One way of being a better parent and spouse is making and keeping “date night.” Contrary to popular belief, this need not be (a) extravagant, (b) expensive, (c) so regular that it becomes boring (you can only do “dinner and a movie” so often), nor (d) require a secretary to plan it. With all these caveats, we still should plan and keep date night not merely to get away from the kids but to get in touch with our spouse again. And again.
The Two Keys
The first key to making date night work is having a reliable babysitter. If your children are old enough that you don’t need a babysitter, it’s still a good idea maybe to have an in-law drop in to make sure the house doesn’t devolve into a domicile in disarray. Keep in mind that date nights are not times to try out a new babysitter. Leave the kids in knowing, loving, trusting, capable hands.
The second key to a successful date night is for it to actually happen. Know that the kids won’t want you to go, the car battery may die, or there could be a horrific rainstorm. But show some resolve. Tell the kids they’ll have fun with the sitter, call AAA for a new battery (this takes less than an hour) and, unless it’s a typhoon/hurricane, “a little rain never hurt no one.” Making it happen will make you feel good about yourself and show the import you are placing on this date!
Ideas for Having Fun
What to do on the date itself? Mercifully, this is the easiest part once you are actually out of the house. Do something your spouse likes and you can at least tolerate – and hopefully learn to like. Elaine Branf and Robert Schwartz have written an entire book about this called We’re No Fun Anymore: Helping Couples Cultivate Joyful Marriages Through the Power of Play, which I highly recommend. The point is to have fun with each other!
Another way to assure success, God willing, is to buy tickets well in advance. (This also has the added bonus of usually saving some money.) You could purchase tickets to an art exhibit at a museum. Neither you nor your spouse like art? No one says you can’t go and have a good laugh at what passes for “art!” In fact, this outing might provide a few chuckles over dinner and dessert later in the evening (“Can you believe someone paid millions of dollars for a ‘painting’ that looks like something a 2-year-old could do?”)
Another good time is bowling. You can eat and drink while a computer keeps score. Two warnings, though. Be sure to book a lane in advance since many are taken up on weekends with leagues. And, more importantly, if you have a “trick back” or sciatica, you might want to think of something else.
When was the last time the two of you enjoyed a poetry reading? You may show your spouse a side of you she hasn’t seen if the poetry reading includes “open mic” night. Step right up and surprise everyone with a lyric you wrote and dedicated to your spouse! This need not take your entire evening out and, like the artwork idea, you can have a laugh about it over dinner and dessert.
Few people like surprises (unless it’s winning the lottery), so be sure to ask beforehand for input on date night. Would you like to see a play? How about tickets to the philharmonic? Didn’t you mention that you wanted to try that new upscale billiard hall? Marriage, after all, is a partnership and few things are as unromantic as coming home and saying, “Honey, I got us tickets to the Packers-Bears game at Lambeau on Christmas!” (unless, of course, your wife is a huge Green Bay fan).
Whatever you do, enjoy yourselves together! The kids are fine, the house isn’t on fire and you’re not going to blow through your Roth-IRA in one evening. Invest in an evening you both will enjoy. The best bet for a bright future is creating new memories instead of living off the shells of old ones.
Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.