Tim Challies' recent article, "You Don't Need a Date Night" struck a chord with me. Yes, it was nice to see some balance provided to the strong emphasis on spouses making regular escapes from kids, chores, etc. so their marriage can work. This counsel is often a source of guilt instead of encouragement.
But there's something else that has always bothered me about this line of thinking. It seems to me that much of this advice is framed as not only absolutely necessary, but universal. In other words, the message I have perceive is this: "Unless you have a date night with you wife a few times a month and a retreat once or twice a year, you are neglecting your marriage and setting yourself up for trouble. Marriages must have this! No matter the context."
Here's the problem. Going out several times a month and going on a marriage retreat every year is impossible for many couples in the world today. Not only that, but throughout history this type of marriage rhythm has not been normative. This is a luxury that many Westerners today can afford, but most Majority World spouses cannot.
So, does the impoverished Quichua couple with 5 children living in the Andes mountains have no hope of a thriving marriage? If they come to me for help with how the gospel informs their marriage should I tell them they need to go on date nights and find a marriage retreat to attend?
There must be more to a thriving marriage than the blinkered "date night" obsession. And, there is.
Challies is absolutely right. The perspective he brings starts to get at the heart of the issue. His approach is cross-cultural and easily contextualized. Marriages don't need date nights and retreats to thrive. They need communication, cultivation, and deep roots in the gospel. That takes shape in a myriad of ways and in a variety of contexts.