Date Night Won’t Save Your Marriage | letter to a friend

[From the archives]

Dear you,

One of our boys complains when Murray and I go out. He doesn’t want to sleep over at his cousins. He doesn’t want to stay home with a sitter. He wants to come with.

Better still, he reasons, why can’t you just have date night in the kitchen?

Who will snuggle? he dramatizes.

What time will you be home? he reproaches.

We go out anyway.

We cordon off from the chaos a sacred once-a-month date space, so we can breathe and decide and Just Be and talk about our days in ways we can’t with listening kids and eat fantastically spicy food as payback for being the responsible grownups who have to Do All The Things.

Date night is important.

So is the morning person who brews the early coffee and the night person who brews the late tea. So is wheeling the dustbin onto the pavement on a Wednesday. So is the internet banking and refilling the gas and making sure one-of-you covers for the other-of-you by being at the sports day. So is remembering the Important Days if Important Days are important to your person.

All of these things are important. But none of these things – no matter how much you grit your teeth and commit to doing them – can save your marriage.

Saving a marriage comes down to one very simple, very difficult thing –

keeping a soft heart.


When people say marriage is hard work, I think this is what they’re talking about.

Because it’s hard work to keep a soft heart.

It’s difficult, secret, un-applauded work requiring excruciating honesty with yourself, before God.

It’s not hard to make him lunch or wash her car or say You look hot in those jeans. It’s not hard to say yes to sex when you’re not totally in the mood. It’s not hard to warm the food when he’s late or pick up a pregnancy test when She’s Late?!

Those things aren’t hard work at all – when your heart is soft. They become unplayable when your heart is hard.

It seems to me married hearts grow hard incrementally.

Little by little over time.

In an effort to protect itself a heart can form an inflexible veneer over hurts and slights – making it easy to rebuff the next volley of spite or indifference and fling it back as anger, sarcasm or throwing him under the bus. Layer upon layer of bitterness and exhaustion coats and thickens… Coats and thickens… Until the heart is hard. And hardly beating.

No person or partnership is ever perfect. Not one of us is above getting ourselves a rock-hard heart. And we need to be prodding our hearts several times a day to check they’re still pliable, supple, yielding.

I know what a soft heart feels like only because I’m married to one and his next-level gentleness, generosity, flexibility and forgiveness is a constant comfort and conviction.

Sure we’ve walked our hard roads like any couple. But I’ve learned from Murray that a soft heart keeps diving under the wave so the other can ride it. Keeps going second, understanding that mutual submission à la Ephesians 5:21 means always going lower so the other can go further. A soft heart keeps a short account of sin – asking forgiveness often, quickly, unreservedly.

So friend – date night won’t save your marriage. But maybe it’s a good place to start? Maybe it will help you remember in this tough place how it felt when your hearts were tender and you wanted nothing more than to hitch your destiny to his.

I’m praying for laughter every day and ordinary magic. Holidays and buckets and buckets of Lindt balls in red shiny wrappers. I’m praying for enough spontaneity for romance and enough predictability for refuge and that you’d both be ok with irregular nostril hair growth because *news flash* you’re both getting old and this is a thing.

But more than all that I’m praying for you and for me that we’d keep our hearts soft towards our one-flesh person, for life.

All my love

. . .

Have a spectacular weekend.

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