Monday, July 6, 2009

He Said: Mormon Date Night

I have tried date night on a few occasions in my married life but not consistently. Part of my problem has been I am constantly broke and I am lazy. My wife likes to do different things like go for a walk or paddle a canoe. Neither activities that I am interested in. My idea of a good time is going out to eat or watching a movie. Neither activity which engages in much conversation.

Historically my wife tasked me to try to track down the concept of "date night." I can't seem to track the concept of an LDS date night prior to the 1980s in Church Publications for general members but I believe it was probably a practice since the 1940s or 1950s for church leaders. Among General Authorities I believe it existed before the 1980s because in “Elder Bruce R. McConkie: ‘Preacher of Righteousness’,” Ensign, Jun 1985, 15 it says that the McConkie's had been doing it for years:

Mark remembers that Thursday nights were reserved as his parents’ date night. “Their courtship continued until today.” They enjoyed shows, went out for ice cream or popcorn, or just went for walks. They once went through a bird-watching phase together, and later enjoyed collecting and polishing rocks, making beautiful jewelry for friends. They studied the scriptures together, and she listened as he prepared his manuscripts and sermons.
It became a wide-spread term in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Elder Dean L. Larsen used the idea of a Friday date night during a husbands’ and wives’ fireside broadcast from Temple Square 29 January 1984 in which said:
A wise bishop told me recently that every Friday night is date night for him and his wife. The older children in the family know that they have a babysitting assignment every Friday evening. It is a tradition that they enjoy with their parents.
The earliest time I saw it used in the Church News was on 22 August 1987 in response to a Mormon Forum when people were asked to respond to how to be a more effective father, husband. Leo Weider of Provo, Utah responded:

On our date night, every Friday, I normally ask my sweetheart, "How I can serve you and the children better? How can I be a better person, husband and father?" Then I listen without a defensive rebuff. I may think I'm doing great but it's how I am perceived by my family and others that is important. I don't like to hear that I am lacking, but if I don't find out I will never know how to change. When I ask my children these questions, I often get startling answers. What they think, not what I perceive, is most important.
In the 1990s it was reported on a few times in the Church News. In How to be a Hard Worker While Finding the Time to Rest Body and Mind on 30 July 1994 we read:

Reserve at least one day or night per week for activities. We have a date night, which is most often Saturday. We ride our motorcycles, see historic sites, visit friends, do family history research, etc....

Because my husband is a busy bishop and provider, we have found that having family home evening is a way for our family to slow down, especially after Sunday meetings and schedules. On Monday nights, as a family, we make sure that we plan a fun activity either outside the home, which gets us away from our normal stress level, or we just stay home. We have a simple gospel lesson with singing of Primary songs. We laugh together, which always seems to rejuvenate all of us.

There is always a date night once a week for my husband and me. There are times we sit around the piano and sing, which releases a lot of tension, or we listen to music, whether it be the Tabernacle Choir or soothing classical music. Music has been one of the biggest influences of my life and my family's life. By it has come a lot of stress, as I am a music teacher and my husband sings. But also, by it has come much peace, as we always seem to turn to it when we need tensions released and our spirits calmed.-Anne Woolley, Kenosha, Wis.

On 3 Feb. 1996 in How to remain in love with your spouse despite the ongoing rigors of life

Have a weekly date night. This does not necessarily have to be a spend-a-lot-of-money night. In our case, we make time for each other, even if that only means that we go for a walk together and have ice cream. Do it with the idea that it's your time together, not time to discuss kids, bills, household things. The idea is to spend time together and to stay acquainted with each other.

Most of the LDS marriage counseling books suggested it as a practice now for general members. Brent Barlow in What Wives Expect of Husbands (1982) wrote:

While some husbands spend adequate time with their wives, many do not. One wife wrote, 'I would like him to sense my moods and respond with some time especially for me when I am tired, frustrated, or burdened. I would like this time without him complaining and without having to ask for it."

Another young woman said, "In the future, I would appreciate more planning for time together. Specifically, setting aside time for just us. Time to share experiences, develop interests we can share, become better acquainted, and just be good friends."

An older woman wished her husband would just "offer to go out in the evening for a walk or bike ride."

Wives do expect an occasional night out with their husbands. One happy wife said, "I enjoy going on little trips with him or just a date to dinner or a show. But it doesn't have to cost anything to make me happy. All he has to do is let me know he's glad I'm there." And another satisfied housewife simply wrote, "We have a regular date night. He tries very hard to follow the advice of our church leaders, who say we should go out alone as husband and wife."

Some wives don't want to go out on the spur of the moment. One wife admonished husbands, "Plan ahead for dates. Spur of the moment planning is difficult, and by planning you can get more in. Or, it can just make you happier in looking forward to the time together."

Tamra A. Fackrell in the Sane Mother's Guide to Raising Small Children agrees with Biv:

My husband and I often have a weekly date. Many couples complain that getting a babysitter is too expensive, but time alone with each other is important. I live for it. I love the romance, and I love my husband. Every marriage needs an element of fun, and a babysitter is much cheaper than marriage counseling. Don't just keep your marriage alive; instead, make it thrive!

I have found some creative solutions about babysitting. For example, you might go out two nights a month and stay in two nights a month. On your nights in, put the kids to bed promptly and establish the rules of date night: No interruptions! Then you can watch a movie in a homemade tent, go on a scavenger hunt, eat a crazy theme dinner, or watch the sunset from your balcony. As I write this, my husband and I are on a date of sorts. He bought burritos for our dinner, and he is playing computer games while I am writing. As I finish a section, he reads it and offers suggestions. Not exactly pure romance, but he shows his love by his support. You can also trade babysitting with a friend. And if you are lucky enough to have Grandma or an aunt who loves to babysit and lives nearby, you have even more options! A weekly date keeps marriages thriving.
I remember before I had kids my wife came and got me and took me on a romantic canoe trip with Dick and Julia Lowe on Utah Lake. Even though I can't swim I braved it. I can't seem to get a real consensus on the Friday night bit but I have heard that over the years.

I am not sure you need to institutionalize the practice but I am sure that in the busy world we live in that couples don't seem to spend enough quality time together. Formalizing it can make it harder to be spontaneous but on the other hand a half a loaf is better than none. Even if you only go out on occasion it is better than not going out at all.


  1. I like your take on the concept of date night. As I shared on your wife's entry, the concept of enduring courtship, probably come from the psychologist Erich Fromm's book The Art of Loving (1954).

    Most of the people who read The Art of Loving are probably not aware that Fromm was a member of the Frankfurt School, by the way. Test everything and only keep the good, I guess.

    I am not sure that Fromm is right. After all, the nature of the relationship changes. Different hormones are involved during courtship and during a committed relationship.

    Oxytocin research appears to be the latest fad, which is supposed to be responsible for fidelity. It's interesting but I will wait for the fad to pass before I trust this conclusion.

    Anyways, if committed relationships are different then courtship behavior may not be all that helpful to sustain a marriage.

    It's probably more important that couples create something together. You and your wife writing this blog together is an excellent example of being creative together.

    I am especially impressed that each of you can maintain distinctive if not divergent views and yet do it together.

    Something like that probably does a lot more for any marriage than date night. Date night may be a great thing but I doubt that it can save anyone's marriage.

  2. My apologies for the poor grammar. I definitely need to edit to compose a readable text.

  3. I don't think it's "date night" per se that "saves" marriages, but what the results of it may be. Connection, positive emotion, creating things together (as Hellmut mentioned), etc. are needed. Dates can provide opportunity for those things.

  4. Hellmut,

    That's exactly the point of date-night though--to recreate those experiences from early courtship. How often have you heard a couple say that they just "fell out of love" or drifted apart, etc. In couple's therapy, the goal is to re-find those experiences that caused you to fall in love the first time with the expectation that it will help keep the relationship vital.

  5. I loved reading this blog posting, it's really motivating me to make sure that my spouse is a priority and working harder in my marriage. I made a goal last week to start doing small acts of service everyday for my spouse. I've made a list but ideas are coming up short. I did simple things like giving him a foot rub when he gets home from work, or leaving a special note in his car. I was wondering if either of you had ideas so that I can keep the ball rolling. Thanks!


  6. lol, Mae, we might not be the VERY best folks to ask for suggestions on sweet little things you can do for your spouse!!

    Perhaps you could start a blog together?

  7. Thanks for the synopsis. I recently had a member of the bishopric tell me "the prophet has commanded that you have a weekly date night with just you and your spouse." I can't find any source of this commandment. Did your research bring up anything like that?