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Date Night!

One Thing We Got Right.

“Don’t look back; whatever you do, don’t look back,” I kept repeating under my breath. Excitement and urgency propelled me out the heavy wooden door of our Warsaw home. I didn’t want anything to block my leaving. I practically ran down the 12 concrete steps to our front gate.

Ignoring the oversized buttons, I grasped my thick wool coat around me. Winter boots, gloves, scarf, and hat were still needed in the chilly night that mocked the season of spring. 

In front of me: only the spiked fence stood between my vehicle and me.

Behind me: the babysitter locked the three heavy bolts that would protect our home and its occupants for the next three hours. 

This was Friday Date Night, and my husband and I were going on a date! Larry would travel by taxi from his clandestine office, and I would drive our car to join him. The destination was a small restaurant at the American Embassy open to any American citizen. 

                                   Cold War era photo,   American Embassy Warsaw, Poland

                                  Cold War era photo, American Embassy Warsaw, Poland

Routinely, for years, Larry and I met weekly at the American Club in Warsaw. No membership was required, just an American passport. This tiny, modest venue provided the one place in the entire country where we could order a bacon cheeseburger, a Dr. Pepper, and a piece of cheesecake. 

We relished this reprieve in our complicated, covert lives. Sitting in our standard booth, with our standard menu, we talked, sipped Dr. Pepper, and connected. Though we guarded our conversation for security reasons, this environment gave us time to talk and a place to talk. 

Long before Warsaw, Larry and I established the routine Date Night. Early in our marriage, we made a commitment to preserve this once a week tradition. Doggedly, we worked to protect our sacred appointment.

It was never easy; no, never easy.

Different seasons brought different challenges. With babies, we just wanted sleep, not conversation. With toddlers, there was the hassle of arranging a babysitter. Having school age children brought the hurdle of homework. And with teenagers, their activities filled our calendars to capacity, leaving little margin for time alone.

One would think the empty nest allowed time, time, and more time for Date Night. Not so! Larry and Debby became full-fledged workaholics. Making the mistake of working way beyond normal hours, Date Night vanished. We rationalized that since we were together nearly 24-7, Date Night was unnecessary. 

Bad idea. Our communication and our marriage suffered, and we wisely called a halt to the foolish patterns challenging our agreement. 

You ask, "Is this really worth the bother?"

I understand your question, and answer that I believe it is. Looking back over more than 4 decades of marriage, I see the difference a weekly Date Night makes. 

Why I think a Date Night is valuable:

It punctuates our busy lives with a pause, a much-needed relational pause.
It protects from the damaging distance that threatens to creep into a marriage - we make a concerted effort to engage rather than to simply exist in our relationship.
It provides an opportunity to laugh, to listen, to connect, and to remember why we chose each other. 
It points forward to a future of life and dreams together. Like crossing a fast flowing, turbulent stream, on Date Nights we reach out and help each jump from one slippery stone to another.

Simple ground rules encourage success. Here are my suggestions. Declare testy topics off-limits: finances, problems at work, Christmas with which set of parents. (Not here, not now; another time, another place.) Determine to persevere even when your best efforts derail. Don't be deterred by too busy, too tired, too complicated, or too expensiveDecide before you leave home to be a blessing to your husband, or wife. Then, ask God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring this to pass. (John 15:5)

Forty three years and counting, this is one thing we got right. 

Question: What is your greatest challenge in honoring a Date Night in your schedule?