When my children were little, going out on a date felt like an excursion to the Orient. At least in terms of planning, preparation, and cost. Lining up a babysitter, buying movie tickets, getting kids ready, and forking out enough money to fund Mommy & Me classes for a month just for one night? Often didn’t feel worth it.
Especially when what hubby and I most wanted was just more sleep.
Fast forward to those children become teenagers, and it was so much easier to find our way out the door, sitting at a restaurant enjoying grown-up conversation, and having the energy to finish the night properly when we got home.
And now, we’ve just entered the Empty Nest stage, and dates are becoming more about dinners at home alone and sex, well, wherever we want to have it in this big house. (Don’t tell my sons. They may never sit on the living room couch again.)
But looking back, I realize that we needed dating at every stage of our marriage. Those times when we weren’t dating much? Things weren’t great in our marriage. We were in survival mode, rather than nurturing our connection.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have ample family time and alone time, but being a couple now and then—without the demands or distractions of work, household, and parenting—reminds you why you fell in love. And why you should keep falling in love, over and over.
Research has even shown that we experience a boost of feel-good chemicals when we’re first falling in love that can be later mimicked by experiencing novel activities together. The typical dinner-and-movie probably won’t have that effect, but exploring your town together, taking walks in different places and in different seasons, or visiting new restaurants, museums, or sports activities can bring you closer together. You associate those feel-good times with the one who was with you — your beloved spouse.
But whatever season you’re in, how can you find the resources of time and money to date your spouse regularly? Here are a few ideas.
Organize a babysitting co-op.
Spock (husband) and I started dating again regularly when we joined our church’s babysitting co-op. Couples took turns babysitting groups of children, ages 2–11, using church facilities and a regular routine. For four hours, children played, watched a video, ate kids’ fare, and had adult supervision throughout. Meanwhile, couples who weren’t on call that night paid a few dollars for their kids’ meals and got those four hours to go out and do whatever they wanted.
While we had the use of a gym and adjoining classrooms, you could organize a smaller co-op in couples’ homes or a church nursery. Adjust the ages to what works for you. Come up with a routine that appeals to kids and works for adults. See if area restaurants will deliver food or purchase grocery items that are easy to prepare, like frozen pizzas or sandwiches. Make sure you get parental permission to seek health care in an emergency and have good contact numbers for everyone.
If you can’t get that going, at least find another couple to swap with or ask around at your church for who the good, reasonably priced babysitters are.
Get creative about your dates.
My husband and I default to dinner-and-movie dates too. Or dinner and wandering through a store. But while those count for good maintenance, the dates that have brought us closest together and made for great memories are the more creative ones.
We’ve taken day trips to historical spots, visited various museums (many offer free admission on certain days), attended the Texas Renaissance Festival, cheered on our awesome Houston Astros at the ballpark, kayaked at our local town lake, and attended Shakespeare in the Park.
Google your town’s or your state’s tourist bureau and see what’s going on around you. Tour Pinterest for ideas on having a special date night at home. Also, check out The Dating Divas, which has a gazillion date-night ideas on their website. Just think outside the box!
Talk about expectations.
What does a “date” involve in your mind? It might not be what your spouse pictures. While dating before marriage, most of us expected the night to end with a kiss. Once married, a fair number of spouses expect a date to end with a roll in the hay.
Then there’s the romance/wooing factor. Let’s face it: some of you tried a lot harder when you were dating. Perhaps you got spiffied up, went out to a nice restaurant, and then went dancing, but now you think the local sandwich shop and a tour of Walmart should count. While your spouse is scratching their head and wondering, What happened to the romance?
Talk about what dating should look like. Discuss expectations, activities you can mutually agree on, and how the date might end. Figure out what will make you each feel more cherished and more connected to the other.
Attend a marriage event.
One of the best dates you can go on is a marriage enrichment event. That could be a regional conference, a ministry retreat, or a date night hosted by your local church. My husband and I have attended, and once coordinated, weekend marriage retreats for our church couples class, and they stick out in my memories as wonderful times we dedicated to nurturing out relationship. Not to mention we stayed in hotel rooms, a setting especially conducive to physical intimacy.
I have one particular event in mind, though. The Get Your Marriage On marriage conference is a single-evening event on Saturday, November 17, in St. George, Utah. And I’ll be delivering a keynote about sexual intimacy!
St. George is located in Southwestern Utah, with beautiful views and plenty of those novelty experiences to enjoy together. And you can stay in a hotel room at the Amira Resort & Spa at a discount, when booked through the conference. Then there are the presenters: marriage and family therapists, a professor providing relationship education, a massage expert, Tara Carson of The Data Divas, and yours truly (that’s me!).
The event is underwritten by the Ultimate Intimacy app, The Dating Divas, The Center for Couples and Families, and more. On top of all that, I’m crossing my fingers (cross yours with me, please!) that I’ll have my newest book, Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations to Have with Your Spouse about Sex, out in time for Get Your Marriage On. If so, that’s the first place print copies will be sold!
And now you’re all like: Oh my goodness, this sounds fabulous, but we could never afford it! Y’all, it’s only $99. For a couple. Seriously, this is a great value and investment for your marriage!
Yes, you’ll have additional costs with lodging, transportation, and meals. But if you can swing it, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. And you’ll meet not only me, but also my beloved Spock — the man crazy enough to marry me and stay married to me for 25 years.
Get Your Marriage On might be just the kick in your two pairs of pants to revitalize your dating life. Regardless, prioritize dating in marriage. It leads to greater connection, a stronger foundation, and yes, typically more sex.