A while ago, a co-worker and I were discussing get-away weekends for couples—the kind every marriage expert says you must take. Our discussion naturally segued into a close cousin of this prescription, the "date night." We both sighed and admitted, "We never get around to either as often as we should."
I've noticed that conversations about these two intimidating, yet healthy, practices tend to follow a predictable pattern. A sigh. A perplexed look. And then some well-worn line like, "Can you believe how expensive babysitters are!" or "Got any ideas for inexpensive dates?"
When looking for excuses to explain why we avoid what everyone agrees is one of the best things we can do for our marriages, money, followed by a lack of time, rises to the top. To be perfectly honest, though, I'm beginning to wonder if money and time are really what put the kabosh on twosome-time. I've read hundreds of tips on cheap dates and inexpensive get-aways. And yet, we still aren't going out much. I don't see couples crowding into coffee houses or strolling through parks at an alarming rate.
Going cheap doesn't necessarily lead to going out. These pages of inexpensive date tips are given a cursory glance because, I'm convinced, few couples view marriage as an asset—an investment with the potential for incredible growth. For many of us, we "bought" the asset (our marriage) on our wedding day and then safely tucked it away in a steel safe where it can't even earn interest. What would happen if instead we viewed marriage as a viable investment that deserved regular deposits and a crack at a mutual fund for maximum growth?
Better yet, can you imagine what would happen if we treated our marriages like we did our houses—that BIG investment bankers and real estate agents love to see you make? Last week, as I sorted through years of receipts, I was stunned to note how much we've spent on our home in the past decade. We've done the necessary maintenance to keep the sinks draining, the furnace blowing hot air and the roof from leaking. But beyond that, we've planted dozens of flowers, added a deck, fertilized the grass and hung rolls of wallpaper. What if every date night and weekend away was viewed with the same value as new gutters or a room addition—a way to improve on a capital investment? Holding the receipts in my hand, I wished that the pile for dates and dinners was as thick as the pile for window coverings and nails.
It's deceptively easy to fall into the cost/time argument. We've been there. The hassle of hunting down a teenage babysitter who is that rare combination of trustworthy and available. The cash outlay for the evening. (I now write the babysitter a check rather than see such a wad of cash pass from my hand to his.) Stopping the day short to get ready. You know the routine. And yet, when we come home from an evening out, my husband and I realize how much we needed, and enjoyed, the breather. The return on our investment was worth the effort.
When asked what made their marriage so successful, a Portland, Oregon, couple married 17 years said:
"Our marriage has survived losing a house, a church folding, a serious accident, owning a business and having five children! Our secret is maintaining a strong sense of togetherness. We do that by putting each other and our marriage ahead of the kids, house and work. We do a lot of just-the-two-of-us activities: getting away for an hour, a weekend or a week. We've probably 'invested' more money in babysitters and airfare than in furniture or vehicles!"
There's that word again—investment. It pays to go cheap when the item has little lasting value. Paper towels. Orange juice. Kids' swimsuits. But why should I want to, or hope to, get away cheap when it comes to one of the greatest investments I'll ever make—my marriage? I'd much rather slap a copy of the words from the Oregon couple on my refrigerator door than a list of ten cheap date ideas. It's a good reminder of why we should spend some cash and not feel bad when we do. We're investing in a future, in each other, in something God-created. We're not buying paper towels.
Copyright © 1997 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.