One of my favorite things to do for my husband when we were dating was driving by his apartment and leaving little goodies on his doorstep. I’d leave a bag of Gummy Bears, with an I’m thinking of you note. Eric loved feeling special, and I loved being the one who could make him feel special.

Now that we’re married, I still like to leave little surprises for him. Just to let him know he’s special. But, I’ve applied the Gummy Bear Way to other things beside sweets and candy.

One of the areas that has frustrated me — as life got busy with the treadmill aspects of parenting — has been our “Date Nights.”

I used to think it didn’t count if I had to be the one to setup a Date Night.

Isn’t the guy supposed to ask me out?

Expectations

It was always so frustrating — waiting, hinting, acting all bummed-out — trying to get Eric’s attention.

What I really wanted to say was this: I need some loving. I want romance. Don’t you like me anymore?  

But I’d try to get this message across to Eric by putting my unspoken expectations on him.

Eventually, all those words would spill out in a puddle of tears. And our conversations would leave Eric feeling like I didn’t appreciate all the other wonderful ways he loves and takes care of me. Like the way he wakes up to feed the kids breakfast so I can sleep in. Or how he’ll make sure my laptop is charged up by plugging it in at night because I often forget.

I didn’t like how my conversations with Eric about date night was changing the feel of the chemistry between us.

He wasn’t feeling special, and I wasn’t the one who could make him feel special.

The Chemistry

As I noodled over how to solve this problem, I had a flashback of myself, standing in front of tubs of candy at the Sweet Factory at the mall, happily putting together a sweet surprise for him, driving all the way across town, anticipating how happy he would be eating it and thinking of me.

I realized God was asking me gently — through this memory to me —

Remember all that time and energy you were willing to spend giving him a Gummy Bear surpriseParenting right now is taking a toll on your husband. Why aren’t you willing now to bring some sweetness into Eric’s life and arrange date nights with him?

I realized in our current season of life, I can love Eric by making him feel special this way. By giving him a Gummy Bear moment — by giving us space to step away from the grind of parenthood and just be sweethearts.

At first, it was hard for me to let go of my expectations.

I’d get really mad, thinking how unfair it was that I had to be the one to do this — on top of everything else I was doing for everybody and everything.

But, once I started doing it, I realized what I really longed for — was the chemistry of being a couple on a date.

Something Very Interesting

I had to face reality: if I didn’t set up date nights, nothing was going to happen.

I became willing — out of necessity.

But something very interesting started happening.

Once I arranged the babysitting and the date was set on the calendar, Eric would start anticipating it. He started texting me how much he was looking forward to it.

Now, that I liked.

Then, Eric started offering up ideas on where we’d go. Or we’d sit there Yelping out different restaurants and pick one together.

Now, that was really romantic!

Soon, Eric couldn’t wait for our date nights. We’d whisper “date night” on days that felt extra long, to encourage each other. We remembered we were for each other.

Our Rainy Day

Since I began setting up date nights, nine years have passed. Each month, when I mark down dates for doctor appointments, soccer games, and garbage/recycling on next month’s calendar, I email my babysitter and get a date night set up.

I know if I don’t schedule it, everything else will get scheduled — except date nights. Now, it’s the other way around.

Little did I know how much those date nights were helping us emotionally save up for a rainy day.

We were creating spiritual whitespace as a couple: time and space to refresh and nurture our soul as a couple.

Three years ago, I experienced my first panic attack — and a long season of journeying through anxiety began for me. I wasn’t my best self through this season. I was grumpy a lot, cried often, and was just trying to survive.

It was hard for Eric to see me struggle. Grief takes time. It was a hard season.

Looking back, I see that the emotional memories we enjoyed as a couple those years before — sometimes as sleep-deprived, exhausted parents — gave us emotional currency with each other. We stumbled into this season with a full-tank of relational gas.

Relational Safety Net

During this stressful season, I increased date night to happen bi-weekly. Our tanks were being drained much quicker.

Our date nights have become our relational safety net. Sometimes, just knowing we get time away together as a couple later makes everything a little more bearable.

We step away and walk together on a trail, be a couple at the cafe and hold hands uninterrupted. Order super-spicy food without having to eat it like the meter’s running or one of us is cutting up food for little people.

Like extra padding, our date nights break our fall, instead of breaking us.

I found when I gave myself freedom to be his sweetheart this way, we both could step inside that soulful place inside each of us.

Where I was his beloved and he was mine.

I’m getting the romance I really want in unexpected ways. By loving my husband The Gummy Bear Way.

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death.”
{Song of Songs 8:6}

Pull up a chair. How have you nurtured space for romance in your marriage? 

By Bonnie Gray, the Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith for the daily grind.

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Like extra padding, our date nights break our fall, instead of breaking us. {Tweet this!}

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  • Anna Smit

    Oh yes, these whitespace moments as a couple are so precious since having kids! We do “date nights” at home almost every week: we feed the kids and put them to bed, then eat dinner as a couple…no babysitter needed, but still a chance to chat with no interruptions! And we also go for a walk together in the dunes almost every Saturday, dropping the kids at their Oma and Opa’s in a town thirty minutes drive from us. Oma and Opa enjoy the alone time with them and we enjoy our alone time!

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      ahh… sounds soul romantic, Anna… so blessed you have an Oma and Opa… and date nights in are soul wonderful!

  • Lisamarie f

    My hubs surprised me when I picked him up at the bus stop and said lets just go sit on the beach and be together. It was so sweet and romantic! Your right though if I don’t plan it date night is non existent and we don’t even have kids at home. Tonight though will keep me smiling for awhile!

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      how romantic, @lisamarie_f:disqus! it’s sweet to hear you’re feeling as loved as you truly are with your hubby!

      • Lisamarie f

        Thanks. We talked about you actually and what a blessing you are in my life!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Bonnie,
    I encourage you and applaud you on keeping your relationships in priority order. First and foremost is your relationship with your husband, because when the kids are grown and gone, it will be the two of you and if that relationship is allowed to wither by putting kids first, it will be a long, lonely journey into retirement. Intentionally or unintentionally, moms especially put their kids first and this is not what God had in mind. I find that when I do things His way, instead of my way, things ultimately work out better. Good for you, too, for dropping the expectations…men aren’t mind readers :) Great post and godly wisdom!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • Diane

      So very true Bev! Married 35 years, my husband and are now empty-nesters who are too young to retire just yet, but we both are home-based. This has been a time of testing for us, but one of growing. Really makes one take stock.

      • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

        @diane I love how we can share these soul conversations as kindreds here. thank you!

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      @bevduncan:disqus … yes, prioritizing hubby .. then kids in that order. ;) isn’t that how it all started? :)

  • Becky Teegarden Runyan

    I NEED to do this! Thank you for the reminder. I have felt lonely and disconnected even though everything in my life “seems” perfect. This time AWAY talking together, even if it’s just outside at our house, is what I really miss <3 I will be doing this :)

    • http://www.faithbarista.com/ Bonnie Gray

      @beckyteegardenrunyan:disqus yes.. it’s soul important.. just stepping out, into another space… even outside the porch.. holding hands with a cup of tea & on the porch.. ;)

  • Katie Scott Randolph

    I need to do this. We haven’t done this with all of my husband’s health issues. We are drained.

  • Veronica

    I need to do this, also. My hubby and I have a special Saturday morning routine of coffee in bed. Whichever one wakes up first, makes the coffee and we share some pleasant time of coffee and conversation. However, I can’t remember the last time we went out on a “date.” So we’ve now chosen a night next month to do this.

  • Dawn B

    My husband and I started ‘date night’ about 6 months ago! Even though we are empty nesters, we anticipate the 1st and the 15th! Those dates are the night we go out as a couple and enjoy each other! Nothing fancy, might be even a burger joint but we are celebrating our love!

  • chanel

    This is good stuff. Didnt do this enough. Both our faults. Have hit rough spots that need prayers and healing.

  • Gaye Napier

    This is so good. I love ‘like extra padding date nights break our fall, instead of breaking us’. Now that’s something to live by. I’m off to organise our next date night..I too had forgotten how important they are. Thank you

  • Tonya

    Since our little one lived in a preemie bubble for the first 2 months it’s been a challenge to remember that it’s ok to leave her with others now, but we’re getting better about it. Last weekend we revisited the place of our first date :)

  • SarahPinault

    I’m from England originally, my husband is from Maine. On his first trip to England he was worried that I was going to break up with him. Unbeknownst to him I had purchased a silver thermos to give him as a present before he left. He had once told me a story about how his mom would send his dad to work everyday with a silver thermos full of soup, and that to his little boy mind that’s what real love was, that’s what showed you were married to someone and cared for them. Well he started to get upset and so I pulled out the thermos. It was the first time I ever saw him cry, but he never though we were breaking up again. I haven’t thought about that in years. He spends so much money during the day buying bad gas station coffee, I’m going to pull it out on Monday and start sending it to work with him. What a great reminder that 12 years and 2 (almost 3) kids later, he’s still my love. Thanks for the reminder Bonnie. Love the book by the way.

  • Jennifer Delk

    Thank you so much for this post today. I have had these same feelings about date night never happening, yet I never take the time. I always thought he should. I will now change my thought process and put forth the time and energy. Today I also had my first panic attack since eight years ago. My husband was by my side struggling watching me. I need to put more spiritual whitespace in my life. Looking forward to sitting down with your book soon!

  • Beth Williams

    I have tried to ask for date nights once a month. Your suggestion of scheduling one and making some plans–even for a walk in the park is great! I’m in a season of frustration with aging parent & work stresses. I need my tank refilled with romance. I think I’ll plan a date night this weekend & surprise him!
    When dating we would get together as often as possible and go out places now 11 years later we don’t do dates any more. I guess age, work & life stresses just get to you. Here’s to spiritual whitespaces and dates nights!!
    Blessings :)

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Wonderful post, Bonnie. I well remember how delightful it was to spend “grown-up” time with my husband, during the years of mothering three small children. Your ideas for making it happen are valuable indeed. And you’re right: we never know when those connective times will hold us together during a crisis.