One-on-one date nights come so infrequently for us that I put a lot of pressure into the night, into all of the machinations that have to happen in order for me to be able to leave the house when the sitter arrives. I still don’t have all three kids at ages where I can jump in the shower and not come out to marker on the wall or mud from a plant dumped everywhere. Even with a sitter coming, I still have to make sure that there is dinner for the kids and bedtime will go smoothly for the sitter (so that I don’t get the dreaded phone call while on the date), and then get myself together. As I type this out, it sounds like it should be easy enough. Lots of days it is easy enough, but it never seems to be easy on the day we have a date planned.
The truth is some days it is flat-out hard to get out of the house alone. Some days it feels like the easiest way to have time together is to do it all with the kids and then plop onto our couch with something to eat and something to watch, to sit across from each other and call it date night; that set-up is most nights, actually, and we like it usually. I zone out eventually; he tunes out, too. After a while, though, this routine gets old. We need to connect outside of our home one-on-one without the barrage of requests for water, snacks and one-more-thing-that-s/he-must-tell-us-before-s/he-can-go-to-sleep.
A couple of months ago, we went out on a date. I was excited for it. All of the things I had to do to get ready I did, excitedly so. He, too, has to arrange things before he can get out. On that night, his things were harder to arrange so he arrived with baggage from work; I arrived wanting a really good date. The date was bad. Like, if I were sitting next to us, I would have rated it a 3 on a scale from 1 to 10 and commented that there was no chemistry. There was kind, general conversation, but there was nothing there. He was in his head, I was fuming in my own; we were eating, but neither one of us was connecting with one another (I was making love to my tacos, however). As I sat there, it felt wasteful: a wasted date. For how much I had to do to make it to that date, I wanted hats and horns, at least conversationally. I felt like I got nothing but really good guacamole.
We don’t get out on one-on-one dates often, so when we do, I can get nerdily excited for it. I am nerdily excited to be asked what I’d like to eat and drink, to be asked about myself, to talk of things that I don’t get to talk about during a regular day. I’d like more conversation than I can get when I stop in to get a drink at Starbucks. I’d like more engagement than I get at preschool pickup time. That’s why we are making the effort, after all: to connect on a deeper level than we get to on the regular. And for some great guacamole, too.
Generally, my husband and I click. We love, we like, we have fun, he listens when I whine: It all works out pretty smoothly. I married a gardener and the baby of nine siblings, I married someone who finds my neuroses endearing; if that isn’t the key to a happy marriage, I don’t know what is. Still, sometimes being married is boring; every day ain’t a party, even if I wish it to be so. It is easy to be boring and to get bored when you are tired; it is hard to find fun when you’d just like to sleep for three days straight.
I never thought we’d have this experience, frankly. I had heard about “The Couple Who Has Nothing to Say at Dinner,” but we had never been The Couple. But, if you’d like to check your marriage for weak spots, add a couple of kids in the same amount of years and get less sleep (and bad sleep when you do get it). I promise you, those weak spots will pop right up and bop you on the head.
This night highlighted one of our weak spots: our inability to communicate well when we haven’t had enough practice. I know this is a weak spot for other couples, too, because I’ve sat next to their tables and watched, painfully so, as their conversations driveled on to Nowheresville. It is hard to remember how to talk openly and honestly when you don’t get the chance often enough. We keep giving ourselves the chance, though, and we keep laughing when we miss the mark because we know that one bad date has nothing on one long marriage.