1. A good marriage is where both people feel like they’re getting the better end of the deal. – Anne Lamott

This quote from Anne Lamott may stir feelings of hope, joy, and delight in a couple whose marriage feels like it is thriving. However, in a marriage that feels like it is suffering, this quote may cause an entire range of difficult and painful feelings. Sometimes our marriages get to a point where all feels hopeless.

We wonder why we’re even trying anymore and if it is worth it to keep trying or if it is better to just walk away. Many married couples may even wonder if couples counseling is even worth trying or if they are beyond hope.

It may feel like you’ve tried everything and still struggle to have a healthy and happy marriage. If you find yourself in this place today, know you are not alone. Marriage is hard. So much harder than we ever could imagine it would be- even when well-intentioned people in our lives told us it would be hard.

When we take two people and put them together for any length of time, there’s bound to be conflict. Add in the stress of finances, work, sharing space, adapting your routines to one another, and maybe even kids- no wonder marriage is hard!

When all feels hopeless in your marriage, don’t give up and walk away. Often our hopeless and painful moments come when we’re in times of stress, trauma, transition, or overwhelm. They can also come when we’ve gotten into a bad rut and haven’t kept the romance alive in our marriages. This can be far too easy to do.

We get stuck in the mundane and necessary parts of keeping life running, the newlywed phase ends, and we suddenly realize that we can’t remember the last time we had any romance in our marriages. Countless couples even find they can’t tell the last time they had a date with one another.

Rekindling Dating in Marriage

During our initial courtship, dating, and engagement phase we’re all about dating. Even in the newlywed stage, most couples still go out on regular “dates” with one another. It’s a natural way couples transition themselves from what they were used to before marriage to what life looks like after marriage. Eventually though, for most couples, this starts to fade.

Some folks maintain a weekly date night throughout their entire marriage. But most find the responsibilities of life, schedules, kids, finances, etc. keep them away from dating their spouse like they once did. This can be amplified even more when there is conflict in the marriage. If you’re in frequent conflict or dealing with difficulties in your marriage, the last thing you want is a date night. Yet it is one of the most important things you can do for your marriage.

At this point in the article, some of you are saying: “I get that that it would be good for my marriage to be having more regular date nights, but we literally can’t do it.” For a lot of couples, the finances of a night out plus babysitting are truly more than they can afford.

Others work opposite schedules which give them little time together. While others may have health issues, food or environmental allergies/sensitives, a chronically ill child, or other similar issues that truly prevent date night from happening.

Plus, let’s be honest, a lot of us are just genuinely exhausted. Adulting is challenging work. Raising kids is exhausting. The world is a stressful and overwhelming place to be in these days. We may not have the energy to plan a date or to get dressed up and go out to dinner.

Guess what? You can have a great date with your spouse for free or super cheap! Did you know that even couples who are struggling find that when they take time to have fun together, they find their marriage seems to be in better shape? Or that when we laugh with our spouse, we’re less critical of them and less hurt by their actions or behaviors?

Even taking half an hour a week of intentional time together can have a major impact on our marriages. We can all find half an hour a week to turn off the TV or disengage from social media to have a mini date with our spouse. If you can set aside 3-4 hours a week, even better.

Free and Cheap Date Ideas

Marriage needs to be nurtured! Try some of these date ideas out and rekindle the romance. You may need to get a babysitter for some of these. Others you can do after the kids are in bed. If a sitter is out of the budget, trade date night care with someone.

You could also see if your church can host a parent’s night out. Church childcare staff supplies care while parents can head out for the night.

Here are some free and cheap date ideas for easy dates at home and out.

  • Get a local guidebook from the library and choose a park or hiking trail you’ve never checked out before. Pack picnic and head there for a sunset dinner.
  • Check with your local library about events, museums, and attraction passes. Many libraries carry free passes. Some even offer free admission to state parks or a free night of camping!
  • Don’t forget about free admission days too!
  • Play a board game after the kids are in bed. Or if you have older children let them watch a movie while you play a game and tell them they can only interrupt if there’s a legitimate emergency.
  • Set up sleeping bags in the living room, put out a string of white Christmas lights on the ceiling, and sleep “under the stars.” You could even look for a track of nature sounds to play on your phone to make the experience more realistic. Put the kids to bed early and have a romantic night under the stars.
  • Read a book aloud to one another. So often we spend our free time zoning out in front of the TV. Choose a book you can take turns reading to one another instead of watching TV. It will give you something else to talk about too. Or listen to an audiobook and give each other massages while you listen.
  • Take a bath or shower together.
  • Write a poem.
  • Make a photo album.
  • Spend time working in the garden.
  • Set up a hammock for two in the yard and spend time chatting in the sun.
  • Wander your local Farmer’s Market.
  • Go for a walk or a hike.
  • Watch a Livestream or YouTube concert.
  • Teach each other one of your favorite hobbies, crafts, or activities.
  • Explore a different neighborhood together either by taking a walk there or looking at Google Earth.
  • Google Earth and explore the place you went to for your honeymoon, your childhood towns, or somewhere you love to travel.
  • Get a book of questions from the library or look up questions for your spouse online and ask them of each other.

Including counseling in the process

Carving out another hour a week for couples counseling is also important for struggling marriages. If all feels hopeless and you’ve lost the spark in your marriage, a regular habit of dates with your spouse and counseling may change the trajectory of your marriage forever.

Your counselor can help you work through issues in your marriage, teach you ways to improve communication, help with parenting or financial issues, and so much more. Don’t give up hope. Marriage is worth fighting for.

Above all, keep these words in mind as you think about nurturing your marriage:

In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love.

So, what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions, you must be tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful.

And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love. – Timothy Keller

“Picnic”, Courtesy of Kate Hliznitsova, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Library”, Courtesy of Sr. Jano Ferlic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Romantic Picnic”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bible and Breakfast”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License