What Date Night? Unlearning Relationship Shame


We have two children under five and date nights in our marriage have left the building. We occasionally snag a night away and often steal a coffee, but lately, I have been feeling guilty that we are not doing enough.

Last week I was having a conversation in a cafe and my friend announced: “Every Wednesday we have a date night, come rain or shine, nothing interrupts it.” Shame, cringe, ouch. I wanted to crawl into my flat white and pretend to laze about on an inflatable bed, dreaming of Hawaii.

My husband and I are walking towards six years married and you know what? I am pretty sure that we are doing okay. The problem I often encounter, however, is the pressure placed upon us, by cultural formulas that have helped relationships in the past. The problem I find with this is that culture and community change so quickly and the problems we face today in relationships are so different to that of a decade ago, so formulas don’t last through seasons, they need to be fluid. Personally, I’m not a great fan of formulas and I know they are a great way to create some structure for growth and change but I am learning that shame can be the greatest hindrance in my marriage.

Brene Brown says it this way…

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Shame consumes me sometimes around what we are not doing, rather than what we are. When I compare my relationship, with what others are doing the sneaky shame trap undoes me.

Here are three ways that I am celebrating what we are doing right in our marriage, rather than focusing on what others are doing.

Finding our monthly rhythm rather than our weekly schedule

My husband is a shift worker and every week is different. I am a speaker and an author. Often he is arriving home and I am running out the door, notes in hand. The idea of a weekly date night seems romantic, but for us, the practical application of this principle is floored before we even begin. Over and over I found myself resenting his schedule and my commitments until recently he said something so simple to me. “Babe, what if we look at a monthly rhythm rather than a weekly schedule?”. And that is what we did. We got out our family calendar and together wrote in important moments that we both needed for communication and connection.

Sneaking away for caught moments rather than planned extravagances

One of the greatest shame dialogues for me personally is that we are not going out on extravagant dates and therefore are we putting our relationship in jeopardy. For us, however, we run two businesses, we have two pre-school aged kids and our rosters are complex. Lately, we have been giving each other a break and sneaking away for caught moments rather than planned extravagant gestures. When something cancels rather than filling that space with laundry and bills, we sneak in the middle of the day to a coffee shop. At night-time instead of filling the post-bedtime routine come down with Netflix, we are learning to turn the TV off and light candles, taking time back. What is something simple you enjoy, rather than waiting for the big night out?

Laughing more, snuggling when it’s hot, and cups of tea

Our lives as parents are intense. Last night we were chatting and my husband said: “Imagine what we would be doing today if we weren’t parents?” We both laughed out loud. We have become determined to snuggle on the couch even when it is hot. In this season of novice parenthood, we are determined to laugh more, dance in the middle of toy Armageddon and continue to offer each other cups of tea. Each evening, without fail I ask him “would you like a cup of tea?”, and every morning without fail he brings me a cup of coffee.

I am learning that love is found in the little as well as the large. The problem with the extravagant formulas to keep love alive is we can easily believe if we just buy more flowers, spend more money at restaurants and read another book that we will find the golden bullet on marriage. Every season is different and what works for someone else, will not necessarily transfer to another.

So here is to fewer date nights for this marriage and more intentional sneaky moments where we honour each other in the little. If shame for your story and season has consumed your marriage and you are unsure whether you can do more than you currently are, maybe the answer is to do less but to be more intentional with what you have.

My answer for this season personally is to unlearn the shame dialogues that say I am not doing enough of. What are you learning in marriage at the moment? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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