This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I’m Emily, here with my sister-in-law, Laura.
Laura: Hey, guys!
Emily: And before we jump in today’s show, we wanted to remind you—in case you forgot, because sometimes we forget—we have a book coming out in early September.
Laura: Yes, yes!
Emily: It’s really fun. We’re getting to a really exciting point in the process.
Laura: We’re done with the manuscript; we finished that last fall. Now we’re getting to the creative part like the book cover, editing, and marketing. It’s really fun! It’s kind of a different side to book writing I’d never really considered before I became an author and worked through this process.
Emily: Yeah, and we know a lot of you have so kindly asked, When can I be on your launch team? When can I preorder? Which is crazy we’re talking about that.
Laura: Yes, thank you! Such a gift to us.
Emily: We’ll let you guys know as soon as we know all those details. We’re excited for you to keep journeying with us in that and for you to read the book.
Laura: It’s going to be amazing to see it come to life and to see you all have it in your hands. I feel like that will be a huge, and awesome, and surreal day.
Emily: Okay, so for today’s show, we’re revisiting the topic of “date night” and a little bit about marriage—what makes a healthy marriage and where we need to put our hope in all of this. We’re trying to time this with Valentine’s Day.
Laura: I think this literally comes out on the 14th.
Emily: We know it’s also kind of the time of the year that highlights maybe some areas in your marriage—
Laura: All the awesome dates other people go on while you’re at home with the baby. [Laughter]
Emily: Yeah, it may be highlighting the points in your marriage where you wish things were a little bit different than they actually are.
Laura: I think this was stirred up because we talked about this a little bit on the Ask Us Anything show last fall, and we shared with you that this is one of the most popular question we get every single time we do a big question ask. This is what you guys want to know, which we love and we get it. It totally makes sense. But there’s also this other perspective to it that we want to share today. We touched on it really lightly in that Ask Us Anything show, but we want to dig into it a little bit more here, because we have lots of thoughts and we understand this being a pinch point. We’re hopeful today that we can give it a little more airtime.
Emily: We want to start by defining “date night” for you. Sometimes people use that term really broadly, meaning any time that you spend together as a couple investing in your relationship. But what we’re talking about is actually getting out of the house, away from the kids on a special outing that might require extra time or finances. You know, doing something really special. This is, again, date night in terms of we’re going out of the house and away from our kids on a date, which might be a little bit of a different definition.
Laura: Like “date night in.” People have those. Like when we watch Netflix with popcorn; it’s awesome.
Emily: Yeah, we’re putting that in a different category. Not what we’re talking about today.
Laura: These are the “getting out of the house, leaving the children behind” nights. So, one of the things we want to think about as we frame up this conversation about date night is we’re definitely not saying, Don’t have date night if you can get it, or that it’s a bad idea. The thing we see happening—and it’s happened to us as well—is date night can feel like it’s the only way we can be intimate or really grow in my marriage. There’s unfair pressure put on a stereotypical type of night out of the house. We don’t want to hold up this modern date night as the gold standard as growth in marriage.
Emily: I think, as humans, we’re really good at taking all kinds of wonderful gifts and great tools God gives—so we can seek growth in our lives and in our marriages—and make them laws to live by. We feel like everything is lost if we don’t get things a certain way. We hear from a lot of stressed wives and moms who want to invest in their marriages, but maybe their husbands work really long hours and travel regularly; maybe their husbands are overseas or in the military; maybe they have a child with special needs or their struggling to make ends meet; or maybe they just moved. There are all these different seasons in life. A lot of marriages just aren’t at a point where they can do this modern idea of a date night right now. We want to speak to those moms and say, We still have hope! There’s still good news for us in scripture for God’s design in marriage! So let’s not be discouraged.
Laura: I think the big reason why there’s a lot of discouragement is culture, relationship experts, and even Christian culture are telling us date nights are super important and critical to a healthy, thriving marriage. It’s like the date night is the secret sauce to keeping a close and romantic marriage. I think there’s this connection we all make that says a date night equals a romantic, thriving, long-lasting marriage. Yes, it can help; we want to acknowledge that it’s such a good piece of the puzzle. It’s really important to have one-on-one time. But we want to challenge that notion it has to look a certain way, particularly the way culture tells us it should look.
Emily: I think you’re so right. Americans, especially, have a tendency to be super child-centered, and we spend tons of time taking our children to activities and money making sure they get all this education and training, but we totally put our marriage on the backburner and neglect it. It’s good for kids to see mom and dad loving and prioritizing one another. I know I’m looking forward to—if and when we don’t have kiddos at home anymore or they’re all grown up—still having a relationship with my husband that wasn’t put on the backburner. For sure, that is so important and probably has to happen through quality time and investment in different ways. I know where date night has become a pinch point a few times for me is especially early on. I had the idea, My husband is supposed to be pursuing me by putting regular date nights on the calendar, and...he’s not.
Laura: He’s not pursuing you! [Laughter]
Emily: Yeah! [Laughter] We’re failing at this thing!
Laura: And it isn’t it interesting how we really want our husband to plan it? We want it, but we don’t really want to be the ones to plan it. It means even more if he’s the one; it means he’s invested in our marriage more than if he doesn’t plan it.
Emily: Yes, and it’s been interesting, because at different points I’ve been on bedrest for long seasons of time before when I was pregnant with twins or we’ve had chaotic times with five very young kids. Honestly, right now, to get out of the house we need two babysitters. Two babysitters!
Laura: Two babysitters. That’s expensive. [Laughter]
Emily: So it’s hard, you know? But I see the Lord growing us in our marriage and deepening our intimacy in other ways, so I think the longer we’ve been married—10 years this fall, woop woop!—I do see God has used a lot of different seasons—easy and hard, date nights and no date nights—to grow us. I kind of wish I could go back and tell newly-married Emily to enjoy her husband where she’s at today and find ways to serve each other, enjoying her date nights when she gets them but it’s going to be okay.
Laura: Mm, that’s good truth. You guys keep hearing us frame this as the concept of “modern date nights.” What really got Emily and I down this path was we were thinking about, What about people in the Bible? Did they have date nights? Is it in the Bible or even historically, like in the 1800s or 1900s? As we talked about this, we wanted to look at a two famous couples in Christian history to see what date night would look like for them if they had it or if they could even have it.
Emily: One couple we did some research on—and Laura and I had some good conversations back and forth—was Charles and Susannah Spurgeon. For those of you who don’t know—and I needed to get schooled up on this one—
Laura: It’s kind of one of those things you’re like, Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah…
Emily: Charles Spurgeon was a prolific preacher and writer in the 1800s. He and his wife, Susannah, had twin boys who both grew up to be believers and they really credited their mom for raising them in the Lord. While we don’t know a lot about the ends and outs of their marriage and how it worked—we’re not claiming to know all of that—we do know Susannah spent long seasons struggling through chronic illness. She was often confined to home; sometimes she couldn’t make it to church. We also know Charles had a lot of different physical illness, and he struggled with depression over the course of their lives. I know the little taste I’ve had of going through seasons of time where I was physically limited or the whole family is sick, I can’t imagine how hard it would make it on a marriage to get that time together, let alone a date night out of the house together. And yet God sustained their marriage until the end of their lives, and they had this powerful kingdom-impacting ministry together as a couple despite those challenges.
Laura: Spurgeon has some sermons where he preaches and speaks very highly of marriage. He uses the words, joyful love that it brings. Again, we totally admit that we’re speculating here, but we want to bring perspective that the Bible is applicable for all people for all of time, so what did it look like in the past when they didn’t have cars, as easy access to babysitters, all of these wonderful places to go to make all the memories? What would date night look like for these people? It kind of seems like maybe it wasn’t quite as prolific as we find it to be now.
Another couple we wanted to touch on was Hudson Taylor and Jane Elizabeth Fowling. Hudson Taylor was a well-known missionary. I’m going to link an autiobiography I read of him recently in the show notes that I found really helpful and enjoyed reading. I love missionary biographies. So, this was Hudson’s second marriage. He was actually a friend of Charles Spurgeon—
Emily: Ooh, fun fact.
Laura: Yeah, and he’s best known for his mission work in China; he started the China Inland Mission. If any of you guys have ever heard of that, hopefully that rings a bell. Anyway, Jane was Hudson’s second marriage; he had four children from his previous marriage, and when they got married, Hudson fell on or off a riverboat while he was in China and he was nearly paralyzed. So they went back to England for his recovery. About two years later, he was better. By that time, he and Jane had two children, so she had six kiddos, and Hudson went to China for a few years all by himself; we know she stayed back. Again, we don’t know all the details of their marriage and the ways God sustained them, but we do know, realistically, the distance between them did not allow for regular date nights. Eventually Hudson came back and they were reunited, but it’s interesting to see they had many, many years apart as Hudson was off doing mission work and Jane was home taking care of the six kids. What did that look like for them? We know they remained married until, I think, Jane died of cancer.
Emily: So I think what we wanted to draw out of these stories is that both of these couples—and many, many, many more throughout history both in scripture that we could reference or just around the world today—faced challenging and exhausting circumstances. There are still a lot of couples, through Christ, doing God’s work who will go down in redemptive history as being individuals and couples who made a huge impact for the spread of the gospel. Maybe they enjoyed some form of date night, maybe they didn’t—they probably didn’t in the way we define it. That doesn’t make date nights bad, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them, but we’re trying to illustrate God gives grace. We hope this encourages you if you feel like you’re in a season where you’re separated from your husband because of military or work, you feel encouraged you can still be unified in doing important work for the kingdom—without what we say is stereotypically “healthy” for a marriage.
Laura: So looking at these historical examples is fun, but what about modern day examples? All of you in this today, how can we encourage you? We asked our friend Hunter Beless from the Journeywomen podcast—hopefully you all listen, because we love her, her ministry with the podcast, and her awesome interviews, so head over there to listen—to share about she and her husband’s, Brooks, marriage. So you’re going to hear her talk in a minute, but just to give you a little background: he’s in the military, and he travels a lot. So she was someone who came to mind when we thought of someone who might not get date night regularly, but God is still being faithful in their marriage. Here is what she had to say about how God has sustained their marriage.
Hunter: Date nights are a dream, but my husband Brooks and I have a major logistical hang-up with the advice we’ve received to make them a regular reality. As a soldier, Brooks’ job actually requires him to be away anywhere from one-third to one-half of every year. When he’s home, he’s required to work long hours, sometimes even through the night. Deployments, trainings, living stationed away from family; all these things make even irregular date nights really tough. In our first years of marriage, I actually felt really guilty about not adhering to the well-intentioned wisdom of the weekly date night. Forget regularly dating, we couldn’t even talk on the daily. But, by God’s grace, despite these logistically-challenging circumstances in our inability to make a regular date night happen, Brooks and I actually do really experience intimacy and oneness in our marriage. The Lord has been faithful to sustain us as we seek to display his covenant-keeping love right where he has us. If you want practical application for what this looks like, we pray together at the same time, even when we’re separate in proximity; we write notes communicating value and dignity to one another; we strive to make the most of the time we actually do have together. We believe seeking to know and be known is more of a mindset and lifestyle beyond a literal date on the calendar; beyond that, as we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might, we inevitably grow in our love for one another every day of every week.
Emily: So much good stuff in there, and I hope so many of you can relate! Hunter shared that so eloquently; thank you, Hunter!
We want to close the podcast with some encouragement. When we look at scripture and see what God chose to record as good news for marriages and his design. We see things like loving each other with Christ’s love and sacrifice in marriage. Our marriage is this mysterious picture of Christ and the Church, and it’s supposed to reflect that. God encourages us to love and respect one another, to engage in appropriate submission, to be on mission together. We see that all throughout scripture. This one’s hard for us to hear sometimes but having regular sexual intimacy is something the Lord emphasizes. Praying together, leaving and cleaving and becoming one flesh, keeping the marriage bed really pure and undefiled, staying committed to each other until death. I think when we look at scripture and what God says—this is my design for you, this is my hope for you—this is what we’re supposed to be doing in Christ (yes, sin will affect this). I think these are the things we can cling to, and uphold, and do with his help in a variety of different circumstances.
Laura: As Emily and I were talking about this concept before we recorded, we thought, Ultimately, all we really want is to be cherished. We want to feel loved and special. We really want to feel that Christlike love that—like Emily talked about—God has charged the marriage to be biblically. I think anyone who’s been married for a number of years and been on a handful of these date nights, you realize that date night isn’t actually a guarantee either. You can ask my husband, because he’s said, Laura, you are very good at ruining date night. [Laughter] You know, with my stubborn heart and bad attitude at times. Isn’t it funny? You build this up in your mind and you’re so excited and looking forward to it, and then something happens—let’s just say not from personal experience— like your husband is home late, so then you’re late to your date night. So then you don’t talk to him for a little bit. [Laughter] So, this was old Laura, but I think it’s important to remember date night is never a guarantee anyway. And wouldn’t it be a great way to cherish your husband not by expecting these grandiose acts through date night but instead really thinking, How can I love my husband in the little things in the life God has called us to today by serving him? Maybe it’s back rubs, emails, texts, just those some acts of service. Those are the things that can sustain a marriage for a long time instead of putting all your stock in this one, big, grand night that has a 50/50 chance of going well. [Laughter]
Emily: I think we’re saying instead of putting all the stock in date night, let’s broaden the view, thinking about how to cherish our husbands in everyday life. That’s so good. We say this on almost every show, but we have to have a relationship in the Lord and find our identity in our hope in Jesus.
Laura: I think that’s a good thing to say on every show. [Laughter] I do feel like a broken record, but if I’m going to say anything over and over again, I’m going to tell people to love Jesus and spend time with him.
Emily: Yep. Gotta say it! He’s the only person who’s going to meet your expectations and exceed them. Another one is rejoice and enjoy your marriage as a gift from God. We know there are tons of complexities, some of you are thinking of objections, but do it when it’s mundane, do it when you get a date night.
Laura: Yeah, and look for ways you guys are serving the kingdom or could start to serve on mission together and find joy in that. I think of Priscilla and Aquilla who were working side-by-side with Paul spreading the gospel with him. Of course, enjoying intimacy; we know there are a lot of nuances and different things to that, but as you can, invest in that way in your marriage. Pray for more time together. If it really is a huge desire in your heart to go on date nights—again, it’s not wrong, but don’t put all your expectations and hope in it— tell your husband and pray to God for it. Ask that he will make a way, and if not, ask he makes you content in the process. Lastly, don’t compare with other couples. This is like broad brush marriage advice—
Emily: We’re roller painting a wall of marriage right now. [Laughter]
Laura: We’re not edging the trim out right now. [Laughter] We have a big 18 inch roller.
But truly, don’t look side-to-side and think, That couple looks happy and they’re getting regular date night and I’m not because I’m in a different season. Comparison is truly never worth it. In all of this, we pray ad hope you get a version of date night, of course, but more than that, we pray your heart is tuned to the Lord and his desire for marriage; we pray you seek him above all things, even your ideal night out away from the kids. We know how good it sounds and can feel and what promises it brings, but ultimately, remember God is the only one who can truly sustain your marriage and keep you faithful to one another to the end. He is where your hope needs to lie, not in date night.
Emily: Amen. Well, if you guys want some more resources, head to our show notes at risenmotherhood.com, and you can also find us on social media @risenmotherhood on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Thanks, guys!
Laura: Thanks, guys!