Editor’s note: This week we begin a new monthly column focusing on strong and healthy marriages. It is written by Elisa Tremblay, who serves as coordinator of the diocesan Office of Marriage, Family Life and Pro-Life.
There is a popular website and app on the market today that connects people with local businesses. One of the website’s great features (besides rating and reviewing popular restaurants) is to host events in local communities. A fantastic trend popping up in some major cities across the country through this website is called Date Night! City organizations host these events and even provide childcare for families. They also showcase some of the fantastic landmarks in the local area, all in an effort to help couples have a chance to get out for a little while and have some meaningful time together.
This same concept has also been offered in many of our local parishes throughout the diocese. Events such as Choice Wine or Covenant of Love are excellent marriage enrichment opportunities. Why is this happening in both churches and communities alike? The answer: Date nights are important to the health of a married relationship!
The National Marriage Project, a non-partisan research group, did a study analyzing the importance of date nights in strengthening a marriage. Their report, entitled, “The Date Night Opportunity,” lists five ways date nights build stronger marriages and relationships. Themes for how these date nights are beneficial include: communication, novelty, romance (Eros), commitment and stress relief. It should come as no surprise that when couples step away from their busy lives to reconnect, even for a few hours, their relationship grows stronger and their marriage is healthier.
Sounds simple, right? Date night is a simple concept until many couples try to break away from the demands of family life to make time to go out. For instance, babysitters are expensive, schedule conflicts are highly probable, and finances are usually pretty tight. Indeed, there are numerous other obstacles that can get in the way. Before you know it, months go by, even years, and many couples will admit to not having any meaningful time with each other.
The good news is date nights don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to enjoy some valuable time together. “The Date Night Opportunity finds that couples who devote time specifically to one another at least once a week are markedly more likely to enjoy high-quality relationships and lower divorce rates, compared to couples who do not devote much couple time to one another,” states the National Marriage Project report. While once a week may sound daunting for some couples, the concept is very simple: when two people put time and effort into having some quality time with each other, both spouses will benefit.
A quick internet search can give you an endless list of ideas and activities you can do together; all sorts of fun possibilities ranging from a cost-free night out to a well-planned date. One suggestion is to take turns planning the date night for each other. Decide how often you are willing to make plans, i.e., once a week or once a month, then take turns. A date carefully planned with thought for the other person in mind will be much more meaningful than the two of you just deciding to go out because you have nothing else to do that evening.
Date nights are especially important for young couples who have young children. The transition to raising a family can be overwhelming, causing even more of a need to take a few moments to reconnect. One suggestion is to consider trading babysitting with another couple so you can save on babysitting costs and support each other in your marriages. Most experts agree that the long-range benefits far outweigh the short-term sacrifices needed to get away for a few hours.
It doesn’t matter if you have been married for one year or 50 years, date nights are a simple and easy way to reconnect with your spouse. Ecclesiastes 9:9 reads: “Enjoy life with the wife you love, all the days of the vain life granted you under the sun.”
Take a step back from your daily schedules, plan a simple but enjoyable time together, and be inspired to find this simple way to work on keeping the love alive in your marriage. Check out opportunities in your parish or local area. There are many ongoing marriage enrichment programs happening across the Green Bay Diocese. Most importantly, when you are able to sneak away for a moment, take time to say a prayer together and thank God for each other and for the love you share.
If readers have questions or topic suggestions for this column, contact Elisa Tremblay, [email protected]ioc.org.