Are You Dating Your Spouse Enough?

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!

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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.

18 thoughts on “Are You Dating Your Spouse Enough?

  1. Dan Purcell

    I couldn’t agree more about how important it is to keep dating, and especially to put some oomph into those dates! There’s something special about getting out of the house together to spend time with each other. I learned to put my phone on silent (and resist the urge to pull it out to check sports scores or email or what not) and not discuss scheduling, family logistics, or the kids (unless she brings it up first). This might sound cheesy but sometimes conversation starters helped us when there’s a lull or there’s a long drive. Taking time to put our date nights on our calendars and discussing who’s in charge of planning which nights, who’s lining up the sitter, etc. has helped us get our date nights going on a more consistent basis.

    Reply
  2. Chris

    We are in the littles surviving and wanting nothing but sleep mode. No dating/intimacy/sex for us anymore. Its all about sleep now.

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  3. Chris

    Oh, and J. I like the renn faire “wife-y” dress and am glad you did not go with a renn faire “wench-y” version.

    Reply
  4. Annabelle

    I wish my husband showed more initiative at dating me as I do him. I know he’s busy at work and comes home tired and just wants to relax on the weekends to clear his mind before another week of work with a supervisor he hates (but at least coworkers he likes). He hasn’t been very enthusiastic about the weekend hikes/bike rides, after dinner sunset walks, salsa dance classes, & occasional cooking classes I’ve suggested as date night ideas. When I ask him what he’d like to do, he always suggestions going to see a movie or maybe just staying home. 😑 Both those entail not talking to me much if at all cause when he’s home he’s always sitting behind his computer playing games. I don’t think he likes my company much anymore. Maybe I’m too boring now for him that I’m a wife and mother of 2 under 2. Idk how to help him find the initiative and motivation to have a more active life relationally with me as well as physically for his own health and well-being. Motivating a lazy man is proving to be impossible.

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    1. J Post author

      It sounds like you might need to talk about expectations. Seeing a movie or staying home are more take-it-easy activities than hike/bike rides or sunset walks. He might just feel like he lacks the energy for those activities, and his idea of relaxing is more sedentary. Try talking it out and see if there’s a compromise idea — like playing board games at home (also sedentary but more interactive), an outdoor picnic at a nearby park, or cooking together at home. He’s probably not going to jump from video games to salsa dancing, so look for baby steps in the right direction.

      Reply
  5. Alissa

    Go, Astros! Thanks for the reminder to make time for dating my husband. We’re in a season right now where just getting to the places we have to go is a challenge. You’ve given me a few ideas that we might still be able to do. BTW I love Washington-on-the-Brazos State park. Definitely check it out during wildflower season. They plant loads of bluebonnets and other beautiful flowers. It’s truly a beautiful sight.

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    1. J Post author

      And you’re my new favorite reader! Lol. Thank you. I’m right at a half century, looking forward to the next 50 years! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Wayne

    The man I saw for counseling during a particularly rough period in my life and my marriage has a basic, no exceptions Monday date night with his wife. He wasn’t offering it as advice, we were working out possible meeting times, but served as a powerful example. Since then, I’ve become much more intentional about making time for these nights out, or days out, with my oneand only. I haven’t quite got the once-every-week no matter what thing down, and he never hinted at criticism for that, and I don’t think that’s even required. Still, it’s a worthy standard to strive toward.

    About staying young (ref. J, and “Anonymous”), I believe the Word renews our youth, and I agree, that pic shows it. We know: nobody, ever, believes my wife or I are the age we are.

    Should be a good playoff, in both leagues. Astros v. Red Sox. I’m watching just to watch this year, as I don’t have a local team or my boyhood team in the running. Love Verlander, and Altuve in particular.

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  7. Mark

    Altuve’ would look pretty good in a Mariners uniform. (so would Verlander)

    Oh by the way, dating is a big deal as it gives spouses that special one on one time, exclusively to themselves. The more we date, the more we continue to emotionally connect.

    Reply
  8. Debi Walter

    Tom and I are full-blown into empty nest and retirement life since April. We started doing our Alphabet Dates again this year and it has helped us be creative and not focused on all the changes.
    This is an excellent post J, and one that will help us all remember the importance of connecting in every season.
    Love it!
    Debi

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I love sending people to your site for date night ideas! You’re so creative. (And that is so not my gift. So I happily defer to the masters! 😉 )

      Reply
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