Kristina Beers: ‘Date night’ is more about the time than the date itself

By Kristina Beers

Special to the Pioneer

This past weekend, in conjunction with World Marriage Day (and partially St. Valentine’s Day) my husband and I went to a dinner and dancing event at the Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. This program was complete with a delightful meal, a nationally known speaker on marriage and followed up with dancing. We were able to tour the gardens, conservatory and magnificent displays in the quiet of the night as a couple with some of our dearest friends.

It sounds magical and in a special way, it truly was. A good portion of the 650-plus attendees have been married for 30 or more years, such a beautiful testament to the struggle of living with the same person for any length of time. The couple who had been married the longest just celebrated their 57th year together.

When we first were married, the most oft-repeated piece of advice was to go out, together, away from the kids. Frequently. Well, as you know, we have lots of kids and there was a stretch of eight years, at the front end of our marriage, when we had babies, toddlers and were expecting more. It was a sea of diapers, car seats, poop, laundry, and endless chasing after littles. It was more like “Rambo” than “Singing in the Rain.” If there was any money left over at the end of the month, it quickly would get eaten up with some repair or three. We had lots of love and laughter, but no money and that means no dinners out.

So, like many good couples throughout the ages and futures to come, we improvised. We would put the kids to bed and make ourselves a romantic dinner at home. If kid A slid down the stairs, we were right there to soothe his restless self back to sleep. We never needed any soft music in the background because the wind-up baby swing was gently rocking another in the background, marking our limited time between winds. My parents were our companions for card games if we desired company. It might not have been fancy, but it was fun and chock full of memories I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Now that our kids are plenty old enough to survive for an evening while mom and dad head out for a dinner out, we still find ourselves choosing to stay in anyway rather than spend the money. With three kids in college, we sure don’t have any more disposable income than we did 22 years ago, but even if we did, I think it is better to fill the walls of the house with our love and laughter than surrounded by strangers in a restaurant.

I would give the same advice to young couples — make a date night occasionally. However, I have lived enough reality to know it just isn’t in the cards for many marrieds: work, finances, debt and our rural location make it difficult. Add little people into the mix and you have a frustrated wife and a lonely husband thinking they are doing something wrong because they can’t seem to make it work like everyone says they should be. Our society screams individualism and works against the family in a way that every single culture previous has not. It’s time to recognize that and actively fight against that stream.

The greatest thing my parents did, who were by then elderly in their own right and really could not “babysit” regularly, was to come to us for adult company with a simple deck or two of 52 cards for endless games of euchre, pinochle, and canasta, interruption-free. Many of you may still play cards with your pals regularly — it’s a pastime that brings joy and fun into a marriage and bonds couples and families. Going out for cards to other friends’ house, kids right with you, is a terrific way to pass an evening. I remember listening to the adults laugh and joke while playing cards and hope I have done a decent job of passing that along to my own children.

Getting out as a couple isn’t as important as doing adult stuff together. Like our evening last Saturday that gave us a laser focus on what to reach for in the horizons, helping us to know we aren’t alone in our struggles, frustrations, and joys; shining a light on the goal of a life of bearing with one another (because happiness, friends, is not the goal of marriage) and how to endure long enough to see the gem in the soul of the other, we need examples in our society on how to make it work. Because if there ever is a time we need examples, it’s now.

So goes the couple, so goes the family and so goes the nation.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

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