The Key to a Successful Marriage: Date Night

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God wants us to have fun with our spouses. He genuinely takes delight in seeing us enjoy the blessings of marriage. Marriage gives color to what often feels like a black-and-white kind of life.

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. – Ecclesiastes 9:9

The New International Version of this verse encourages us to “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love.” It doesn’t get much simpler than that, does it? There are a lot of days that you just have to go about your business, getting things done. You get up, go to work, maybe take a break for lunch, work some more, then finally come home at the end of the day. And that’s the best part of every day: getting back to the woman you love. Guys, be intentional about pursuing happiness together with her because she’s God’s “reward” in your life.

Coming home to your spouse means enjoying face-to-face time. This means just what you’d expect: spending time together, in person, enjoying each other’s company. When you’re dating, it seems like you can just talk and talk and talk for hours on end every day. You call each other on the phone and talk. Then between calls you’re texting back and forth. I’ve known couples who were dating who would talk to each other on the phone until two in the morning. Then, when they finally ran out of things to say, they’d lay their phones next to them on the pillow and fall asleep listening to each other breathe. (I’m not talking about heavy breathing here, just a normal, appropriate breathing rate!)

Then what happens when we get married? For most people, all of that face-to-face time fills up with schedules and responsibilities and stress: which person is picking up the kids after school, “you’ve got to get him to karate,” “you’ve got to get her to dance,” “we need to get the oil changed in the van,” “swing by and pick up some milk on your way home,” “I think the air conditioner may be going out,” and “okay, I’ll call the guy to come have a look.” Even though you’re face to face, even though you’re spending time together, you’re using it all up simply exchanging information, not communicating, not sharing your below-the- surface selves. It may be civil, but it’s not intimate. It may be practical, but it’s certainly not fun. And worst of all, it’s not working.

Both of you need legitimate face-to-face fun.

Let’s look in Scripture at an example of the kind of communication I’m talking about. In Song of Solomon, Solomon poetically speaks to his beloved, the Shulammite woman, taking the time to describe every aspect of her beauty to her in intimate, saucy detail. He starts with her feet, working his way gradually up her entire body, until finally he ends up at her eyes. Please allow me to translate a portion (Song of Solomon 7:1-4) for you:

How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter! Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of an artist’s hands.

Oh, this guy is good. I like to imagine he’s put on some Barry White for background music.

Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine.

Translation: “Baby, I’d love to drink body shots from your belly button.”

Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.

Translation: “You have a really pleasant hourglass shape. You look pretty and delicate. And you smell good.”

Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle.

Translation: “I love your twins. They look so soft and fluffy and beautiful! And I can’t tell you how happy I am that you have two of them.” (For the record, I could definitely go into way more detail on this one, but because I’m maturing, I’ll exercise restraint. But I’m sure you get the idea.)

Your neck is like an ivory tower.

Translation: “Your neck is so long and slender. Your skin looks like porcelain.”

Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim.

Translation: “Your eyes are soooo blue. I could just drown in those eyes, baby.”

Now, what is Solomon doing here? He’s talking intimately to his lady, face to face, giving her details.

Men like headlines. Women like details.

Solomon can’t help himself. And his woman loves the attention. Women enjoy talking with their husbands. They love it when we tell them what we’re feeling and how we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it. Sure, guys just want to show them, but the ladies like us to put those things into words. Articulating our feelings requires us to lower our guard, which makes the relationship more real.

Intimate, ongoing conversation is key to success in any marriage.

That means you have to protect it, because if you don’t, mark my words, everyday life will gradually elbow out that closeness, and you’ll lose your face-to-face fun.

People who are a part of our church family probably got tired a long time ago of hearing me say the same two words over and over, every time I talk about marriage: date night. Date night, date night, date night, date night, date night. I feel like I just can’t emphasize it enough. For years, almost every week, Amy and I faithfully kept to our date night. This commitment was the time we set aside every week to connect intimately and emotionally, face to face. No matter what other craziness was going on in our lives, both of us always knew we had at least one evening coming during the week that we could both look forward to.

But as we got older, and as it seemed like we were adding one kid after another, and as the church’s moving parts were growing ever more complicated, eventually we caved. We talked through our schedules together and agreed, “Hey, you know what? We already have a great marriage. We’re just too busy during this season of our lives to keep face-to-face date night as a sacred cow. So for now, let’s just relax and have some fun with our kids.”

It made perfect sense at the time. We simply had no idea how much that seemingly innocent decision would cost us.

Months later, we noticed a disturbing trend in our relationship. Every week, we would get together with our small group of friends to discuss our faith and to share what was going on with us, both good and bad. During those weekly meetings, I kept noticing the same thing happening again and again. Amy would bring up something she was going through, something she was feeling, and I would think, “I didn’t know she was dealing with that!”

More than just being my wife, Amy is the best friend I’ve ever had. And here she was bringing up really important things that I had no idea were even going on with her. Amy was noticing the same thing. I’d tell our group, “Here’s what I’ve really been praying about recently…” or, “This is a burden I’m feeling really heavy about right now.” Back at home, Amy would ask me about it. “When did that start? How come group tonight was the first time I heard about it?”

Fortunately, we came to the same conclusion at the same time.

We both realized just how important that intimate face-to-face time had been in stabilizing and strengthening our marriage.

As soon as we saw what was happening, we recommitted ourselves to our regular date night. It really was sacred!

You need to do that too. You have to carve out that time, recognize how sacred it is, and then jealously guard it. The quality of your marriage will tell on you. If you’re regularly investing in face-to-face time, your relationship will show it. And you know what else it will show? If you’re not.

Visiting in the car as you’re driving your kids to their next activity doesn’t count. Neither does talking while you’re watching some TV show together. And sitting across a table from each other playing with your cell phones certainly doesn’t count.

You need genuine face-to-face time.

Consistent, guarded, and faithful. Take long walks like those cute older couples in the mall. Go sit in a coffee shop. Take a long drive. Go to a drive-in movie. Find a cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurant and become a regular. Do whatever you have to do. Just invest in regularly scheduled, authentic face-to-face fun!

Watch the Video for From This Day Forward

Excerpted with permission from From This Day Forward by Craig and Amy Groeschel, copyright Zondervan.

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Your Turn

Do you and your spouse keep a regular date night every week? What are some of your favorite date night spots? Join the conversation on the blog! We’d love to hear from you!

Craig Groeschel

New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, a pacesetting multicampus church and creators of the popular and free YouVersion Bible App. He is the author of several books, including #Struggles, Fight, Altar Ego, Soul Detox, Weird, From This Day Forward, The Christian Atheist and It. Craig, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Amy Groeschel

Amy Groeschel is a home educating mom and leads LifeChurch.tv’s women’s ministry. She is also the founder of Branch15, a nonprofit housing ministry that helps marginalized women and has co-authored SOAR, a Bible study for women.

Follow Amy Groeschel on:   Twitter   Google+   Website

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