Opinion: Date nights

POSTED: 11/7/13 2:03 PM

Okay, lets’ stay with the thorny issue of divorce for a bit. When governments get involved in moral issues, the result usually is none too pretty. Take for instance the initiative of Solveig Horne, who became the Minister of Children and Equality in Norway not even a month ago. Horne is concerned about the number of divorces in her country. The Norwegians have an even better appetite for splitting up than the Dutch, as the 40 percent divorce rate shows.

Horne wants to do something about this by introducing a weekly date night for married couples. The ministers got her idea from the romantic comedy Date Night starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell. (Funny enough, the main characters are bored with the routine of their date night in the movie, so they go and look for some excitement and get it in spades). With unbeatable logic, Horne told The Guardian: “In the film, everything goes wrong – but I thought it was a good idea.”

Horne’s sister who lives in the US maintains a weekly date night with her husband.  It really works, Horne gushes, without going into details.

Norwegian media have reacted angrily to Horne’s suggestion, labeling it as proof of the government’s center right bias. Conservative groups in the US, like the National Marriage Project, have started date night campaigns, claiming that men and women who have couple time at least once a week are 3.5 times more likely to report being very happy in their marriages than those who struggled to spend time together.

The media already had Horne in their crosshairs for understandable reasons. In 2011 she was criticized for the following remark about rape: “Girls are responsible for the situation they put themselves in, but boys also have a responsibility to respect a ‘no’. I think both boys and girls have equal responsibility.”

A year earlier she offended the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community with a tweet about a children’s book that included gay characters: “I wonder if it’s okay that kindergartens are reading gay adventures for young children?”

Now Horne has set her sights on saving marriage in Norway. Chances that her initiative will draw anything but ridicule are close to zero, given the fact that the state is not able to tell its citizens what to do and when to meet. With Horne’s logic, one could also argue that couples that don’t see a lot of each other have a better chance of keeping their marriage going, simply because they have less opportunities to quarrel.

The good news is that Horne won’t make date nights obligatory for Norwegians. But in the meantime the government has freed up funding for relationship therapy. Critics may still consider that as an attempt to meddle in their bedroom affairs.


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