-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------A few weeks ago, I walked in on a conversation between some of my coworkers that I couldn't not join in on. One of my coworkers, who got married earlier this year, was joking with another coworker, who has been married for a while and has six kids, that he should boycott date night for one week and come play softball with the rest of the guys from work. The man with six kids had just gotten through telling them that the reason he couldn't join their Friday night games was because Friday night was date night. I LOVED that he and his wife have a set date night and that they are set on that night and have made it a set part of their schedule every week! I made a comment to the newly married guy that it's not that simple for couples with kids to just move their date night most of the time. A lot of them have a set night so that they always have a babysitter lined up, or so that they always know when date night is and don't have to sit down and work it into their busy schedule every week, etc. His response was something like, "It's just date night, it won't hurt to skip it for a week!" That was the point in the conversation when I decided to bow out because I had way too much that I wanted to say about that comment and it just wasn't the time or the place.
That coworker made a point to stop by my desk the next day and let me know that he does agree that date night is important and that he was just joking around earlier. We launched into a short conversation about date night and I shared with him a little about my passion for date night and why I feel that it's so important to make it a priority and not let anything get in the way of you having it. During our chat he told me that "every night is date night" in his marriage and then he termed it "date life".
When I was thinking about it later, I realized that until I started my bachelor's degree and life got really hectic for us, Joe and I had the same attitude. The difference between us and this couple though, is that my coworker and his wife are intentional with their time together and make every night count. Whereas, kind of like Charlene shared in her Wives to Watch in Every Stage of Life interview on my blog last month, when Joe and I viewed every night as date night, our nights were not intentional, our time was not really what I'd consider quality and "date night" was the same as every other night that we spent together. Our go to nightly activity after Joe would get home from work around 8 or 9 was to watch Netflix while we ate dinner and sometimes take the dog on a late night walk. When the time that we'd set aside for date night rolled around, we'd usually go out to eat or get takeout, watch Netflix or a Redbox and then take the dog on a late night walk. Not that there's anything wrong with a good, relaxing night in front of the TV, but when it's the only thing you really do together, it becomes a problem.
I talked a lot with Charlene about the conversation with my coworker and that chat prompted both of us to write blog posts. When we realized that we were both writing a post, we decided to collaborate and swap blogs again to share our thoughts! Charlene started thinking a lot about the definition of date night and I thought a lot about what makes date night different than every other night of the week. While the "date life" attitude is great, especially if you really are making every night you spend together intentional, I still feel like every couple needs to set aside time on a regular basis to date each other.
When I was single, there were a lot of leaders and mentors in my life who would tell any of us in the dating stage of life that in order for our time together to be considered a date, as opposed to just a hang out, it needed to be planned, paid for and paired off. There are a lot of people in their single years who don't go on dates anymore, they are always just "hanging out" with groups of people or one person. Hanging out is never usually very intentional and consequently, doesn't provide as many opportunities for the type of connection that leads to a relationship and eventually marriage. Married couples can fall into that same "hanging out" rut which can be nice, but like in dating, doesn't help you connect and strengthen your relationship on the same level that a date night would. Dating in marriage probably doesn't need to follow the planned, paid for and paired off rules (although it should definitely be planned), but there are a few things that I think set date night apart from the rest of the time that you spend together as a couple.
It gets you away from your regular routineLike I mentioned earlier, Joe and I fell into a rut early in our marriage where we considered every night to be date night, but what we really had was just routine. Date night breaks you out of that schedule that you follow every day and lets you have fun together without thinking about the other responsibilities in life! When we used to have our "date nights", we'd do the dishes, put in loads of laundry, and take care of other things that we'd do on every other night. Now, especially if our date night is at home, we try to leave those adult responsibilities for a few hours and make the most of every moment that we have together. We don't run errands during date night, we put our dishes in the sink to soak but leave the washing until later, and I try to avoid any other things that I would do on a regular basis. It's like in Gilmore Girls, when Lorelai is on a date with Jason Stiles and they are at the grocery store to get dinner for their date, but end up also buying a few things that they need because they're there and it's convenient. (I tried to find a YouTube clip of this scene but had no luck.)
It doesn't include the kidsI'm not saying that you need to hire a babysitter for every single date night that you go on. I do think that a completely kid free date night, out of the house and out on the town is important, at least once a month, but that can get expensive if you're doing it every week.The truth is, you don't need a babysitter to have a date night and spend quality time together. We love starting our date nights out with family time and ending them with couple time. This means a lot of our date night activities happen at home, after our toddler is in bed, but we've gotten really creative over the last year and our at home date nights have become just as fun and memorable as the evenings that we spend together doing something elsewhere. Sign up and download a list of ideas to get you started with your date night activities this summer! You'll also get a new bucket list every season!
It provides the opportunity and setting for connection and your relationship to growIn the early stages of your relationship, you went on dates to learn more about each other and connect on a deeper level. Continuing to date each other after you're married will help you to continue to connect like you did when you were first dating and getting know each other. I like to view date night as an opportunity to dream about our future, remember and laugh about moments from our past and learn things about each other that we never knew before (I promise, you'll never know every thing about each other, there's always something new). Sometimes we talk about baby names, traditions that we want to start in our relationship or our family, or features that we want to add to our home. We avoid any topics that could cause a disagreement or venting about a pet peeve or something that's bothering us currently. I've also heard people say that they don't talk about their kids, the things they've done recently, or how they parent while they are out on date night. I love this idea because while those cute kids are a big part of your lives together, focusing on your role as husband and wife and not as a parenting team or business partners (for those of you who are in business together) is important to do every once and a while!
Being married is great and in some ways it is date night every night. But marriage doesn't give you an excuse to stop being intentional and putting as much effort into wooing and dating each other as you did in the early stages of your relationship. Whether you have a "date life" or a regularly scheduled date night, be conscious of what makes that time that you're spending together different than your every day routine. If you don't see much of a difference, make some changes so that you are getting the most out of date night and making your relationship better along the way!
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