Tuesday, January 22, 2013

20 Things...Date Nights

Sorry for the delayed "Marriage Monday" post, arriving late on Tuesday.  I've been hard at work trying to construct, decipher and unkink stuff over at the new site, which hopefully, I'll be holding the 'big reveal' for soon.  In the meantime...here you go..."20 Things in 20 Years" as normally scheduled...

I love date nights.  Need them. CRAVE them.  Time alone to connect with my hubby.  But they don't always quite live up to the romantic notions in my head.

Sometimes it's because the notions in my head are just too grande.  Not every week can be sweep me off my feet romance fests.  Let's face it...that's just reality.  Most of the time, in fact, I have to make-do and be grateful for an hour or two of half-price (after 9 pm) appetizers at Chili's, because that's about the only time that is convenient to get away, and it's what fits the budget.  Often, it doesn't feel like this is quite enough time, or because we are flying around doing stuff right up til the minute we dash out the door, it's not like we are relaxed, and conversation tends to revolve around the current (as in, happened an hour or two before) problems or issues or situations.  It's not really the gazing into each others' eyes type dinner, where we talk about in depth matters or future plans and dreams.  It's more like "who is going to be running this one to practice next week, and what days do we have appointments and meetings, and when on earth are we going to finally finish the bathroom project so we can get on to other things that need to be fixed and redone?!?!"

You know...those kinds of conversations.

While they are necessary, and far easier, frankly, to have when we are alone...they aren't the kind of connection-time that refreshes you both and reminds you why you love each other and are together to begin with.

While I still actually need those times on a very (read, *preferrably weekly*) basis...and all the moreso, I find, as our kids get bigger, schedules get crazier and it seems we have less time than ever to actually engage...on occasion, we still need the kind of dates that keeps the romance alive in a marriage.

Now, I'm not going to even attempt to tell you what kind of date this should be, because it varies enormously from couple to couple.  Lisa TerKeurst wrote about this very thing last week in her blog post 'Valentine's Tips for the Misters' (which, you should really read, if you haven't...and maybe casually share with your 'mister')...what a great variance there is in what women (and, of course, men) appreciate and find fills up their 'love tank'.  For some couples its a fancy night out on the town, and apparently for others it's a Duck Dynasty themed weekend...which, admittedly, I really don't get...but hey, whatever floats your boat!!  But I can share with you what works for us...and maybe it will set you thinking about what it will be for you.

For us, some extended alone time, is absolutely key.  By extended, I mean minimally one overnight would constitute as a great date night, and minimally 2-3 nights would constitute a getaway.  Now, because of tight budgets, and lack of babysitters, for many people (including us in the course of our years) isn't always a possibility.  But we do our best to get creative and make it work as much as we can.  Getaways are far harder, but we try to at least a couple times a year (this doesn't have to be saved just for Valentines!) try to do a long date night, and at least 1 time a year (usually our anniversary) for a getaway.  (Our big dream/goal is for a getaway quarterly.  Not yet a reality, but we are working on it!)

Just this past weekend, we did a 'real' date night.  The extended, overnight, take your time and don't rush because no one is waiting for you or texting you "When r u coming home???"   (Yes, this is our currently reality.) 

It was totally budget-friendly, because it was a stay-at-home date...one of our favorite kinds.  We shipped the kids out to various places for overnight.  (In reality, half of them already having plans to sleep over at friends is what inspired me to give Grammy a call and see if the other two youngers could come spend the night there.)  This obviously, if you don't have grandparents, or aunts, or really close friends nearby that can keep them overnight, gets easier as the kids get older and are wanting to do sleepovers anyway.

After getting all decked out...because that's our preference and it makes the night feel more special, and amidst candlelight and some wonderfully relaxing music, we cooked dinner together.  We had thoughtful, long conversations while we took our good sweet time eating and sipping our wine.  We flirted, and danced a little, and ended the evening snuggling up and watching a movie...after we were all talked out.  Because, keep in mind, the movie, nor the dinner, is the main event...the relaxing, the talking...the being present is.  Don't rush.

Personally, I think the secret to making an evening like this happen is the 24 hours before the actual date.

I have to mentally (and physically) prepare...in ways like making sure the area of the house we'll be hanging out in is clutter free...free of any distractions or stresses.  Not the whole house, mind you, as this would be an impossibility for me.  But I just need things out of sight.  SO...just being totally real here...if that means taking the baskets of laundry that hasn't been gotten to yet, and piling in on one of the kids' beds while they are away...so be it.  If it means putting the entire stack of yet-to-be-sorted mail in a basket and putting it on the downstairs desk...so be it.  They'll all still be waiting for me the next day.  (Trust me, I know, because I've hoped that by the following morning they will have magically taken care of themselves...no such luck.)

But the point is...atmosphereAmbiance.  A distraction-free zone.

One time, years ago, when our entire house was overrun with toys, bouncy seats, exersaucers and sippy cups, and I only had the time and energy to clean one small room...I really straightened up our tiny bedroom, filled it with candles, and set up a tiny little folding table...and served dinner right there.  We shut the door...and shut out all the realities...and had a mini-escape for a few hours.  And it was wonderful.  And memorable.  More memorable than all the dinners out before or since.  Because it was special.  Unique.  And investedWe invested in making it be set apart from the every day.

We prepare mentally by thinking about the time, and about conversations that have been shorted-circuited just when they were 'getting good', or about books we are reading, or podcasts we've been listening to and wanted to tell one another about.  We pointedly focus our thoughts on something deeper than appointments and bills.  We send texts to each other throughout the day, saying how much we are looking forward to the time...and...*ahem* other niceties.

I'm 100% convinced that it's the investment in the preparation for the event, almost as much as anything, that makes our time together so good.  And when we don't invest the time, it usually comes off as, "Eh...that was ok..."  It's pretty much the idea...'you get out what you put in'.  You put in good effort, you get good return.  And it's SO worth it.

I'm hoping in the next few weeks, leading up to Valentine's, to share with you some date ideas...and maybe you can try something new to refresh the connection with your spouse.  I'm also looking for ideas that YOU have tried, that maybe I could pass on to others as well.

So, please comment and tell me about what you find to do that makes for great date nights!!


Andrea said...

I find the best indicator of a great date is that you both are on the same page about expectations. If you want a fancy night out (or in) with lots of extras, and he just wants to hang out without the kids for an hour or two, both of you will be disappointed. Communicating what you want from the evening is the first, most crucial step.

Jessi said...

I totally agree, Andrea...or minimally, a plan for two dates...one for each of your preferences. (That goes along with that Duck Dynasty date thing...can't imagine...but knowing what you both want definitely makes for a FAR better time!!) Most often, my date preferences involve 'doing' something (a movie, a baseball game), where Todd really just wants to crash... Expectations are definitely key!!