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!?

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20 Responses

  1. I was reading this post nodding along and thinking how spot on it was and them stumbled upon the link to our blog. Thank you so much for the shout out!!

  2. so so true. making time to spend just together makes an amazing difference in our marriage.
    i also recommend – and i know this is really hard – but getting rid of the kids for a few days is AWESOME. you don’t have to even go anywhere – a few times the kids have gone to grandma’s for a few days and we’re home alone for a few days. it is incredible how quickly we can reconnect and rekindle when the kids are gone for even just 24 hours!!!

    i also LOVE having kids sleepovers. several times we’ve had friend’s kids over for a sleepover so our friends who don’t have family around can enjoy that same thing. i swear it is the best gift you can give your friends!!

  3. That was a beautiful post, JL! Thanks for genuinely, carefully sharing with your readers what works — do you have as many couple friends as I do, divorcing? Much advice and wisdom is needed out there. My hubby and I date a lot (when there’s money). It also helps when the oldest child reaches about 12 years old, and they can self-babysit. Ours are so old now, we have total freedom.

    The economy is probably really hitting couple hard, in the dating scene, as it is us. We used to just go to Lowe’s and wander around, window shopping for supplies for future projects or picking out appliances we like. That was fun, and it reinforces that we are planning and building a life and home together.

    I was one who asked you to talk a bit about your faith, so many thanks for that. It isn’t easy sometimes, but it’s so important, isn’t it? God is the one who has given you this forum, this opportunity. In the end, you want Him to say, “Well done!” I’m sure He will!

    1. I don’t see a lot of divorcing, but my mom tells me that it happens a lot as kids are leaving the nest. Thanks for your encouragement and for being one of my most faithful commenters!

  4. A great post! My wise babysiter once reminded me that your marriage will be there (hopefully) long after the kids have left the nest. Also, if finances permit, getting away as a couple once in a while is wonderful.
    We’ve shared your commitment to the family dinner. My son once told me that one of his teachers took a poll in class to ask how many kids ate diner with their families at least 4 times a week. My son raised his hand, but he was in the minority. How sad!

  5. Just adding that I absolutely love the colors in your blog, and the nice easy layout you have right now, so I hope you don’t change it.

    And your post has given me a stepping stone for a future post, so thank you very much. I love the picture of the two of you. My hubby is my best friend, and I believe that is what makes our marriage work so well!!

  6. i love this post and after 22 years of marriage i know your tips work firsthand!!! it’s so important to think of the other person first. while our head cries out “but what about me??” somehow those cries dim as we truly live our lives trying to honor our spouse. i agree with the eating dinner together too. it’s such a great way to connect with your kids and have a real conversation about what’s happening in their lives. it’s also just great to sit and joke and just be a family. i believe this one commitment in itself will go a long way in the health-both physically and mentally-of our children. love the colors of the blog…happy new year!!!

  7. This is a great post. My husband doesn’t care much for eating out or going to the movies(that’s about all there is to do in our small town), so we spend time together going to the grocery or walking through the mall, if we have to go into town, but it’s not that often. We always eat supper as a family and talk about things with the girls or joke around. It felt very strange without our oldest when she went off to college this fall because we’re used to having her with us.
    That’s a nice picture of the two of you.

  8. Such an important post! I think any married couple with children would agree that it does take commitment and work to keep a fresh connection going.

    My husband and I have only been married for 5 years but, we’ve been in a relationship for 12 so it feels like we’re an old married couple sometimes! We don’t plan our date nights but take them as much as possible. I usually initiate but my husband it getting a tinsy bit better at it. In the past we’ve done dinner at a local BYO within walking distance from our home (I actually enjoy the walk to and fro more than the dinner itself!) and we still keep that as a general standby.

    Recently, however, we’ve had to be mindful of how much we spend on our dates so I’ve gotten to researching free community events in the area on the web. This really helps us to mix things up too. I told my husband that I’d like us to continue this and add a twist where we alternate who picks what we do. Last time I picked and we ended up going to a local craft boutique that was offering a free cocktail party featuring a local jazz band. Free wine, snacks, and music in the middle of a great town center with plenty of other shops to mingle in and out of. It was a great night and something I probably enjoyed a little more than my husband but he gets to pick next time! Alternating picks will help us to share our own interests and keep us learning about each other even when we think we know everything there is to know about one another. It just adds a real fun and fresh element to our time together.

    In addition to the old BYO standby, we also do a home-movie date night if we want to get out but don’t have a sitter. Local libraries have great selections and usually rent at a very reasonable price ($1.50 for a one week rental) as does Redbox at your local grocery store. Although Redbox must be returned the next day so if you’re a procrastinator, probably better to go the Library route. Popcorn, drinks and cuddling up together always ends up with a happy couple!

    Thanks for sharing and allowing us to share. Hope some of you get out w/your loves this weekend!

  9. So true, you must make time for each other, my husband and I are blessed to be able to ride to and from work together, this is about 20-25 one way. We get to make are plans for the weekend or that evening without a little one putting her 5 cents in the conversation. After reading this post I look forward to what else you have in store for us, this is some of your Best blogging that I have had time to read

  10. Thanks for your post. It is always good to get ideas. We try to make time for each other too! We try to get a way now and then. Time away is so refreshing, helps to put things into perspective. (even if it is for a night) Sometimes you loose that in the busyness of kids and life. Marriage is important to work on and be purposeful about. Just like most things, if you want something to be successful you need to work at it, putting all your effort toward it. And what I agree with 100% is to keep Christ at the center of your marriage. Thanks for your posts I really enjoy them and encouraged!! Keep doing what you do, you do it well!:)

  11. Believe or not, exercising together has really helped our marriage. Not only is it healthy and we get time to spend alone together, but it gives you energy for other things 😉 . Chatting a few minutes before bed is a great way that we connect.

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