I hate1 that guy.
You know who I’m talking about: the image of the model husband in your head who plans a complex ten-part weekly date night to a five star restaurant, hires a limo, schedules a Red Cross certified babysitter, rinses the laundry on his washboard nine-pack abs, and is so stunningly domesticated that he voluntarily pees sitting down.
I can’t measure up. Frankly, I’m not even sure I want to.
Still, the unwritten rules of being a good husband say that good husbands take their wives on dates.
The problem is I did take my wife on dates. We went to great restaurants, had some wine, went home, had some more wine and then we, uh, did a “special hug.” And that’s how babies were made. And now, three of those bundles of joy later, if we leave our house we only have two options:
- Find and pay for a babysitter.
- Leave our tiny kids at home by themselves—and then afterwards go to jail for neglect.2
The problem is babysitters aren’t always easy to come by and cost precious money—and we have this personal thing about not wanting to go to jail—which made a weekly date night seem about as possible as me getting signed by an NBA team.3 Regrettably, for a long time rather than do something to connect every week with Sara, I did nothing. The bar seemed too high to even try.
But then I accidentally discovered Indoor Dating and now, every week, Sara and I have a truly fantastic date.
How? I work with what we’ve got. We’ve got a grill4, a couch, and I keep a steady stock of Imperial Stouts (Sara’s favorite beer—yeah, I know: that’s why I married her) in the basement. And every Friday, we go on an Indoor Date. It takes planning and money just like an Outhouse Date5 does, but it costs significantly less and produces the same results: an evening together to connect, laugh, and sometimes have a special hug. For this stage of our life, it’s the thing we can reliably do every week. When the kids are grown and moved out, maybe we’ll have the time and money to go out to fancy restaurants every Friday, but for now, it’s just not realistic for us. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter because Indoor Dating is totally doable and it’s working shockingly well for us.
The general game plan: On my way home from work I pick up $25 worth of steaks to grill and sometimes some fancy cheese or prosciutto.6 We make a simple dinner for the kids7 and then put them to bed no later than 7:30pm. Why that early? Because you know what doesn’t make date night more fun no matter where it is? Kids. They spoil it like a turd in a pool. Listen, if you love your spouse and also sanity, set and keep an early bedtime for your kids. Once they’re tucked inside their rooms let them play or read or whatever else doesn’t start fires—as long as they leave you alone. Once the kids are off, I grill the steaks, crack open a beer to share8 and we sit and talk and eat with each other—just the two of us.
You might think being at home is a distraction, afterall the TV is right there. But the truth is it’s no more a distraction than your phone is when you go out to a restaurant. In either case, the night is won or lost on your decision to check in with each other, not check out whatever is coming through the screen. The key to great conversation is searching for a real status update from your spouse rather than distractedly thumbing through the manicured status updates from your Insta-friends. Start with questions and then ask more. Ask her about her week—what she is thinking and feeling. Ask what she’s excited about. Ask what she’s worried about. And then push yourself to tell her about your week and how you’re feeling. By default, I give short shallow answers to big meaningful questions. I have to push myself to do better and share where I’m actually at: good, bad, high, and low.
When we go on an Indoor Date there’s no babysitter, so the clock doesn’t matter.
When we go on an Indoor Date, dinner doesn’t break the bank so the stress of money doesn’t distract us.
And because we hit the mark of an Indoor Date every week, thirteen years into marriage at the point when others grow stale and hit the rut of monotony, ours is strong, healthy and fresh. We know the current version of each other, root for each other and even actually like each other.
Our wedding anniversary was a few weeks ago. We talked about going out, I started making plans and looking at restaurant reservations, but then Sara said and actually meant, “You know, we can go out if you want to—but I’d honestly rather stay at home and have our date night in. It’s the best.” So we did. And it was awesome.9
Please hear me: we love to have date nights out too and have friends who swear by that rhythm. New adventures and fresh experiences together are incredibly life-giving. Check out this article from my friend Andy. He’s got a lot of great tips for making date nights out doable. Sometimes a change of scenery and the distance it creates from your daily grind are fantastic, but when it comes to truly connecting, intentionality and frequency are the most important marks to hit.
The bottom-line is God wants your marriage to be healthy and strong and He’s given you everything you need to get the job done. You don’t need more money or elaborate plans—you just need to show up and work with what you’ve got inside the box you’re in. The most important part is consistent, predictable time for the two of you to be with each other and connect. If you’ve got the time and money—and going out every week works for you, fantastic, keep going. But if not, no sweat: you can have a strong weekly rhythm of dating without leaving your house—and just as strong of a marriage as if you had all the time and money in the world. In John 15:8, Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” While that means all sorts of big things—don’t miss the small one: The way He loves is by being with us. One of the first names used for Jesus in the Bible is “Emmanuel” which simply means “God with us.” That’s what sets Him apart from all other religious figures and gods. Loving like Him just means means doing the same—making time to be with each other, no reservations required.
Fellas, Indoor Dating is the video game cheat code you’ve been looking for—I promise it works. Get started tonight.
1Did you just use the word “hate”? I’m shocked! Relax, so you know where I’m going: “that guy” is not a real person, but an illusion designed to demotivate us and keep us from ever rising off the couch. I’m aiming the word “hate” at that myth of perfection for the sake of the men who, like me, have ever bought into the toxic lie that the bar of being a good husband is too high to even try. “I hate that lie” is the most accurate way to phrase it.
2I’m all for leaving the kids at home by themselves as soon as possible, but none of them are double digits in age yet nor can any of them reliably spell their own name. Maybe next year?
3Which is to say not at all completely impossible, but probably less than a 50% chance. Like 48.5% maybe.
4That’s a lie. We don’t have a grill, we have a Miracle Maker. It’s called The Big Green Egg. It takes normal meat, adds smoke and turns it into warm buttery crack.
5 Did you see what I did there? The obvious flip on “Indoor Date” is “Outdoor Date”, but “Outhouse Date” is so much more accurate: no matter how much you spend on that fancy dinner out, it’s all going to end up in the same place about 12 hours later.
6Before the Millennials took over the world, no one had ever heard the term, “charcuterie board.” Now, it’s everywhere. I’m pretty sure Arby’s sells three sizes.
7Wait, what?! You don’t eat with your kids every night?! I’m telling Jesus on you and He will NOT be pleased! Cool it. We sit at the table with them while they eat, but amazingly they don’t seem to notice or care that we’re not plowing through the mac and cheese with them.
8Imperial Stouts are amazing. Bourbon Barrel Aged Stouts are even better. They come in what look like wine bottles but taste like dark chocolate cake laced with bourbon. As my friend Brian Tome says, “God bless America!”
9Back to charcuterie: skip dessert and instead make a board with a couple cheeses and a sidecar of prosciutto. Two cheeses that will change your life: Rogue River Blue and Truffle Tremor. I just had to wipe drool off my keyboard thinking about them.