Resolve to Enjoy a ‘Year of Dates’ (With Your Spouse)

Msgr. Charles Pope: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says to Some, “I Never Knew You”?
January 13, 2018
POLITICS: Democrats’ Contribution to Haiti’s ‘Craphole’ Status
January 15, 2018

Author Sarah Bartel, Your Family Matters, January 9, 2018

Could you make a New Year’s resolution to date your spouse at least once a month this year?

The wide-open sweep of the calendar year ahead is a great opportunity for married couples to plan a year’s worth of date nights with each other. Daytime dates work, too! Setting the intention to spend regular time enjoying your husband or wife’s company builds up friendship and satisfaction, strengthening your marriage.

Stepping out of your everyday routine also creates space for more meaningful conversations. Where are you heading in your marriage? What are you dreaming of for your family? In a 2015 Meeting with Families in the Philippines, Pope Francis said, “You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. … Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream!”

The pope continued: “How many difficulties in married life are resolved when we leave room for dreaming, when we stop a moment to think of our spouse, and we dream about the goodness present in the good things all around us. So it is very important to reclaim love by what we do each day. Do not ever stop being newlyweds!”

Great dates can give you the chance to think bigger about your life together and to discuss your challenges, dreams and goals. Whether over dinner at a restaurant or while jogging for a few miles together stroller-free, these conversations can energize and inspire you to create a common vision for your future.

Other dates create fun memories. Our kids will never forget the morning they woke up to discover the epic blanket fort that my husband and I had created in our living room during a date night in. Strung with Christmas lights and strewn with pillows and blankets, we left it up for the whole weekend.

When planning your dates, try to think of what your husband or wife would especially enjoy, and design your time with that in mind. I don’t especially enjoy playing cards, but my husband does, and he was delighted one evening to discover that I’d set up a card table and snacks for us for a surprise date night at home. (I ended up having fun despite myself.) I appreciate theater and performing arts, and I was thrilled to be whisked away to a marvelous play at the Lincoln Theatre one evening when we lived near Washington, D.C. My husband had planned the perfect evening with my tastes in mind. Putting your spouse’s preferences first is a wonderful way to make a gift of self.

Here are some frugal date ideas to get you thinking as you plan your “Year of Dates.” (Singles can also plan for dates for enjoying their own company and that of God in what St. John Paul II calls “original solitude,” and parents can plan “Daddy Dates” or “Mother-Daughter Dates” with their kiddos.) These can be adapted:

  • Plan a walk, jog or hike in a beautiful park or forest. Or rent kayaks. Revel in the beauty God created here in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Take a weekday morning off to enjoy a Free First Thursday at one of Seattle’s museums.

  • Swap babysitting with another family from church.

  • Read aloud a classic by candlelight while sipping wine. Find literature suggestions on

  • Adoration and appetizers afterwards. A local newlywed couple of my acquaintance met on and began their first date by meeting at church for eucharistic adoration.

  • A date-night subscription box can help ensure regular, creative dates at home without much planning. Read reviews of Date Crate, Date Box and competitors on the blog of The Screenwriter’s Wife.

As you date your way through 2018, may you dream, grow and be blessed with wonderful experiences of the joy of God’s love.


Dr. Sarah Smith Bartel is an award-winning writer and a dynamic speaker. She earned a doctorate in moral theology and ethics from The Catholic University of America, specializing in marriage, family, sexual ethics, and bioethics.

She is a member of St. Andrew parish in Sumner, WA, where she lives with her husband and four children.

Photo: Shuttershock