I like my husband. I think he’s really cool, smart, interesting, funny, and sexy. I just enjoy hanging out with him. We’ve been married about eight years, and I still feel really lucky that he picked me to be his wife.
In a lot of ways, we just got lucky. Who actually gets to marry her first choice? This girl right here. But my husband also put into place some really practical rhythms when we first married that have helped us keep the flames a’burning.
We date. A lot. I know that’s the stuff of Premarital Counseling 101, but it’s a big deal. Every 50-year-old married couple whose marriage I want to emulate has a rhythm of regular date nights. (Hi, mom and dad!) And every 50-year-old couple whose marriage I definitely do not want to emulate hasn’t had regular date nights. There are always outliers and exceptions to any rule, but I’ll bet the happiest marriages are between couples who spend purposeful time together often.
In my experience, most people want a good marriage and know dating is important, but it just doesn’t happen regularly. I get it — life gets crazy. Family, work, and babies make date night feel like some nice, elusive, “maybe someday” kind of luxury.
So here are the biggest hurdles I hear that keep people from hangin’ with their main squeeze on a regular basis, and here are some ideas (and hopefully some inspiration) on how to get around those hurdles.
1. Augh, I Wish We Could, But We’re Just Too Busy
I know I know I know. You’re busy. I’m busy. Everyone’s busy. But you make room for the important stuff. If it’s not on your calendar, it’s not going to happen. There will never just be a magical night that you happen to be free, that your babysitter happens to call to tell you she’s available, that you happen to not be wearing yoga pants . You’ve got to make it happen.
Sit down with your man. Find a free day of the week and block it off. Set a date. Book the babysitter. Then don’t change your plans. (Unless there’s a natural disaster, your kid is in the hospital, or you’re sick with the flu. Then you have my permission to reschedule for next week.) This is sacred calendar space. Find a date and keep it.
2. Money Is Tight, and Dates Are Expensive
You spend money on what you value. I’ll get vulnerable and give you some numbers. Right now, we spend around $50 to $70 on each date night, one to two times a week. That’s around $400 a month. I know that sounds like a lot of money to most people (and maybe not a lot of money to other people).
It is a lot of money, but we build it into our monthly budget. We say “no” to a lot of other things because we want to say “yes” to regular time together. We have one car. We don’t have cable. Instead of living in a single-family house, we own a duplex and share our property with a tenant. You get the picture. If you want to prioritize it, you can.
You can also get creative. We have gone through very tight financial seasons. A few years ago our start-up was just about out of cash, which also meant our family was just about out of cash. Our personal bank account actually hit $0 at a Subway. True story. So we had to get creative.
We had a single friend who needed a place to stay, so we let him live in our unfinished basement for a few months. In return he and his fiancé babysat for us once, sometimes twice a week. It was great for us. It was fun for them. (And they still decided to have kids, so — WIN.) There are people out there, and if you want to find them, you can.
Once you’re out of the house, you don’t have to spend money to enjoy each other. Our favorite dates cost hardly anything. We’ll go to fancy restaurant and just order drinks. We’ll walk along the river and throw rocks in the water. We’ll sit in a park and sneak a bottle of wine we brought from home. (So rebellious. I know.) This is about making space to hang out and connect. It’s about time and conversation, talking about really serious things, and laughing about really stupid things. Time is free. (Unless you’re paying a babysitter. Then it’s $12 an hour.)
3. I Just Don’t Trust Anyone to Care for My Kids
Yes, finding trustworthy babysitters is a big deal. There are evil people out there who have done terrible things to innocent children. You are their protector. But is there really no one in the world that you trust? Would you trust your kids with a good friend? Or a pastor’s wife? Or a grandmother with five kids and 20 grandchildren? Or someone who’s Red Cross-certified in CPR and background-checked? There is probably someone you’d trust. Find those people. Call up a convent and ask if one of the sisters is free on Friday night. As long as it’s not Good Friday, one will probably be free.
4. I’m Just Too Tired at the End of the Day
Mmmhm. I feel you. I am exhausted at the end of a day with my three kids under five. Spiritually, emotionally, and definitely physically, I am DONE by their 7:45 p.m. bedtime. Take five minutes and put your hair up. Rally your strength and put on some lip gloss. You are going to have fun tonight. Just get your little bootie out the door.
When you’re 80 years old and on your death bed, are you really going to say, “I am so glad I stayed home and watched reruns of season 20 of ‘The Bachelorette’ instead of going out with my husband”? No. You will be glad you did this.
5. I Feel Selfish, Like I’m Trying to Avoid My Kids
Nope. You’re not being selfish. You’re not ignoring your kids. That, my friend, is a straight-up lie. Dating your husband, as fun as it is, is the most selfless thing you can do for your kids. You are showing them what a healthy marriage looks like. You are saying, “Hey angel cakes, I love you, and I love your Dad. And I’m going to go spend time with him, because I think he’s awesome. And someday you’re going to take your wife on dates, because you’re going to really like her and want to spend time with her.” The way you take care of your marriage now is the way you’re teaching your kids to take care of their marriage in the future.
I love my kids. I really do. You are probably just a way better mom than I am and this doesn’t apply to you , but I can be an angry, grumpy, decidedly-not-fun mom seven nights a week. Or I can be a joyful, kind, fun mom six nights a week. It’s a pretty easy choice, and my kids can tell you which they prefer.
6. I Don’t Want to Hang Out With My Husband for a Whole Evening
This one is harder for me to relate to. My husband is my favorite person to hang with. He’s awesome. But maybe the reason you don’t want to hang out with your husband is that you’ve forgotten what you like about him. You’ve forgotten that you like talking to him. You’ve forgotten that you think he’s funny. You’ve forgotten that you think he’s cute. You’ve forgotten that it’s really fun to make out in the movies. You’ve forgotten that you feel really special when you’re with him. You’ve forgotten that you have each other’s backs no matter what.
Sit down with a calendar, pick a night, and do it. Then do it again next week. And then again the week after that. I bet you’ll start liking the man you married. You’ll start remembering why you married him in the first place.
You , my friend , are smart. You are capable. You are creative. You are a problem solver. The hurdles to a regular date night are not too hard for you to solve. You can do this. Go out and make it happen.
Postscript: I get that every marriage is different, and what works for us won’t necessarily work for you. I can give you a lot of advice about how to be married to my husband, but I won’t pretend to have advice on how to be married to your husband. We don’t have all our stuff together, and I hope that’s not what this sounds like. But a date night has just been an awesome thing for us, and I think it would be an awesome thing for you. These are just some ideas to help make that happen. I love you and you’re welcome.