Couples find great dating place
Evening combines marital tips, free childcare and a chance to go out on a date
By Sara Eliasen
A healthy growing marriage relationship requires friendship, fun and romance. But where can a couple find all three?
For an increasing number of couples in northeastern Wisconsin, the answer seems to be Great Date Night, offered by the Green Bay Diocese's Family Life Office with funding from the annual Bishop's Appeal.
The regularly scheduled evenings start with marital inspiration and advice on skills to improve the marriage relationship, plus appetizers and free childcare. Then couples are set free to do their own thing for the rest of the evening.
The program has grown considerably over two years, said Great Date Night facilitator and director of the diocese's Family Life Office, Tom Rinkoski, who remembers starting with four date nights, all at Nativity Church in Ashwaubenon.
"Now, we have Date Nights scheduled in locations all over northeastern Wisconsin, including Appleton and Oshkosh," he says. And the number of couples attending has grown from 18 at the first Date Night to 65 couples for the most recent one last month.
What does Great Date Night's increasing popularity say about the state of marriage in northeastern Wisconsin?
Rinkoski says it shows that couples are looking for ways to improve their marriages that fit their busy lifestyles.
"The fact that more couples are using the child care tells us that the childcare is essential in making this opportunity available," Rinkoski says. "The comments we hear indicate that couples want to laugh and be entertained, and they also like being somewhat in control of the agenda," which they are in the second half.
Here is the schedule for upcoming Great Date Nights:
Feb. 8 -- St. Mary Church, Appleton; Topic: Checking in with your Partner.
Feb. 22 -- Nativity Church, Ashwaubenon; Topic: Reconnecting & Reconciling.
March 8 -- St. Raphael Church, Oshkosh; Topic: Languages of Love.
March 15 -- Nativity, Ashwaubenon; Topic: Rituals of Connection & Intimacy.
April 12 -- St. Raphael, Oshkosh; Topic: Juggling Work & Marriage.
April 26 -- Nativity, Ashwaubenon; Topic: Is Yours a Consumer Marriage?
May 10 -- St. Bernadette Parish, Appleton; Topic: Languages of Love.
Each Date Night presentation is free and lasts from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., when couples continue the evening with their own plans.
Although Great Date Nights are sponsored by the Diocese of Green Bay, couples need not be Catholic to attend.
"We are doing this because the Catholic Church believes that any investment in the quality of marriage and family life benefits society as a whole."
Rinkoski, a professional family life educator since 1978, is nationally certified as a family life educator through the National Conference on Family Relations. He is certified to teach Couple Communication technique and PAIRS Marriage Education. He has written and developed marriage preparation and marriage education programming, and teaches classes on marriage education throughout the United States.