Last Christmas I gave my wife a simple box that contained a simple letter with my simple promise: one date night each month. We recently took time to reflect on how much fun we had. Looking back, here are a few things I learned:

Anticipation is powerful

Each month I let Pam know something about our date, but not enough to tip her off. I think having something to look forward to was part of maximising the experience for her. I also found that the planning and anticipation increased my fondness for her.

Fun is highly underrated

As Christians we can take ourselves a little too seriously. I firmly believe we should talk about faith and things of substance – it is a natural overflow of who we are and a great way to draw near to God. However, laughing and simply having fun are just as important to the process of developing intimacy as a couple. As someone who has been studying marriages for a while, I can tell you that fun is always a characteristic of thriving marriages. One thing that made us feel closer at the end of the year was the simple knowledge that we’d had a lot of fun and shared a lot of laughs.

Creativity is a muscle

Like most men when they are pursuing a potential spouse, I had moments of pure creative genius back when my wife and I were dating. Over the years, as our lives have moved from the on-ramp to the Transit lane, I’ve noticed my creativity waning. It isn’t that I have somehow lost the ability to be creative – it’s just that I haven’t been in the habit of exercising those muscles. After a year of intentionally working at it, it is amazing how I seem to be coming up with creative ideas faster than I can implement them.

Investments compound

A few dollars saved each month doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can add up over time. In the same way, date nights have a compounding effect. Each of our date nights was a small investment in and of itself, but the real power of this exercise lies in the fact that for an entire year, at least once a month, we’ve been investing in us. As we recently looked back over all of our dates, the sum was definitely more powerful than the parts.

Time and money are the barriers

Trying to find a night with nothing on the calendar proved to be harder than I thought. I learned that looking ahead months at a time and blocking out blank space was just as strategic as any wild plan I was trying to put together. Sometimes we had more than one night a month, but we always made sure we had at least one.

There were wild variations in cost for many of our dates. Some were cheap and simple, but personal. I happen to know that two of my wife’s favourite things are running and a certain soup from a local restaurant. Those two things, combined with some thoughtful questions, cost me less than $10 and created a great night.

This year we also budgeted and splurged on some of our dates. After coming to the realisation that every family chooses to splurge on something, I decided that we would “go big” on some of our date nights and do a few of the things we have talked about but never gotten around to. Even with discounts, evening flights over our city or sailboat rides weren’t cheap, but this is where we chose to splurge occasionally. I don’t regret it.

Last year was so much fun that I decided to give Pam a date night box again this year – this time with “learning dates.” At our current level of proficiency you’re unlikely to see either of us on Dancing with the Stars or find any of our artwork featured in a gallery. I doubt we will become good enough at anything this year to reach those levels of achievement. But regardless of our abilities, we will have laughed together, shared many experiences, and connected in new ways. And that’s really the point.

Date night rhythms are different for every couple, so learn from others but don’t play the comparison game. Simply make sure you do something this year to connect with your spouse – something that works for you.

I’ve never heard anyone say they regretted investing in their marriage, but I could fill a book with the stories of those who wish they had.

I hope you have a great year strengthening your relationship as a couple.

John McGee

Director of Marriage Ministry and re|engage at Watermark Community Church in Dallas Texas. He is passionate about helping churches prepare, establish, enrich, and restore marriages in their communities.

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