Why We Kissed Date Night Goodbye

"There’s no magic formula that instantly adds intimacy to your relationship. If there was one, it’s definitely not going to be found by eating expensive cheesecake, no matter how delicious." - Bible Gateway

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G. N. Barkman's picture

We started a regular date night many years ago, and continue to do so.  In the early years, when we had very little money, we kept it simple and inexpensive.  Even now, when we can afford a fancy restaurant, we usually choose a less expensive option.  It's not how much money you spend, but how you spend the time.  Is a date night essential to a good marriage?  No.  There are other ways to stay connected.  Is it helpful?  Yes.  I think the problem described in this article is not with having a date night, but in seeking the approval of others.  That's a problem which date nights cannot solve, nor can suspending date nights fix either.  The solution is growing in grace.  Spiritual maturity will liberate us from many anxieties of our own making.  

G. N. Barkman

John E.'s picture

The only expectation for date night that I have is to have fun. I enjoy hanging out with my wife, that's it. That's the only reason I need. 

Some people overthink some things. 

dgszweda's picture

I can tell you that we did it differently.  We didn't have much child care help when we were younger.  So when the kids were young, we took a different approach.  I gave my wife 1 evening off and she gave me 1 evening off.  I encouraged her to take a break.  She could plan something with her friends and have a nice dinner, go to some activity, go shopping....  Whatever she wanted to do.  I would come home and take care of all 3 kids.  Make sure they were fed, bathed, and put to bed.  Sometimes I would even do an activity with the kids.  It provided a great level of sanity for both of us.  We continued to do a date night when we could, but it wasn't critical.  In the end it provided a great balance to the family.

Bert Perry's picture

When the "you absolutely must take your wife out on a date at least weekly" movement got going, the thing that came to mind for me is that doing so in Biblical times was pretty much impossible, as our restaurant culture we know today came about only a couple of centuries ago.  Dates can be a lot of fun, and can have benefits, but Biblically speaking, we cannot insist on them.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Whatever. The writer needs to stop overthinking things. It's a time to get away and chat with my wife. That's it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

Wait! This is adapted from a book that they're selling? 

I didn't buy the book and used the money I saved to help pay for lunch with my wife.

I kissed books like this good-bye!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Greg Long's picture

Tyler, you may think he's overthinking things, but there absolutely has been (still is?) a segment of Christianity that taught the importance of date nights for married couples in a way that almost made it the 11th Commandment. Sovereign Grace churches, for one:

RADICALLY SAVED'S DESCRIPTION OF DATE NIGHT IN SGM

Let me give you a quick, easy example of how this culture of
confrontation plays out in a werid way. Date Nights. We were taught at
CLC to have a routine date night (nothing wrong there) but that the
main purpose was to help one another grow -- as men we were taught to
draw out our spouse’s perspective on any sin areas, and where do we
need to grow and what sins do they see? (Afterall, as we were taught a
leopard cannot see their own spots)….As newlyweds and new believers,
“date nights” were not about fun or building a new relationship
through doing things we both enjoyed! No it was all about
sanctification and my wife and I felt a huge burden lifted when we
left CLC -- at CLC we both dreaded date nights! It is not much fun to
go into a date all tense and dreary, newlyweds correcting each
other….after we left we actually had fun being together on dates! Can
you imagine that! Going out to dinner without a pre-planned
conversation dwelling on our sins! We could…just…go out and enjoy one
another!! What a noble concept. I am sure old timers at CLC still
today would read this post and think “That guy is so immature and
lost, might not even be a Christian with that type of
attitude…pfff…having fun with his wife on a date instead of using the
golden opportunity to put to death sin."

https://forum.culteducation.com/read.php?14,113601,page=17

I’ve been saying this for a long time, but I’ll say it again – it’s simply not enough to do a bit of back-pedaling, to pay some lip service to the idea that “godly living” doesn’t necessarily have to look a certain way.

Since Josh used the notion of “date night” as one of his examples, I think that’s as good a place to start as any. For years and years, the concept of “date night” has been hammered into SGM couples across the nation. I’ve corresponded with more than one SGMer who recounted going to a pastor to seek counseling for marriage problems, only to immediately be hit with the question, “Are you having regular date nights?” “Date night” is such a well-known SGM edict, such an ingrained expectation, that when an SGMer from the Knoxville church decided to write a post defending his SGM church against suspicions of being a cult, he actually cited regular date nights as one of the practices that might cause people to think his church is a cult.

So how do SGM leaders plan on tackling this deeply held behavioral expectation?

They can’t just shrug and say, “Well, Josh Harris already said that ‘date night’ isn’t a requirement, so if you feel like we’re weird about it, that’s your problem.”

No.

Instead, to undo these cultural oddities (that can easily become deeply entrenched extrabiblical mandates), they need to address the problems with as much frequency and from the same venues as they taught them in the first place.

And I’d be curious to know how it is that they’re planning on doing that. With “date night.” With courtship expectations. With the concept of going to college close to home so as not to leave the “local” church. With all those things that Josh Harris mentioned.

How are they going to undo decades of SGM culture? One little family meeting isn’t going to do it.

http://www.sgmsurvivors.com/2011/05/24/joshs-apology/ 

(now admittedly these are "survivors blogs" and the perspectives may be skewed, but the point is former pastor Joshua Harris used this as one example of areas in which the church he pastored placed date nights almost on par with Scripture)

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

TylerR's picture

Editor

Greg; I'd never heard any of that before. Never. Some people are very strange, I guess. They'll believe anything! Thanks for sending these excerpts.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

....that the movement that gave us "I kissed dating goodbye" also gave us mandatory date nights that resemble little so much as an annual review.  'oy!

(now that's romance!)

Side note is that what Greg describes is how former SGM pastor Brent Detweiler describes his experience among accountability sessions there, with the interesting exception that he never quite believed it applied to C.J. Mahaney.  Understanding that we've really only got one side of the story, we might infer some things about discipleship from how it all shook out.  

Back to the main point, I was at least thinking that about 20 years back, there was another movement for date night that concentrated more on the romance, perhaps rooted in the Gary Smalley/Focus on the Family orbit.  That's what I think the original article here is referring to. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

In some respects, I am very, very glad I didn't grow up as a Christian. The fads and silliness ("someone actually taught that?") of the conservative Christian sub-culture are so bizarre to me. I've never heard of a "date night" being pushed in this manner before. This is one reason why I often find unbelievers more down to earth and in touch with reality than some Christians. They don't sound like they're on another planet. They sound like real people.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Lee's picture

My guess, and only a guess mind you, is that the whole concept of date nights began with the ceaseless blather of Christian Family Radio pundits (thank you James Dobson, et.al.) who have to fill the time with ceaseless blather that they consider mandatory to marital bliss.  And yes, I am quite cynical of Christian Family Radio pundits.  

Lee

Ron Bean's picture

For those who would challenge Tyler's assertion that Christians can get weird, here's a memory from the early 1970's. Remember Marabel Morgan anyone?

The Saran wrapped wife.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Paul J's picture

Date nights was never a thing during our time raising our children. We moved a fair amount during those years and many of those years we didn't have the funds or the infrastructure to have date nights with sitters.  We were an "All for One and One for All" band of merry misfits and did pretty much everything together.  We never made the kids the center of our existence or our marriage for that matter.  The interesting thing is we never had the divide some talk about when they "empty their next".  We just kept on doing things together, we were just dropping members of the team as they grew-up and moved on.  We are thick as thieves to this day and have great health relationships with our kids and grand kids.  About 10 years ago we started riding a tandem bicycle which is a whole other story about relationship! Smile