Monday, February 29, 2016

Date Night? Date Night!

We have recently made the move back to South Carolina after serving for seven years down in the middle of South America. We didn't expect it, we weren't prepared for it, and we are still reeling from how quickly it happened. Extended family situations made it very clear that we needed to be back in the US about the same time I felt God shifting things inside my heart, and it was undeniable that He was going ahead of us to lead the way for our big move.

We left the US for Paraguay back in 2008 with 9- and 11-year-old girls, smack in the middle of homeschooling and community basketball league and children's church. My husband had a secular job in addition to being the youth pastor at our local church, and I was the at-home mom taking side jobs and short-term mission trips. We had no idea what the words free time meant. Our best attempts at date nights often looked like a bad sit-com episode where the sitter calls about the kid running a fever about the time we place an order at the local fast-food joint on our way to a youth rally.

Fast forward a bit to our years in Paraguay, when our girls were going through adolescence and we were learning two languages, adjusting to all the cultural changes, building a ministry, going through major health challenges and a serious accident, and continuing to homeschool. Free time was still this elusive concept, and date nights were a movie and popcorn after sending the girls to their room early for the night.

And now here we are back in the states. One daughter has graduated high school and is in a gap year, and the younger one is a junior in high school. They are old enough and in a safe enough area that we don't have to be near them at all hours here. We have a car that cranks when we turn the key and can drive around without the feeling that we may, at any moment, die. My husband is still looking for a job, so we are seeing a lot of each other every day. The modern appliances and giant, all-inclusive stores have simplified daily activities to the point that I feel like I suddenly have that thing I'd only heard whispered about in certain circles and seen played out in movies and books--free time.

And it hit me that we are now in prime position to have what I've always dreamed date nights should be. We can go out, just the two of us. We can wear decent clothes that won't be ruined on public transportation. We can choose from a crazy-huge selection of restaurants or activities. We can stay out late. We can find time on the calendar that isn't covered in commitments. I struggle with feeling guilty over such indulgences, or enjoying the convenience and pure joy of these sorts of things because, well, it's just strange and rare and odd and weird and different and…

…really exciting.

So as we adjust to all the negative aspects of re-entry, I have this little thought in the back of my mind that makes me giggle and feel a bit like a movie star--I get to date my husband again!

Have you found ways to date your spouse on the field? How has your typical date night evolved through the different stages of your marriage?


  1. Funny thing - our favorite "date nights" have always been sitting around a campfire in the back yard, going for a walk at the nature center, rustic camping, backpacking, canoeing a more or less remote river, sitting silently in a deer blind the opening day of rifle season, playing a card game with friends, etc. I married a good 'ole country boy. I enjoy some of the more glamorous activities - a musical, a fancy restaurant, an exotic locale - but one thing we've discovered is that when we go to all sorts of effort to try and make something dreamy and perfect and romantic - something invariably flops. We both get great joy out of living life together and with our families so if "date nights" are reading books side by side on our bed after the kids are in their rooms, that's great. If we get away to cross country ski just the two of us, that is also great. Or, if we decide to meet at some little hole-in-the-wall burger place for fries and burgers for lunch in the middle of the day, that is also perfect. With 8 kids, international moves, health issues, extended family issues, ministry, security concerns - relationship survival became treasuring the sometimes quiet, sometimes noisy and almost always hectic every day of life in our family. And, it began working for us when I finally let go of the idea that "date night" had to look like what the young couples' pastor recommended so many years ago, or what I read on blogs or saw posted of FB and instagram of others' date nights, or what all those marriage survival books say. The key is treasuring and appreciating each other and the moments and times we have, good and bad, because it means God is still gifting us this opportunity to do life together. Much more practical than romantic, but it works... and it is, most days, a whole lot of fun.

  2. Even in the US, we lived with crazy schedules, and far away from family. Part of that time was in an isolated area where there wasn't much to do anyway. So date nights were more occasional treats than regular occurrences.
    Then moving to an isolated area in Congo, date nights "out" were pretty much nonexistent. But we did have some times that friends would watch the kids, and we would get creative. There was one time that some friends took the kids on a Sunday afternoon. We locked all the doors, hung blankets on the windows, and hid in the back of the house ignoring any knocks on the door until we snuck out the back door, and back gate to go for a bike ride. It did add an element of adventure to the whole thing.
    Another memory was from when the kids were old enough to be home without us, we thought we had someone lined up to stay with them. When that fell through, we decided they would be OK without us. We were going to the one restaurant in town with 2 other couples. Turned out the restaurant had a special event. So we went back to our house, put the kids in one of the bedrooms with their electronics, and scrounged some leftovers for a candlelight dinner on the porch. It ended up being a great evening.
    We did find some ways to have dates at home instead of out. Nothing major, just carving out time to spend together. One other thing we started doing was bike rides through the jungle road. That was about the only way we could not be interrupted, and as a bonus we got exercise at the same time. :)