From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.
“And, whatever you do, make sure you have regular date nights with your spouse.”
Has anyone else ever read an article or listened to a speaker or even chatted with a friend or mentor, heard everyone’s favorite marriage advice (“Go on dates! Regularly!”), and just rolled your eyes? Or felt defeated or depressed, because clearly you will never have a healthy relationship without those magical date nights? Or wondered where everyone else is finding the extra money, time and energy it takes to make Date Night happen?
Yeah, me too.
Last week my husband and I sat down with our marriage counselor. When he asked what we wanted to talk about, I hesitated. What I really wanted to talk about was not feeling connected enough to my husband over the last several weeks, a particularly busy season in our lives. But I didn’t. Because I knew we’d just circle around the fact that we don’t schedule enough date nights and how date nights are important and blah-blah-blah DATE NIGHTS.
Don’t get me wrong. Our counselor is great (evidenced by our now infrequent visits with him), and I’m all for date nights. But I don’t think they are the only solution for every marital bump in the road; I don’t think they are a magical formula for preventing divorce or relationship stress. And I know without a doubt that they are not nearly as simple to schedule as the world of marriage advice-givers would have us believe.
[Side note: I realize that I have, in the past, been one of those marriage advice-givers touting the benefits of date nights. Here, here and here for starters. That’s because it’s a good idea and I believe in it. I just know it’s not always feasible. So there. And yes, maybe I’ll go on a date by myself now. “Hypocrite, party of one…”]
ANYWAY. The truth is that we all know spending time together is crucial for relationship success. And regular date nights are clearly a fun way to do this and the thing we all aim for. But sometimes, date nights just aren’t an option.
Sometimes you can’t afford a babysitter.
Sometimes you can’t find a babysitter.
Sometimes you’re tired. Or sick. Or busy.
Sometimes your kids are sick.
Sometimes you have to work. Or he does.
Sometimes the thought of finding a babysitter, making a reservation, looking up movie times, digging out a pair of shoes that are going to make your feet hurt, or even just finding a shirt that isn’t stained or stretched out and still fits IS JUST TOO MUCH.
So what then? What do we do when date nights just aren’t possible? Do we give up? Collapse on opposite sides of the couch with one eye on Facebook and another on the clock because bedtime can’t come soon enough? Do we give up on leaving the house together and take turns hanging out with friends? Separately?
No way! I mean, yes, sure, occasionally we might do all of those things. But, for the love, we cannot give up completely on the idea of date nights with our husbands. We simply need to redefine “date night” and make those sweet times of connection work for us.
If you’re finding it hard to “go on regular date nights,” here are a few things you can try instead.
Movie Night: Rent a movie and curl up on the couch to watch. (Or save a few episodes of “your show” – the one you only watch together, no matter how many episodes are backed up on the DVR or waiting on Netflix.)
Do Lunch: Meet for lunch or go out for breakfast or grab coffee – anything away from the norm (and the kids and the house and the to-do lists) is a chance to connect with your spouse! It doesn’t have to be on a Friday or Saturday night.
Play Games: Break out the Monopoly board or challenge him to a few lightning rounds of Words with Friends.
Get Cooking: Feed the kids some mac and cheese, put them to bed, and then head back to the kitchen – for fun, this time. Try a new recipe together. Pick out a few ingredients and play Chopped at home. Make a copycat version of your favorite restaurant meal.
Ask Questions: Buy a stack of conversation starter cards or look for lists of “get to know you” questions online. Take a personality test and read each others’ results.
Go to Bed Early: Don’t make me elaborate here. You know what I mean.
The point is that we need to connect with our spouses. But if we aren’t able to dress up and go somewhere that requires reservations or tickets or a long drive or whatever it is that makes this whole plan feel impossible, we can still connect. Date night can be whatever you make it – whenever, wherever, whatever!
What do YOU do when date nights feel impossible?