d like all from the comfort of home and without having to worry if the baby is doing ok without us. Thank you for this great piece showing that it is possible to put your marriage/spouse first even if you’re not leaving the house!

Laurie October 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Rachel,

I wanted to offer you encouragement. My wonderful husband and I have been married for coming up on 23 years, have been blessed with seven children to raise (and 3 praying for us in Heaven), have a rockin’ marriage that we both value as the greatest treasure next to God’s love. We’ve mostly nurtured our marriage through “at-home” dates. They are our favorites!

Our season of life is changing as our youngest is now 8 and our oldest is 22. Home-grown babysitters, a little more wiggle-room in our budget, no more “how could you leave me 4-year-old tears”, etc. have allowed our date nights to move outside of the home more often. We’ve even been able to go away for a long weekend thanks to grandparents. I LOVE those “away” times but our “bread and butter” nurturing g0-to-date is still at home. (We put the littles to bed and warn the olders that we are commencing an at-home date and are not available so don’t knock! They never dare, either! haha!)

Enjoy each season of your marriage in the way that best works for you and your hubby. What a gift marriage is! Enjoy the journey!

Peace,
Laurie

Tina Dzurisin October 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hallie, this post just fills me with joy and gratitude! Thank you for writing it. We are in a different season of marriage (although I suppose it is our own kind of season of want) — we are praying and longing for the babies that will keep us at home! — but the lesson holds: The world’s prerequisites for a rewarding marriage are not necessarily the Lord’s. Your words also remind me to savor this stage for however long it lasts, even if it lasts longer than we imagined it would.

Lynn October 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Yes, my husband and I are just like this as well. We always find it strengthens our marriage so much to do regular date nights and have always made them a priority!

Which is why I found Hallie’s post so encouraging. We have recently been hit with medical bills and other dire financial issues, and now we’re struggling to put dinner on the table each week. I want to cry every time I think about Christmas presents for the kids. Needless to say, date nights are totally impossible for us right now, and will be for a long time to come. I’m so happy to see a post that reminds us that God can still lead us to have a thriving marriage, as long as we put him and not attachments to date nights first! Thanks Hallie for a super inspiring post!

Martha@RomancingReilly October 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I already told you this, but I needed this more than I knew. Thank you again, Hallie.
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Kate @ The Rhodes Log October 18, 2013 at 9:59 am

I’ve spent some time thinking about this topic because of my husband’s extended family who are old order Mennonites. They NEVER go on dates, they certainly don’t have lingerie, and they also don’t display affection publicly, so I wonder often about their marriage dynamics. I observe the older ones and talk at length with newlywed friends about their desires and struggles to love their husbands well. Over the years within the community I’ve seen examples of the dearest of marital relationships despite how unfamiliar those marriages look.

I always come back to a thought about their first moments together as husband and wife and the intimacy shared when a man first sees the woman he married with her hair down.

But don’t get me wrong…Plenty of them would really do well for some weekends away with their men…and maybe some liquor.
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Lynda October 18, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Thank you for this post. I receive your blog updates through email but have never commented, but I had to mention that I appreciate you adding the part about caring for a husband who suffers from depression. I had many, many expectations in my head of what marriage would be like, but 1 year after my daughter was born, about 4 years into our marriage, my husband started a season of deep, dark depression… that was nearly 3 years ago. Since then, all of my “dreams” of date night, even my needs for intimacy, among other things, have been thrown out the window… now its hard not to roll my eyes at the mention of these types of things when just getting a positive comment from my husband is exciting! I’m praying that this is just a season in our lives/marriage and we will one day get to enjoy the date nights that other couples do. But, until then, I will “choose to shower him with love and mercy in spite of disappointment and hurt”, just like you said. Thanks again!

Mary L. October 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

We took our first weekend away, since our honeymoon last August. My daughter arranged it…to celebrate 33 years of marriage! After 11 children this was a wonderful time for us! (Our oldest, 30-down to our youngest- recently turned 6 year old.) I agree with what you have written. We have enjoyed mostly at-home date nights throughout all these wonderful years together too. (We didn’t have to leave our babies to ‘get away’ either.)

anna lisa October 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Yes, some of our best dates have been on the beach, with a bottle of wine, and the kids playing happily, engrossed in the beauty they we were *all* sharing in. The bounty of God is *free*.
My husband and I never left our baby for longer than a few hours because they were breastfed.
I don’t regret that my husband and I couldn’t travel to exotic places *alone*. We made that sweet sacrifice for 25 straight years, (our oldest is 26, our youngest is four). We did get creative with finances to take them places with us.
By the time my oldest was in H.S., I had a built in baby sitter *all* the time, though my fifth grade daughter was my go-to, with the boys watching her watch the baby.
Before that I reluctantly would spend my last dollar to have a girl help me, even though I initially resisted.
Today, I’m alone in Las Vegas with my husband who is on business. This has got to be one of the most appalling places on earth–truly a shrine to hedonism. Seeing a couple of sweet families with little children at the pool was such a relief to me! I wished I could have realized how blessed I was, in the moment when I was chasing toddlers, and trying to breastfeed discreetly, while trying to enjoy time at the pool.
So yesterday, while my husband was in meetings I read by the pool–something it seems I’ve waited a *lifetime* for. Luckily I had good reading material, but by noon, I was so bored out of my mind I thought it was almost four pm! I’m not kidding–it was a strange form of torture. If I could have pressed a button, I would have teleported my whole, messy, embarrassing, slew of kids over to save me from it all.

Britt October 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Hallie, this post is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it. I think it is so easy to get caught up in what others think you should do to have a successful marriage – date night being one that we hear a lot. Thanks for the reassurance that it is nice but not always necessary!

Genie October 19, 2013 at 10:14 am

Thank you Hallie for this post. We have six kids with no family around. I too have felt the pressure to go out for dates. After thinking back about how our relationship was before we got married, I realized that my husband and I have always wanted to just spend a lot of time alone talking or hanging out with our friends. We have never been the type to go out a lot and try different types of date nights. Once I realized this, it gave me a lot of peace and that pressure has gone away. I have always just loved being with my husband. Now that we don’t have as much time together because of the kids, I cherish our time even more, and have no problem that we are at home spending our time together.

Jenny October 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

This is beautiful. I almost cried- and I’m not a crier. Thank you!

Kierstin October 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I completely agree! I actually dislike “date nights”….I feel like there’s too much pressure, like I have to enjoy this time because we’re spending money and need to utilize the time alone. My grandma always says if you’re kind and considerate there’s nothing to “make up for” by having date nights, and I agree, at least for myself and my husband.

Melody October 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm

I love this post, Hallie. Love it. And I want to add a word to all mamas who are swimming in little people, open to life, and longing for the date nights that you so lovingly sacrifice: This is only one season. One day your littles will grow big and they will babysit… and you will go on walks around the block with your husband in the moonlight. And you’ll lean against your 12-passenger van, reluctant to go in… and he’ll kiss you like he means it and you’ll cry with happiness. Don’t worry, they’ll call you on the phone when the baby needs you. Oh, and one more thing. It goes by fast and you’ll be there in the blink of an eye. Don’t wish this moment away.
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Marie October 21, 2013 at 12:57 am

Wonderful post! My hubby is an athlete and eats a super-clean diet, so no restaurants for us. If I want a restaurant meal, I go out with girlfriends while he stays home and cooks a simple meal for the kids. Our date nights consist of putting the kids to bed, and painting a room, re-arranging furniture or some other household job while listening to music softly playing in the background as we work together and talk. Crossing-off a job on the “honey do” list is the greatest aphrodisiac!

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