Working Date Nights

My husband and I started having regular date nights as a married couple when our oldest was 6 months old. Our pastor strongly encouraged the husbands to set up dates with their wives to be intentional in spending time together. At the time, we were in a college church and there were only 5-6 married couples. Fortunately (for us) he also encouraged the single students to babysit for free as a ministry.

At first my husband didn’t really see the need. But being the good submissive man that he is, he was willing to trust that there was something in this he was seeing and we made it a plan.

When we started, we were in grad school with a new baby. Kevin worked 12-16 hour days 7 days a week, so he was gone ALL THE TIME. I began to feel that we were drifting apart; that he no longer knew who I was. God was teaching me things but I never had the time to share with Kevin. Date nights were a wonderful blessing for us!

We spent the first 6 months doing, what I call, Working Dates. We took our bible, our notebook and pen and the $.69 we had in our monthly date budget!! That paid for a small soda at Burger King (with free refills and 2 straws) WHEN we splurged for a treat (which was not often).

Mostly we went somewhere that we could talk privately and do the WORK of building our marriage.

During the week I would write out all the IMPORTANT THINGS that were going on in my life and heart. I seldom had time during the week to talk about the important things because the URGENT things crowded out the important.

If you have never read The Tyranny Of The Urgent, this is a MUST READ for everyone! I read this book back in 1978 and it changed my life.

Back to our dates. I would write out the things going on in my life. The concerns with the children, with my walk with the Lord, with things we were miscommunicating about in our marriage. Some of the things I wrote out were positive things, some were negative, some were neutral but important to me.

On our dates, we would start at the top and work through what was in the notebook until our time was up. We usually didn’t get through everything, but I knew it would get addressed the following week(s). It’s amazing how much you can put up with when you KNOW the time will come for your concerns to be addressed!

This went on for 6 months. We didn’t do *fun* stuff, we didn’t do *activities*. Not that we could afford it anyway; we simply worked to BUILD our marriage. We talked and we talked and we prayed and we prayed and we made plans on how to deal with concerns. We put issues on the calendar so we didn’t forget to revisit them. Sometimes we had to postpone something that was stressful for us to discuss. This would be so we COULD PRAY and have God’s heart when we next discussed it.

Those early years of Working Dates set the tone for our marriage.

We didn’t want to allow things to go unresolved – at least not without realizing we were putting it on a back burner TEMPORARILY. We used the calendar as our reminder of when to bring something back up.

  • We worked hard not to have any *delayed bombs*. You know, those things that REALLY bug us but we stuff and stuff until one day it EXPLODES and the spouse has no idea why it was such a volatile issue. We worked to discuss right away when something bothered us. It didn’t always work, but having it as a goal really helped to keep them to a minimum.
  • We worked hard not to discuss deep things during a confrontational time. For example, if I was bugged by something Kevin did or said, I wouldn’t bring it up while we were in the middle of a heated discussion. I would wait and discuss it during a calm Working Date, making sure it was in The Notebook so I could discuss it without emotional charge.
  • We worked hard to avoid saying: “you always”, or “you never”. These are not helpful and usually not true! We tried to say, “I felt” or “my emotional response was”. This put the emphasis on ME (and my response, whether right or wrong) rather than on HIM (and what he might – or might not – have done wrong).
  • We worked hard for me not to boss him around. I’m a strong and decisive personality. He is not. It is easy for me to just plunge right ahead and make a decision without consulting or considering what he wants. I worked hard to adjust how I said things so I didn’t come across as bossy.

Because I can be abrasive, I worked hard to come up HOW I could say things to Kevin that was neither nagging nor pushing his button. I would often ask him, “How could I say this without irritating you or without coming across as a nagging wife?” That actually became a GREAT tool for our marriage! It helped Kevin think through what I said that irritated him and still give me the voice I needed to express things to him. And it was a protection for me. He couldn’t very well get bugged if I said what he told me to say! 😉

All-in-all, our Working Dates really set our marriage on firm footing. Starting this early on helped us avoid some serious pitfalls and from building harmful habits. And this pattern helped us learn while we walked through some of the hard trials in our marriage.

What do YOUR date nights look like? Are you more centered in eating or playing than in actually building your marriage? Do you have the equivalent of our Working Dates? If not, do you think that your marriage could benefit from a time to work through your personal struggles? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Linking to:
A Handful of Heart, The Better Mom, Sharing In His Beauty, Monday Musings, Domestically Divine, Time Warp Wife, Encouraging One Another, Women Living Well, Winsome Wednesday, Raising Homemakers, Wise Woman Builds Her House, Marital Oneness

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  1. Hi Kate – its great you guys figured out a way early on to cope and build in your marriage. Great encouragement. I’d like to add (for my sake too 🙂 ) that it is never to late to learn new ways of coping and overcoming marital issues. You have given me some great ideas.
    God bless and so glad you linked up again. Look forward to seeing you next week 🙂

    • Hey Tracy! You are ABSOLUTELY right — it is never too late to work on our marriages! God is in the job of redemption and, no matter what mistakes or problems we’ve had in the past, by His grace and strength we can work to make real changes TODAY!

  2. Thank you, Kate! I enjoyed your walk through your early marriage and it is never to late to use some of your ideas even now in my marriage. I too want to be a Titus 2 follower and I like the fact of being reminded that sometimes my response to my husband is critical and snooty and also naggy. God bless you for sharing!

    • Thanks, Kathy. Every one of us get those convictions from the Spirit…those insights into the times and ways we blow it, when we respond in our flesh. PRAISE THE LORD that He doesn’t leave us there!! I’m so glad you came by.

  3. Such great truth here! — I have read Hummel’s book — it is a must read for all. Thank you for your wise advice. 🙂

    • Thanks, Lyli! I give that booklet out very frequently!

  4. What a great idea! Working Date Nights. We recently just started having date nights, and it has brought us so much closer. We really need our ‘us’ time sans kids. Our hope is that if we keep investing in each other then one day when the kids are gone, we will still have things to laugh about and just love being together. Thanks for sharing your insights!!

    • Boy you are so right, Alecia! It is critical to build that relationship together NOW so you grow together and not apart.

  5. A thought-provoking post, as usual!

    The book looks intriguing…I’ve never heard of it before. I did a quick search on Amazon and it looks perfect for me. I think each major transition in my life has given me difficulty because it’s hard to categorize my “to do” list. We now have three children, and the laundry or dishes seem to end up at the top of my list every time, imagine that! I’m thinking of getting this book to read together with my husband and discuss on date night. We have different ideas of how to prioritize, imagine that! Would this book be a good tool to discuss and get to know each other better in this area?

    • Hi Laura…yes it would be WONDERFUL!!! In fact, I was just at a staff retreat for a ministry I’m involved with and handed it out to all of them. Another thing I’d recommend is you and your husband filling out The Chart. I found it very helpful in my own and I share it with other women I counsel/mentor.

      How is that teeny baby of yours? Time is flying by…has it been 6 weeks already?? Be blessed dear! It is always a delight to hear from you!

  6. I really enjoyed the blog! Very insightful information!

    • Thank you so much! I’m blessed that you stopped by.

  7. My husband and I do that every week we have our date night we did it before we got married and now we continue to do it being married. THis way you don’t lose the excitement before the family and all the other things which comes with marriage…Glad to hear you too are doing this as well…

    • Amen, sis!!

  8. Kate…our date night is usually a night out since our children are older. Mostly, its an inexpensive dinner and important discussion time with laughs thrown in. Sometimes, we get a free movie and add that on as a treat. But back in the day, we had to be creative with little ones around. We did devotionals and stayed home more. I just believe that however your date time looks, it should focus on your marriage and how to keep it healthy and centered on God. Thank you for such an encouraging post and for linking up at What Joy Is Mine.

    • You are SOOO right! “It should focus on your marriage and how to keep it healthy and centered on God.” Perfect!

  9. This is a great idea. We have monthly date nights and they are normally just a time to relax together and talk. Every once in a while we’ll do an activity, but it’s mostly eating together so we can still talk about all the things we haven’t had time to talk about. I love the idea of a notebook!

    • Thanks Allyson. The notebook idea was borne out of my POOR memory!! It was so helpful for me to write down something that I wanted to talk about while I was folding laundry or changing a diaper. That way I’d ALWAYS get to discuss it.

      Thanks for stopping by. Your blog is so helpful and informative!! I’m following it!

  10. my husband and i have had date nights since we were dating and felt it was so important to keep it up in our marriage. even with no kids yet, the busy weeks can push us apart. the date nights save us from losing sight of the other. great words, kate!

    jordy | jordy liz blogs

    • Amen to that, Jordy!! Busyness is such a challenge to building our marriages. Congrats on the faithful date nights!

  11. I just stumbled upon this link by following a link from another link, etc.

    I enjoyed reading about your working dates. If you don’t mind, I have a question: the best marriage advice I ever heard was to have a monthly ‘state of the union’ meeting, talking about EVERYTHING – from co-ordinating diaries and discussing finances to ‘do you want to move house?’ and ‘do you want more children soon?’ to ‘how easy/difficult are you finding it to keep your wedding vows lately?’ – and making an appointment to perhaps talk through one of those things in more detail if needed. This is similar to your working dates, but I just wonder, do you think the ‘state of the union’ meetings – discussing everything every time – is better than the working dates or not? It sounds like you were able to talk through some things that maybe were more specific than that?

    I’m not married or even dating, so I’m really just looking ahead and wondering, but if you have any thoughts, I’d be really interested in hearing them, thankyou.

    • Hi Katie, and welcome!

      I think every couple will come up with (and it should be an intentional plan) what works best for them. For some it could be like the monthly “state of the union” meeting that you mentioned. For others it will be a regular (even weekly) time similar to our working date night. The form of it is not so much of a concern to me, the fact that a couple HAS this type of opportunity for deeper reflective communication is the important thing.

      The problem comes in when these IMPORTANT topics get brushed aside because all that get addressed are the URGENT ones and we change and grow as individuals but stop growing together as a couple because we are not putting the work into that growth.

      Intentional times of deep and important communication (however they are designed or called) are ESSENTIAL for the growth of the marriage – so that you learn to grow together rather than separately.

      It is very exciting that you are looking at these things NOW while you are single! So glad you stopped by. Check back next Wed (not this Wed) and I’m writing a post on planning for the No-Divorce marriage, specifically geared toward single gals!

      • Thanks for the welcome and your wisdom, Kate! Your answer was more sensible than my question, because you are right, it doesn’t matter about the HOW as long as it is being done. And it’ll probably change a few times before we find a system we like anyway (if and when there’s a ‘we’ at all, of course). Thank you for making this post for single women, and I definitely will check back next week when you post it!

        • Katie, you are so sweet. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better!


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