Before my ex-husband and I had kids, every night was a date night. He’d call me at work, or I’d call him. We’d talk about what we were going to have for dinner. Then we’d go grocery shopping and cook together.
Sometimes he’d surprise me by picking me up at my office and we’d hit the local pizza joint — every Monday you could get a large pizza for $5, which was perfect because after paying for our entire wedding, honeymoon, and buying a home in under a year, we had zero money.
Date nights didn’t solely include dining out though. Once we hopped in the car and went perusing around our favorite town daydreaming we could afford any house we wanted. I’d grab a bag of pretzels and two cans of soda from home and we’d drive by and peer into the windows of historic homes and see couples sitting under huge chandeliers drinking wine, people sitting under lamps reading in overstuffed chairs, and 100-year old crown moldings outlining doorways. We’d say to each other, “Someday,” as we crunched on off-brand carbs. We just loved being together, and sharing the same space, so damn much.
Date nights are easier before you have kids, we all know this. The struggle to reconnect with each other often comes after you start a family.
Instead of sitting at work thinking about making a nice dinner together then streaming a movie, you are making lists, calling the doctor, arranging carpool rides, and trying to figure out the best time to get the tires on the minivan replaced.
Before you know it, you don’t remember the last time you planned something for just you and your partner and you wonder why you haven’t felt like having sex, or why everything they do irritates the fuck out of you. You don’t feel seen, or heard, or validated.
They don’t either.
I’ve heard couples talk about the effort, planning, energy, time, and money it takes to keep date nights a regular thing. I’ve heard them complain it’s just another thing they have to manage and really, they don’t want to add another thing to their to-do list.
I get it. I was one of these people. I didn’t think my marriage needed dates nights. I thought our love could sustain our life in the trenches. I was tired. I felt too anxious to leave our three kids with anyone most of the time for fear it’d be too much for my kids and for the person taking care of them.
Now I sit here as a divorced woman and listen to these complaints and concerns of married people who say they’re not really feeling the date night vibe. And you know what? I have to say, there have been many, many times I’ve wondered if regular date nights could have saved my marriage.
Date nights are like preventative care in a relationship. And once there’s a fracture in the relationship (big or small) and the wound starts, if you aren’t quick to patch it up, it becomes so huge and devastating you don’t even know how to begin to heal it.
I think back to our life together, and when things started crumbling and we fell out of love, it was hard to be in the same room with each other, probably because we never were in the same room alone since we didn’t take the time for such things. And that is on us.
I wonder why I thought getting the car serviced or the carpets cleaned came before calling a sitter and going to the same pizza place we used to visit.
Of course, we were tired — but who isn’t? We certainly weren’t too tired to do and be everything to our kids or work extra hours. But date night? That was too much to keep up with. And it was a horrible way of taking each other for granted and assuming we’d make it through anyway without investing in our relationship in a productive way.
We didn’t though; we didn’t make it.
And I wonder, if we’d had the regular connection, just us doing something mediocre on a Wednesday night once a month, would it have led to more smiles, which would have prompted more hand-holding and hugging and listening and missing each other?
I don’t know the answer for sure, but I know this: the couples I see who seem happy intentionally spend time together away from their children.
Sometimes it looks like putting the kids to bed early and grilling chicken and watching a favorite show.
Sometimes it means meeting up for the fastest lunch break ever at a fast food joint.
And sometimes it looks like dropping the kids off with the grandparents and taking off for the weekend.
It really doesn’t matter — the small effort you put in will most likely make you long game stronger.
So, this is a PSA from someone who didn’t think date night was important in her marriage: wherever your relationship is, don’t dismiss date night — it might just be exactly what you both need.