By Cherie Lowe
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Managing time and money well requires thinking differently. Sometimes the cherished ideals of others seep into what we think our finances and romance should look like. We need a new lens on old expectations and conventional wisdom. If we’re to lead our lives well, we may even need to break with tradition.
Before we even began paying off debt, Brian and I broke up. We called it quits. We said not necessary, so long, sayonara. Let me explain.
In the early years of our marriage, a recurring piece of advice seemed to float around at many of our outings. In seminars, in small groups, during sermons, we repeatedly heard that in order to remain happily married, we needed one thing—regular date nights.
So we tried it. We put a date night on the calendar. At first we tried one per week. After realizing just how difficult it was to find childcare on a regular basis without bankrupting ourselves, we nixed that and settled on one date per month. But then life happened (oh, the busy!), we forgot to put it on the calendar one month, and we felt like we were awful human beings. With guilt in our guts and shame on our shoulders, we felt like our marriage just didn’t measure up to those rock star once-a-week date nighters. They were destined for gold and platinum anniversaries while we were obviously doomed to divorce court.
And then we realized those notions were stupid. No date night, no matter how regular or how awesome, will make your marriage perfect. There’s no magic formula that instantly adds intimacy to your relationship. If there was one, it’s definitely not going to be found by eating expensive cheesecake, no matter how delicious.
We kissed date night goodbye.
Before you misunderstand me, I don’t think date night is stupid. I don’t think you’re stupid if you have a date night. But I think that as a culture we’ve laid too many expectations at date night’s door. We’ve unknowingly placed our hopes and dreams on one night a week dining out, while someone else watches our kids. We’ve depended on sitting silently in the theater, watching the latest blockbuster unfold, to fix our communication problems. Miniature golf, concerts, and shopping trips might provide a few moments of release from life’s anxieties, but in the long run they don’t help us discover deeper meaning or foster financial foreplay. Left unchecked, date night becomes more about where we’re going or what we’re doing instead of who we are with. We dangerously transfer what should be a time to connect into a temporary distraction.
Between work and the duties of home, the last thing you need is one more required activity. Does this mean you quit scheduling special time together? Of course not. Does it mean you are off the hook for regularly rekindling your romance? Not a chance.
However, thinking that date night waves the magic wand for all the problems in your marriage is a misnomer. In fact, oftentimes, regular date nights cause unforeseen problems, including financial problems. We may come to a planned evening out with unrealistic expectations. Too many rom coms set a blurry Hollywood standard on what date night is supposed to look like.
He’ll be the perfect gentleman, suited up and arriving with a fresh cut flower. She’ll be wearing a sexy red dress, with commercial coiffed hair and flawless makeup. They’ll share a glass of wine at an upscale restaurant and chuckle over the day’s events. After a five-star dinner, they’ll hold hands while strolling along a canal and then complete the romantic evening.
I don’t know who these people are and how they got inside my head, but the date nights we’ve attempted pale in comparison. Usually Brian is still in his suit from work so that part’s accurate. Everything else skews out of view because the nearest canal is 35 minutes away, we couldn’t afford an upscale restaurant, and my naturally curly hair is always out of control (and usually in a ponytail).
Have you idealized date night, making it something it’s not? It’s time to shift your lens.
Spending time together looks different for every couple. When we were paying off $127,000 in debt, we didn’t have the budget to afford a babysitter, let alone a fancy schmancy restaurant. We would have been happy to split a burger, but were making getting out of debt our first priority. Overspending on date night is not going to create harmony; instead, it causes money issues and marital discord.
When it comes to date night, seek the ordained in the ordinary. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you do, and reckless spending never equals a harmonious relationship. Instead of idealizing date night culture, try to carve out time in your regular schedule to connect. Every. Single. Night. This eliminates unrealistic expectations but raises the chances of actual connection.
Adapted from Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance, and Their Intimate Connection by Cherie & Brian Lowe. Click here to learn more about this title.
God’s vision for your marriage is far more than mediocre, and money and sex are two of the most common tension points. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In Your Money, Your Marriage, Brian and Cherie Lowe offer straight talk and power principles for getting your finances back on track so you can get back to your romance. Take it from them—the Lowes worked off $127,000 in debt in just four years, and emerged not only financially free but better together.
Join Cherie, personal finance blogger at Queen of Free, and Brian, family law attorney who’s seen it all when it comes to marital money struggles, in this journey to help you and your spouse go from different books to the same page. Through candid and hilarious stories, fresh ideas and practices, and a few winks along the way, Brian and Cherie reveal the secrets to “financial foreplay” able to help every couple thrive together in finance and romance alike. You’ll learn how to:
- Develop “passionate patience” with each other toward a shared financial goal
- Identify unhealthy financial habits
- Save smart on date nights
- Sort through misaligned expectations as a couple
- Beat the comparison game
- Cultivate a stronger relationship on a budget of zero dollars
Couples share much more than a bank account or even a bedroom—they share a sacred union. Imagine what your marriage could be if you could put cash conflict behind you. Your Money, Your Marriage is an invitation to find out.
Cherie Lowe is an expert voice on personal finance, writing from her Queen of Free blog. Her work has been featured in RELEVANT, Christianity Today, Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family, and MOPS International’s Hello Dearest. She is also a columnist for the Daily Journal (Franklin, IN) and appears weekly on WTHR (Indianapolis NBC affiliate). She holds a degree in history from Asbury University. Visit Cherie at queenoffree.net.
Her husband Brian, a family law attorney for well over a decade, serves clients with compassionate truth and bold wisdom. Guiding families through the difficulties of divorce has given Brian a passion to provide hope to hopeless married couples. For over eight years, Brian has blogged for his wife’s Queen of Free website and his own website kingoffree.net. He holds degrees from Indiana State University and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis.