Think about your relationship with your partner and answer the following question: How often do you have a date night? Select one:
- Religiously (at least once a week).
- Sporadically (whenever we can find a sitter).
- Seldomly (who has the time with kids?).
- Never (just doesn’t happen).
What if I were to tell you that date nights are as critical to your relationship as oxygen is to your body? Your relationship’s health is impacted by quality time together (i.e., without your kids, family, or friends). If you answered A, you may want to skip this post. If, however, you answered B, C, or D, read on — this post is for you.
I’m here to tell you that date nights are possible. You might have to change your expectations and get a little creative, but they are doable. I won’t spend a lot of time on what you should do on your date night. There are so many posts and I’m sure you and your partner have a list of things you’d like to do together. What I want to spend time on is focusing on barriers to your date night.
What gets in the way of having your date night and what can you do about it?
Stick to the Schedule
Time is precious. Your time is valuable. If you are anything like me, you live and breathe by your calendar — and if it’s in your calendar, you will do it. Just like you plan all your kids’ activities, carve out time for you and your partner to go on a date. Make it recurrent, and stick to it.
Give It Weight/Importance
Give date night the same importance as your child’s pediatrician appointment. Or your hair appointment for that matter. You know if you cancel one of those appointments, you can’t get in for months, so you keep it at all costs. It’s the same thing for date night. If you cancel it, you are more likely to never get back around to it. If, however, you stick with it, it will become something you can rely on and something to look forward to.
Make It Fair(ish)
Date night should be a two-way street. It isn’t fair if one partner always manages how date night comes together — including scheduling the babysitter, making the reservation, etc. But sometimes, getting a task done, overrides what is fair. If you want date night to happen, don’t let appearance or reality of fairness get in the way. Ideally you and your partner share in the responsibilities of planning for date night (month to month is great), but if sometimes it feels like you’re picking up the slack of calling the babysitter and making the reservation, it’s all for a good cause of a night out together. If one of you takes on more responsibility to set the stage for getting the time together, perhaps the other partner can do something else to distribute responsibility somewhere else. In any case, this is a worthwhile conversation to have to lessen feelings of unappreciation, being taken for granted, or ultimately, resentment.
We’re in tough financial times — on top of all of our typical bills and expenses, inflation is on the rise and credit card bills for past holiday purchases are due. Date nights do not have to cost anything. Some of my favorite dates included walking around the block, going to a park, or sitting on the porch and talking.
If you can’t find a sitter, wait until your kids go to bed or give them a movie to watch within earshot. This way you can still watch them while having separate time; improvising is better than nothing. In fact, some could argue that at-home date nights might be better for your relationship than going out. There are many ways to make your home feel novel and exciting. Be creative.
Tame the Tension
Don’t know what to do with your one-on-one time? Does date night exacerbate some tension that’s been building at home? Consider making your “date night” a therapy session. I have couples who schedule regular sessions and call our time together “date night.” This way they can get a babysitter and invest in having difficult conversations that they can’t seem to have on their own. Their time is spent healing parts of their relationship that have been wounded along the way, strengthening their connection.
How can we get past our barriers?
The first way to tackle barriers is to acknowledge they exist. Do any of the barriers noted above ring true for you? Do you have other obstacles to your date night?
It’s helpful to talk with your partner about wanting to spend more time together. For instance, saying, “I feel disconnected from you, and it doesn’t feel good. I’d love to spend time with you, and I know there are things that get in our way. Could we talk about how we could find more one-on-one time?”
Start with a conversation. In a non-accusatory way, share how you feel when you don’t have time together. This is a huge first step.
Date nights are essential. At first you may use the time to sync schedules, catch up on work or household management, but you’ll also have the dedicated space for things to more organically come into the conversation. For instance, during a recent date night, I casually mentioned that I’m trying an audio book because I don’t have time to read a hard copy book. That random comment led to a deep conversation about the book, my interests, and our values. Date nights provide the uninterrupted space for you to connect in meaningful and spontaneous ways.
What if I need help?
Need a little help? I’m a therapist in AZ and my practice specializes in relationship health—you can find me here.