Remember when you couldn't wait for date night? For too many, unfortunately, that question conjures up thoughts of courting, not a fun night out epitomizing married life. Fortunately, Steve Carell and Tina Fey reminded us this past weekend of how exciting going out on a date can be in their new comedy, Date Night.
On Friday night, my wife rushed home from work and we took off for the local movie theater. All week long my wife and I discussed the upcoming movie night out -- that's part of the fun, the anticipation of having something planned. We arrived at the theater and took our seats among the many older couples, a smattering of younger couples and a few groups of middle-aged women. For the next hour and twenty-eight minutes Phil (Carell) and Claire (Fey) Foster went from passengers in their marriage to active partners working to bring back the vigor -- and survive their night in Manhattan.
Among the many laughs -- and there are many -- one of the things I appreciated most about the Fosters was that they had carved time out of their busy and tired schedules to reconnect on regular date nights. Where the Fosters failed was in letting their date nights become as routine, predictable and humdrum as the rest of their life. You could see the love and playfulness of the characters, but the effort to break out of their monotonous routine to create new experiences didn't happen until their close friends confided that they were getting divorced. That's when Phil decided he was going to take his wife to a fancy seafood restaurant in the city, and Claire seized the moment to dress up for the occasion.
For other married couples, the lesson here is not that you need to woo your spouse with a fancy night on the town, but that you should continue courting them and find new and exciting activities to do together.
My wife and I plan a secret date night for each other once a month. One month I plan to take her out for a surprise date and the next month she reciprocates. These aren't always grand events, having ranged from laser tag and live fights to an outdoor movie and walk along a local lake. To make sure these dates are a regular priority, we build them into our monthly budget and have also established a few rules to follow: we have to stay within our designated budget, we can't repeat dates (i.e., if we do a movie and dinner one month we can't repeat the same events the following month), and the dates should be something we both will enjoy. These date nights would be counter-productive if one of us dreaded what the secret outing might be.
For the Fosters, like so many other couples, they begin to really work at their marriage when they feel it might be slipping away. I hope that couples come out of the movie laughing as much as my wife and I did, but also recognizing that marriage needs to be nurtured and cared for in order for it to grow. Every couple is different and should find things that work for them. The great thing is that if tending to your relationship is an active priority, not every night out has to involve car chases to awaken your passion for each other.
After the movie my wife and I walked past the local shops talking about the film and recapping our day when my wife began to feel ill. She told me that a few co-workers were out sick and was afraid she might be coming down with the same thing. It was unfortunate that our night out was cut short, but I definitely didn't want her to get sick. We went home and then I briefly left again. When I returned I brought her some requested orange juice and surprised her with flowers. I, like the Fosters, experienced that not all date nights turn out as planned, but that's part of the excitement.