Saturday, January 4, 2014

when you don't have 52 date night ideas, steal some moments

I roll my eyes at the date night idea lists.

They're often so unrealistic. 

The lists don't factor in paying a sitter, drive time if you live in po-dunk-ville, your husband's crazy work schedule or any form of reason or sanity.

Do people really have free weekends out there in the big universe?  Free weeknights?  (Maybe my world is really on an alternate planet.)

And besides sometimes they're dumb.  For example, maybe your husband isn't jazzed by free massages at the massage school that you thought was a fantastic date night idea.  Don't ask me how I know this. 

Lately my circles have been talking about who the priority is supposed to be, husband vs. kids; it's an interesting discussion.  We were lucky enough to be counseled from the very beginning that our unit of marriage, one man and one woman, was complete in God's eyes, and therefore a very sacred priority.  Children are a blessing to marriage - they aren't intrinsically part of it. 

So I guess this is something I've always thought was really important. 

I married him.

I said no to a lot of things to spend my life with him.

I like to be with him- especially while our kids are little.  Time with Daniel charges me up to deal with everybody else.

While men aren't always super great at planning things, they are generally enthusiastic about hanging out with their wives.  I've found it doesn't hurt to plan things myself: silently holding out for the perfect date night invite might leave me without a date. . . . for a very long time.  Hey. . . you married a man, right?

When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood,
then women will be perpetually stuck with boys.
Camille Paglia, Time, 2013: The Year Men Became Obsolete? 

I didn't marry a boy, that's for sure.

It's hard to think of when pouring into your marriage is a waste of time.  I've never regretted it.

I've regretted:

not answering my phone when he calls

angry words

shutting him out

being too busy for him

surfing the 'net

allowing my kids to drain the life out of me

choosing my husband to be the place to unload all of my frustration 

But I haven't regretted choosing to carve out time for our marriage.

Here are some of my favorite dates over the past year: 

There are a million excuses why you can't pour into your marriage:

broken trust, broken heart, anger, betrayal, grief, depression, pregnancy, jobs, job stress, kids, finances, other commitments, other ministries, good busy, bad busy, teaching, he's an early bird / you're a night owl and the list goes on. . .and on and on and on. . .

Don't cling to the excuses.  Cling to the person God gave you and hang on. 

Valentine's Day.  Daniel's shift usually discusses what they are going to do for their significant others and during the brainstorm session {ladies: men truly try.  they really do.} Daniel came up with the brilliant idea of cooking dinner for me. Oh my word.  So special.  He put the kids to bed at seven and told me I couldn't come downstairs until eight.  When I did I really couldn't believe my eyes.  

table set, goblets, candles

fresh fruit chocolate bar

stuffed zucchini boats

with sausage and red bell peppers and muenster cheese (almost a year later and I still can't believe my husband went to a grocery store and bought muenster cheese)

ahhh so special and I felt so loved. 

Not so brilliant was the idea of letting a bunch of prank-crazy buddies know what his plan was: lots and lots of phone calls during our dinner hour and even a mysteriously anonymous honking drive-by.

Not exciting, not fun, but needed:  having older, wiser people sit and help us sort stuff out when we can't trace the end of a problem from the beginning.  So much wisdom.  So much value.  Hardly considered a date- but definitely pouring into our marriage. 

Is it a date to go on a mission trip for two weeks with your husband and not even sleep in the same room?  Umm, probably not, but one of the best things we did for our marriage in the history of us.  I cringe to think that I almost didn't go because of our kids.  They were fine.  They barely remember.  But we remember that shared life experience, shared horror at extreme poverty, shared tears, shared frustration at our own complacence.  We remember.  It was us.  Priceless. 

Sitting on the porch swing watching a thunderstorm, toes on the concrete porch, together for five minutes.  Yes.  It matters.  The bookwork, the phonecalls, the stress, the planning - it can wait for five minutes.

Bank Meetings.  Closings.  I am sorry to report that some of the most fun, happiest, most peaceful moments of our summer were spent at a long table overlooking the river waiting for our attorney.  That feeling of it's you and me against the world, baby! And we are so, so, so crazy. (And probably stupid.) But it was us. It wasn't my husband off doing his thing.  We're in this* together. 
*This refers to working every spare minute between May and October to make those bank meeting / house closing decisions be wise and not stupid. 

Midnight swim in the pool MINUS snorkels, floaties, screaming, dive sticks, donuts, all manner of  squirt gun apparatus, kick boards and swim diapers.  It's awesome.  I highly recommend. 

Taco + Phone Lunch Date.  I look back at this one and wish I wouldn't have been frustrated.  Daniel's mom had taken the kids and we were feverishly working through hot summer days and nights trying to meet deadlines for a house.  We took a break and met at Taco John's for lunch, both dirty and tired.  Daniel's phone rings constantly and sometimes he can turn it off, other times, he just can't.  That was a lunch where I looked out the window while I ate.  Retrospect: special.  We were able to work together, I got to see his world, I should have realized how much pressure and stress he was managing and congratulated him on how well he was spinning all of his plates.  Actual: not special, I felt frustrated. I can't undo that date, but I can hopefully choose a different attitude next time it happens. (And it probably will.)

Working the Boot Drive together. This is an annual event that firefighters participate in to raise money for kids with MD.  It involves standing in traffic with fire boots and yes, I suppose, begging.  You meet a lot of crazy generous people and a lot of really grumpy ones but it's a great experience.  Once again, I think it's so easy to opt out of these things using kids as an excuse, but again, they're so fine.  They chalked on the driveway with their beloved Jess and I spent an hour in my husband's world.  We're all better for that morning (except maybe Jess).

Bought black patent leather heels. That purchase practically counts as a date because it was a decision to say goodbye boring, hello LBD, and you still matter to me babe.

Visiting Daniel at MFD one night without the kids.  Make-up, hoop earrings, we sit outside on a concrete patio, treat it like speed dating. Fifteen minutes.  Worth it.  All the other nameless, pointless things that we could have done that night-  watching the news or an email that could wait or loading the eternal dishwasher?  Yuck, at nine pm?

Stopping each other to listen to a song that moves us.


Phone calls.

It matters.  It's little.  It's actually big.  They add up.  All those stolen moments. . . they add up to life.

We're building this home, this life, this marriage, with our words, with our actions, with our moments and how we spend our time.
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1 

Ahh, I want to be a wise woman.

This year I'm going to keep stealing moments.
ten years together and this was our first time christmas shopping together!  stolen. sweet.


  1. As a newly married wife, Love this :)
    I'm thankful for this too: "We were lucky enough to be counseled from the very beginning that our unit of marriage, one man and one woman, was complete in God's eyes, and therefore a very sacred priority. Children are a blessing to marriage - they aren't intrinsically part of it."

  2. Great post! Thanks for sharing your experiences Hayley!

  3. So good and so true. :) In the last (almost) 13 years we have redefined romance to mean so many 15 minute dates, texts, holding hands over a screaming child, etc, etc, etc. : ) It takes work, it takes major investment, and it is 100% worth it. I loved this.

  4. As a 21 year married wife, love this! Thanks for the reminder that my kids are fine. We have two long weekends away planned this winter/spring and I'm a little nervous. I'm going to invest in being present for my husband and thankful for this stage of life that provides this for us. My kids are teens. Only one of them leaves me nervous. Thanks for sharing!

  5. So much wisdom in this post. All the books I read on marriage before jumping into marriage didn't even tell me some of this stuff. Its so real life. I feel like I could learn so much from you in this area!

  6. Wow, so much truth and wisdom. I need to save this one and read it again and again.