So you’ve been cooped up with your spouse during quarantine. For many couples, the limits imposed by the pandemic have drastically altered our lifestyle. We work out of our living rooms while trying to keep our kids focused on school. We’ve been sharing a workspace and living space with our spouse. We’re burnt out over the constant uncertainties and constant companions. We feel grief over the many experiences we have lost. Your relationship with your spouse may have been strained like no other time in your marriage. What options are even available for a night out with your spouse? After all, it feels like we are in survival mode and finding time for romance just doesn’t seem like a priority.
Take time to tend to your marriage. A marriage grounded in biblical principles is a lot of things. It’s a picture of Christ that is meant to point people to the gospel (see Ephesians 5:22-32); it’s a relationship that is meant to allow us the joy of knowing and being known, loving and being loved, more deeply than any other relationship (see Genesis 2:27); it’s a setting for enjoying our sensuality (see the Song of Songs); but it’s also a friendship. Healthy marriages work at sustaining the enjoyment of one another, even when it’s not easy. Here are some date-night suggestions as a way for you and your spouse to feed the friendship in your marriage. Of course, you should follow local guidelines that are in place; most of these can be done in even in lockdown.
If you have kids, get them a sitter you trust, block off a couple of hours during the week, and…
1. Eat take-out food in the car: My wife and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary sitting in the front seat of our car, enjoying the spring flowers at our state capitol building. Sure, it could be a little messy, and it will take a little extra work to balance an entrée on your lap, but it will make a memory! In fact, we even know of a couple that watched a movie on their phone while eating dinner in their car! This works if it's cool. If it's warm, it could always be a regular picnic on a blanket!
2. Take a Hike: The outdoors are a great option these days, and most cities and towns have a place within a half-hour drive where you can enjoy nature, and get some exercise. Even city parks often have several miles of trails available (and perhaps it's another place for a picnic lunch).
3. Go for a bike ride: dust off your bikes and find local trails that will allow you the chance to be outdoors and get some exercise. Or, you might bike through the city to your favorite ice-cream shop (after all, riding all that way earns you a treat, right?).
4. Drive the open road: get out a map, and start looking at the towns and villages that you’ve never visited. Or do an Internet search for local ghost towns. Find that scenic overlook that you’ve always wanted to visit. Get in the car, put on some music, and take the long way there. Then take some more time to explore (and, you could even follow it up with dinner in the car or bring some take-out home).
5. Learn a new hobby together: Maybe you live far from the city lights where stars are really visible; why not try stargazing? Or, maybe geocaching (an outdoor treasure hunt using an app on your phone to direct you to numerous treasures which are hidden in plain sight) is something you’ve always wanted to try; download the app, and start exploring! Or there’s birdwatching, or baking, or podcasting, or anything else that helps you stay connected.
If you can't find a trustworthy caregiver or can't afford the expense at the moment, you can still find ways to invest in your relationship.
6. Grab dessert while the kids are in bed: If your kids are too young to be left home alone for long periods of time, wait until they’re in bed, and pick up some dessert through a drive-thru. This is an inexpensive, mid-week option when you just need a way to unwind.
7. Have game night at home: Game night as a family is a lot of fun. But it’s also fun to play a game with just the two of you. Pour a couple of glasses of wine, grab some snacks, put on some music, and play backgammon, or cards, or any other favorite game. Some card games are available online that allow you to play four-player games, using computer players.
8. Connect about your day. Okay, so this technically isn’t a specific date-night idea. But keeping your bond of friendship shouldn’t be reserved for one night every week or two. Talk daily with your spouse and share your feelings. Spend time unwinding together. Simply doing something relaxing together can go a long way to reducing the stress and tension so many of us are experiencing and can help us stay connected to the one we love.
These continue to be challenging times. Many of us feel drained by the events of the past year. But don’t let your relationship become a casualty! Invest the time and energy that is necessary to keep your friendship healthy!
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra