My husband and I have been together for fourteen years—almost half of my life. We’re the quintessential high school sweethearts—we met on a bus during a high school band trip and we’ve been best friends ever since.
People usually assume that we had it pretty easy—after all, we met as teenagers so we got to skip the whole awkward dating stage and accompanying heartbreak, right? While there are some things I’m glad I missed [Tinder, mainly], the truth is that keeping a relationship together throughout major life changes like going away to college, discovering who you are as an adult, and searching for a job during the worst economic downturn in a century is tough business.
Before we got married, there were many times that we thought the next change was going to break us apart. Ultimately, learning to work together through the growing pains led to a strong relationship and a good foundation for the challenges of marriage. After all, marriage is the start of a pretty tumultuous time in life—purchasing a home, navigating career sacrifices, having kids—these are all things that can easily break a relationship that isn’t carefully tended.
As an adult child of divorce [my parents split when I was in college], the last thing that I want is for my children to witness their parents growing apart. One of the greatest gifts that my husband and I can give to our children is a loving, secure marriage and a good example of a strong relationship. At the same time, it can be so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, especially with a young family. This is why we prioritize [and occasionally force ourselves to take] frequent date nights.
“Date night” sounds cheesy, but it’s really just time to reconnect with what made us fall in love with the other person in the first place. Though I love when my husband does the dishes or dances around the living room with our daughter, I also enjoy hearing about his dreams and helping him through problems. Date night is an opportunity to consciously appreciate our spouse in a way that came naturally before kids.
The most common oppositions to date night are that it’s 1) too expensive, or 2) too difficult to coordinate with children [I know, because these are my most common excuses to skip it too]. These are legitimate concerns—and I sure do miss a spontaneous fancy dinner out—but it’s still very possible to enjoy date night without leaving the house or breaking the bank. Here are a few ideas:
1. Make Dinner Together
At our house, dinner time typically involves lots of noise, spoons thrown on the ground, and trying to prevent food from falling on the dog. Very different than our pre-kid evenings.
One of my favorite ideas for a regular at-home date night is from Emily over at Hot Date Dinner—she and her husband set aside time every Friday night to have an “adult only” dinner, where they whips up something extra special and reconnect, kid-free.
After having our third child, Tim and I were really missing the relaxing, peaceful connection we once enjoyed over a nice dinner. At that time our kids were relatively young (6, 4 and 6 months) and dinner time was a bit more chaotic with sippy cups, high chairs and potential melt-downs for any given reason. I am strong believer that family meals are important, but so is showing our kids that we value our relationship as a couple. We decided to re-claim Friday nights as our “date night!”
This was the birth of Hot Date Dinner. Every Friday, I would cook and Tim would pick up a bottle of wine and no plans (on either of our parts) would be made for this night, it was ours! Seven and a half years later (with some flexibility in mind) we still look forward to it every week.
I love this concept so much that my husband and I have started setting aside our Friday nights for “hot date dinners” as well—I think it’s pretty perfect for those of us in the small child season of life! If you need some recipes for your next date night, check out Emily’s fantastic blog!
2. Netflix and Chill
I know that means something different to the kids these days […] but one of our favorite date nights involves a bottle of wine, some homemade popcorn, and a documentary on Neftlix. Wild, I know—but I would never have discovered my non-cooking husband’s ironic passion for cooking documentaries otherwise. It’s fun to learn something new and gives you something to connect over at a later date—we like to do a chef’s table at a nice restaurant for special occasions because we were both so fascinated by the Chef’s Table series.
3. Enjoy a Fire
When the weather is cold, there’s nothing more cozy and romantic than snuggling fireside. Pour a mug of hot chocolate and turn on the fireplace, or throw a log in an inexpensive backyard fire pit.
4. Play a Board Game
This might sound like an evening with your grandma, but give it a try—my husband and I get pretty competitive over Monopoly. One of my favorite board games is one that my sister-in-law made up—using a Scrabble board, each person takes a turn making up a nonsense word and then defining it. Points are awarded based on creativity and hilarity. Pairs well with beer.
5. Plan Your Dream Vacation
I absolutely love to travel and dream of spending weeks exploring new cultures and places—unfortunately, our real life commitments and budget don’t allow for that at the moment. One fun activity that you can enjoy with your spouse is to spend time talking about your dream vacation and researching all about what you might do and see while you’re there. Not only is it fun to imagine, but you might find that it’s more feasible than you thought!
Reconnecting with your spouse is vital to a successful relationship and a happy home for your family. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that you got married to have a partnership and “do life” together, not just to have kids. No matter what your circumstances, find a way to plan a regular date night, even if you never leave the house [or it’s on Skype!]. Prioritizing your marriage is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and for your children.
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