Q&A :: Marriage and Date Nights

I made a list of some of your suggestions for future posts from my Reader Survey earlier in the week, and I thought I’d start with this one!

If your husband doesn’t mind too much, I’d love to hear more about how you make that relationship work. What do your date nights look like? How often do you plan them, or do you not plan for them? What about the kids?

Great question! We have our moments (everyone does, right??) and no relationship is perfect, but we’ve learned a lot in {almost} 17 years. I’ll share what I can.

First, I appreciate your disclaimer, “if your husband doesn’t mind too much…” because that tells me that you realize the importance of discretion in a marriage relationship, and also that you probably sense that I use that discretion here! I do try. In fact, this post will be approved by my husband before it gets published. I certainly don’t run everything by him, but if it involves him, I do. And if I am unsure if it’s appropriate, I will ask him, or sometime someone else I trust. Point is, I never want to use this space to betray a trust or make someone feel uncomfortable. I made a few mistakes early on, and I try very hard to err on the side of caution now.

You mentioned our date nights. We have them frequently. I think that making time for each other is crucial to maintaining a connection. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything there is to do, but I don’t ever want to get to the point that we look at each other and have nothing to say. So we often go out together, just the two of us. We are both very active in social media (have you checked out the Handyguys Podcast recently??) so we talk shop quite a bit. But then of course there are kids and friends and family to talk about, so there is never any lack of conversation.

We have no schedule for date nights. (I giggled a bit when I read the question about planning — we are so not planning sorta people.) We pretty much take them as needed. Usually I’m the one to initiate them, although not always, but since I am the one who usually contacts the babysitters, it just works out that way. We are fortunate that a) we have a good network of babysitters and b) we can afford to go out often.

But PLEASE don’t let the absence of either of those criteria stop you!! Be creative, and figure out a way. Arrange a monthly date night babysitting swap with a friend, or find a family member who wants to spend time with your kids, or put the kids to bed early and make it a special night at home. We have a couple of night owls in this house, but we have NO problem putting the kids to bed early and telling them to stay in their rooms and read. Bedtime is for parents, not for kids.

(By the way, if you are in need of babysitters, try a local college. Most have a place where you can put up an ad for babysitters, and once you find one, she will inevitably have friends. It’s a snowball effect! And best of all, they drive!!)

Usually our date nights look like dinner out. Yeah, that’s it. It’s nothing creative, but we both love food, and having dinner together with no kids or other couples to distract us forces allows us to have conversation. If you go to the movies, you don’t talk. If you go to the mall, you focus on your to-do list. If you are more active than we are and you want to go skiing together or climb mountains, more power to ya! LOL. But dinner out works for us because it is easy and it gives us time to converse and reconnect. Sometimes we’ll like a walk through the mall or a stop at the grocery store on the way home. Hey, who says romance is dead? Ha. The important thing is, I think, that we are together. We aren’t the type of couple to do a lot of those mundane tasks together, so it’s kind of fun to tack that on to the end of a date night. Plus, we don’t want to get home before the kids go to bed!!

Really, it’s a matter of finding something that you both like to do, and then making time for it. It’s that simple.

As far as the day-to-day living goes, we really, REALLY try to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We pitch in when the other is tired or just sick of the same old routine. And when one of us is grumpy, the other tries to extend grace. I will say flat out that I am on the receiving end of the grace more often that not. I am not piece of cake to live with, that is for sure. I don’t want to make it out like it’s always peace and harmony around here. We tend to bicker more than some, although I think we’ve come a long way in that regard. This is real life we’re living here, and it ain’t always pretty, but at the end of the day, we’ve got each other’s backs. And that’s what counts.

Something else that came up in the survey a couple of times was the desire for me to be more open about my faith. Honestly, I struggle with this — not with my faith, with talking about it! I always feel that I sound corny and awkward, and I often struggle with how to express my thoughts accurately and wish I could touch on those deeper subjects more often. But I can’t talk about my marriage without giving the credit where credit is due. Jesus Christ is at the center of our marriage, and we are both 150% committed to the vows we made 16-and-a-half years ago. Giving up just isn’t an option. You can be as intentional and pragmatic as you want when you decide who to marry, but you never know what the future has in store and how each of you will react to the trials life brings. In the end, it is all about commitment. My mom always told me that love is a choice, and I think that is some of the best marriage advice around.

When it all comes down to it, marriage only works when both members choose to love unconditionally. You can’t keep score, and you can’t try to change the other person. You just can’t. It is AMAZING to me how, when you focus on making the other person happy, rather than what you think will make you happy, things seem to fall into place. This is NOT to say that you should stick around in a relationship that is abusive or dangerous, but I feel like these days we tend to err on the side of self preservation rather than unconditional love.

There are other bloggers who have written more poignantly and openly about marriage issues than I ever could. For instance, I highly recommend Jill’s Marriage Unwrapped series, and she and her husband just started a joint blog called For Better And Worse. Definitely check it out.

The other thing I’ll add is that we always have dinner together as a family. Studies have proven that having regular dinner together goes a long way towards maintaining a healthy marriage and family life. Even in the busy seasons with sports schedules (spring is NUTS around here with my son’s baseball schedule) we work our dinner around it. Sometimes we eat at 5:00 and sometimes at 8:00 but 95% of the time, we sit down at the dinner table without any outside distractions (no TV, no electronic equipment) and eat together. We were both brought up that way, and that’s just what we’ve always done — even before we had kids. (It’s also better for your health and digestion, but that’s another topic entirely!!)

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep your marriage fresh in this busy world we’re living in!?