Why date? I’m already married or in a committed long-term relationship
As the mother of four little girls, four years old and younger, my average day looks something like this:
I am sitting on a stool in my kitchen holding my nursing baby with one arm, eating lunch with my free hand, all while singing a duet of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (and pretty much any other song I can think of to keep my potty-training-2-year-old on the potty in the distant bathroom until I am free to come help her). In that same moment, I realize I needed to pick up my 4-year-old twins from preschool five minutes ago. GIRL, I so need a date night! I need some time to remember that both my husband and I have these other sides to us, sides that hold intelligent conversations and exist outside of our bottom-wiping, dinner-cooking, laundry-folding everyday existence.
As the daughter of a psychologist (who specializes in marriage and family), my head is filled with an array of statistics and little known facts about keeping your “love alive.” For example, the three reasons couples get married are; they talk like friends; they want to be exclusively intimate; and they have FUN together. It is so easy to overlook the last one when you’re mired down with a house to maintain, children to tend, and jobs to work. The list is endless! But if you take a moment to think about pre-marriage days with your partner, the time you spent together more than likely revolved around having fun together. This is one of the reasons you decide to spend the rest of your lives together. A regular date night is a great way to make time to recapture this part of your relationship after children join the family.
Whether you have four kids (like me) or just one, successful date nights require some preparation and planning. The key factor for making it happen for us, was putting it in the budget. Previous to planning dates into our finances, I would feel guilty about spending money on “fun” when the vacuum had just broken, or the dog needed more flea and tick medication. Now as soon as we are paid (monthly), we draw a set amount of cash, write ENTERTAINMENT big and bold on the envelope, and proceed to think of creative ways to spend it out on the town together.
Another critical element is a selection of babysitters. Truth be told, we have a FAVORITE babysitter, but have learned that we need more options than just our favorite because she has a life too and may not always be available when we need her. We force ourselves to spread out the care of our children over a handful of trusted caregivers, so our kids are familiar with more than one person. This translates to less drama when we head out the door. Since we live in the same town as my parents and the girls’ godparents, we also
have some free babysitting options, which we try not to overuse.
We’ve also learned that what we choose to do is important. Women generally connect through conversation and sharing information, while men generally bond through participating in shared activities. To have one of those really great dates, you need to make sure there is a bit of both (conversation and activity). If you want to really come out of your date with some increased connection with one another, try doing something that gets your blood pumping. A well-known study by Dutton and Aron (1974), showed that men who first did something that got their heart racing (in this case crossing a scary bridge), were even more attracted to an beautiful woman on the other side. So try some rock-climbing, rollercoaster riding, or zip-lines followed by a candlelight dinner to have one of those nights to remember.
Sky diving on a Friday night doesn’t always fit well into our four-hour date night window. We try to mix it up and keep it interesting by varying our activities and are always on the look out for new things to do that we have yet to try. Some of our favorites are a monthly Art Walk, one-hour cooking classes that include dinner with time for drinks at a second location, dinner parties with friends in our home (the activity is cooking the food together before our guests arrive), running a 5K race, a local beer-tasting event, an indie movie at our favorite little theater, eating crazy ethnic food we can’t pronounce, or dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant with dessert at a cozy place by the fireplace. This summer we want to rent a canoe and have a picnic. It is important to think about your shared interests and start brainstorming some ways to have FUN together. Every area has unique offerings. My town offers a “Mystery Date Night” program we still need to try. Check out local publications for upcoming events and start planning.
On really good dates, Alex and I have these precious moments where we realize we are talking like friends again. We haven’t mentioned who needs to do what for which child in for least 20 minutes. We actually talk about some hopes and dreams for the future and daydream about what exciting things may be in store for us in the next ten years. It takes us some serious down time to get to this place, but every time we do it feels amazing.
Miriam Green lives in a “house of estrogen” in the Midwest with her husband and their four little girls, where even the dog is female. She is a licensed clinical social worker and graphic designer. In her “spare” time she enjoys stalking Craigslist for deals on retro furniture, experimenting with new vegan recipes and trolling interior design blogs for inspiration to re-arrange her furniture yet again.
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