I laughed out loud at Beracah’s mention of my advice to them when they got married. “Go on a date weekly”? I don’t remember writing that and I doubt we did it at that point. Of course, we didn’t have kids, so we may have come close. I was, however, quite pregnant when they got married and maybe suffering from some sort of estrogen-induced delirium.
But now, it’s definitely not a thing. We shoot for once a month and did not achieve that for a long time. But this year for Valentine’s Day I planned out 12 dates – once a month for a year – and presented a package of envelopes to my husband laying out each one. He opens them a week or so before the date and it has helped keep things on track in that department. All it took was an afternoon of brainstorming, some notecards, and a Sharpie… something I encourage you to do if you and your honey struggle with getting some alone time together.
So what are some of the things we do? I’ll tell you up front that we go for easy and cheap.
Go to a sporting event
A minor league baseball team calls a city very near us their home. If you have anything like that close to you, you can get decent tickets for pretty cheap. I think I got us both reasonable seats for less than $30. We ate before the game to save that money (I think we stopped for ice cream on the way home…) and just enjoyed the time together. The nice thing about a baseball game is that it doesn’t really require much concentration, so you can have a good conversation while also keeping track of what’s going on.
Research actually shows that couples who are active together are happier and stay together longer. That doesn’t mean you have to do Crossfit or anything like that, though. I have a friend who does crazy intense workouts with her husband regularly… good for her. 😉 I am not into such things and neither is my husband. We both hate running but thoroughly enjoy long walks. We invested in bikes about a year ago and really enjoy riding around town together. Recently we loaded them up in his truck and drove about an hour away to a nice bike trail that runs alongside the coast. We spent a few hours riding and talking; it was relaxing but we both felt like we’d accomplished something productive. We threw in a fun stop at a little cafe for brunch, so we probably negated any calories we’d burned, but the time together was the ultimate goal anyway.
Food and movie at home
Every couple has a “Couple Food” – you know, that food you and your spouse both gravitate toward when you need to celebrate, mourn, or just be together. I was just discussing this with another friend of mine, who’s “Couple Food” is Jack’s Pizza. Jonathan and I like to make sushi at home, which you can do easily and inexpensively! We make it, clean up, then eat while watching TV or a show together. The great thing about this is no child care is actually required. We feed the kids leftovers, put them to bed, then get on with our “date night”.
Beracah also mentioned this. We struggle to find board games that are fun to play with only two people, but we do enjoy Dominoes. We also have a Wii and like Mario Kart – we used to play that a lot more before we had kids, but occasionally will still pull it out and have a showdown.
Go bargain hunting
My husband and I both love a good bargain hunt! Go to a flea market or antique store or jump around to all the local thrift stores and see what you find. To keep this date cheap, abandon all credit cards and only take enough cash to buy food (or pack a picnic). It’s amazing what you can find when you have time to calmly browse without kids, and you may find some inspiration for DIY projects for your house. And speaking of DIY…
Tackle a house project
Not that long ago, we arranged childcare for the middle of the day. We dropped the kids off, went right back home, dug out paintbrushes and went to work. A section of wall in our hallway never got painted, so we did that and then repainted a good portion of the trim in our house. We need about three more days like that to get things really “finished” (we bought a fixer upper).
Childcare can be an issue… we are blessed to live near grandparents that are willing to keep our kids a decent amount. If you don’t have that luxury, offer to trade with other parents of littles. I heard recently about a group of five couples that rotated – one couple kept all of the kids on Friday night while the other four couples went out. That meant one night of a giant circus in your home in exchange for FOUR date nights… sounds like a really sweet deal to me.
Ultimately, the whole point is to just spend time together, right? Even those date nights at home after your kids go to bed count. Just make sure you are doing it intentionally – that’s all that matters. And put down your phones. One of my favorite parts of riding bikes together is that neither of us is tempted to pull our phone out and scroll Facebook; our attention is totally focused on each other. If you have an iPhone (I don’t know about other platforms), you can set your phone on Do Not Disturb so that you aren’t drawn to it by notifications. In settings, you can arrange for your babysitter to be able to reach you, but no one else. Do it.