Date Night and the Leaven of Communion
by Josh Noem
Stacey has a really good friend at work. She’s one of the few people doing the same kind of work Stacey is doing, so they are peers in several important ways. A couple times a month, they’ll go out for drinks at the end of the week to catch up and connect and converse.
It’s great — I know it’s really good for Stacey to socialize in that way. There’s something unique about finding a kindred spirit of the same gender who shares a similar season of life and work. It makes a difference to be known like that — to be with someone who “gets” you. Stacey comes back from those outings lighter. It’s really good for them both, and I’m thrilled they can connect in that way.
But… There’s a small part of me that felt a little jealous.
I recently made a change to full-time work from a part-time position, which has shifted our routines as a family. The slack in my day I used to be able to count on to pick up kids and plan dinners is gone, so Stacey and I often find ourselves at the end of the work day scrambling to put food on the table and try to connect as a family before it’s time to go to bed.
We’re settling into that new rhythm as a family and starting to figure it out, but the secondary implication is that most of the interactions Stacey and I share are logistical: who’s going where, what’s for dinner, what time is your meeting, how is Simon doing with his project, etc. It sometimes feels like marriage and family life is just another phase of the work we both do in the office — like we’re co-managers.
The thing that’s been missing is real connection between the two of us — a sense that we’re not just planning and executing home life efficiently and effectively, but we’re in love with one another. You know, married.
So, I realized that’s where my jealousy with Stacey’s connection with her colleague comes in. I didn’t want her to give it up, and I had no concerns about split loyalties or divided attention. It’s clearly good for her, and I love to see it nourishing her.
But I wanted to have that kind of connection with her, too. And I realized that we couldn’t take it for granted that we’d share an automatic feeling of togetherness just because we share family life. When we had organized our work-life balance to arrange for slack in the schedule to care for kids, there was enough time and mental reserves left over to care for one another. With that slack gone now, we need to build it in intentionally.
A solution presented itself immediately. Lucy has a weekly Irish dance lesson on Tuesday evenings, and just a few blocks away from her studio is a wine bar. So, we drop her off together, then hop over for a glass of wine. The goal of spending that hour together is just conversation — no planning or budgeting or calendaring. Just be husband and wife — just be in love.
The benefits of building a feeling of togetherness — not just working together for the sake of the family — have surfaced immediately, too. Planning and logistical conversations are softer, and we’re able to have quippy, fun exchanges with the kids even in the midst of going here, there, and everywhere. It lightens the load — it’s like leaven for the whole family.
And that ties into a conclusion we reached a long time ago, but always need to be reminded of. We talk about it often with couples we prepare for marriage, in fact: We need to fight for that connection. It doesn’t come easy, it fades with time, it can easily get overlooked when there are other pressing duties. But nothing else works in family life if we’re not right with one another. The kids can smell discord between us, and life becomes a long slog of one dang thing after another.
The leaven of communion transforms everything — it nourishes us to be for one another, not just with one another.