“Date Nights” seem like a prescription that’s widely accepted for whatever ails you. But what if scheduled nights out on the town aren’t the right answer for you?
Open up just about any book about marriage or long-term relationships and you’ll see it. Go to most women-centric blogs or forums, and it’ll be understood that it’s just Something Good To Do. It is everywhere, its vast hold on our collective consciousness mighty and tight.
I am talking, of course, about Date Nights.
I’ll cut to the chase: my husband and I happily don’t “do” scheduled date nights…and so far, my marriage1 seems to be going along just fine without them on the calendar. Instead, we approach the “reconnecting” puzzle with with a three-pronged approach.
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1. Solo dates
Connecting with your partner is important, and if a scheduled dinner-out date night is the way you do that, far be it from me to lambast you. Lord knows going out for sushi is great.2 But I also don’t think it’s helpful to use “Schedule a date night!” as a catch-all Do This And All Will Be Well method for all couples.
For my husband and me, it turns out that scheduling the exact opposite of date nights–solo nights, if you will–is way, way more helpful for both of us in our marriage. We need to decompress away from each other so we can reconnect later and be better people in our partnership. I like hanging out with my husband, but I also REALLY need to just take my laptop and go be by myself for a little while somewhere. Likewise he–shockingly–does not want me hanging out with him when he writes music. We have our hobbies and our need for space, and there are times we’d rather invest in those time slots than in the togetherness slot.
2. Eating at home
We make it a point to eat dinner together at home most nights. Cooking and “breaking bread” is deeply communal for us. Yes, it is spiked with us telling the dogs to stop looking pathetic,3 and soon mealtime may cease to be as regular once a baby enters the picture, but the essence of what we’re doing at home negates the desire to go out to eat in order to connect. We talk about our day as water boils. We talk about the future as we raid the fridge. We talk about stories we ran across in our reading as we eat. We simply are. Date nights are meant to reconnect us with our spouses, but these dinners in seem to do the trick for us. Maybe this is just a semantic difference. Maybe what we’re doing are date nights. But…I don’t think that’s what people really mean when they tell us we should be having these Capitalized Date Nights.
Do we go out to eat at all? Sure. If we’re out and about and hungry, or feeling lazy, or if it’s a birthday, or Scrooge McDuck4 unclenches her pennies a little, we get food from The Outside pretty regularly.5 But we don’t view it as sacred time. It’s just eating. For us, the reconnecting happens at home as we try to throw together a veggie lasagna with the odd assortment of vegetables from the fridge.6 We still laugh over our attempt at hollandaise sauce. We create our history this way. We write more stories of our lives.
My husband and I have found that the spontaneous things in life are what bring us closer to one another. Listening to This American Life episodes and David Sedaris audiobooks together lets us laugh when we’re going to get groceries–it is magical. Much like breaking bread, by listening to a story in the car together we’re connecting and launching into our own stories. Ira and David are the best third and fourth wheels.
So, my advice to couples looking for something to do to get closer? Forget the elaborate date night that’s sure to squeeze the wallet, and try eating at home and listening to some Sedaris (or whoever makes you laugh, or think, or debate) while you drive to get the groceries for your meal. You may find yourselves as we often do: parked at the store, but waiting together in the car, holding on for just a few more minutes of communal listening. And connecting.
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Obligatory note: I realize things change with kids in the mix! Children, their schedules, their very presence at home, along with work schedules that may never mesh well–these all factor into what things you do to reconnect with a spouse and whether or not they need to be on the calendar officially. Our situation is simply what works for us now.
Photo by: thurlbut
- Four years in…eight years into the relationship total. ↩
- Especially if it rains at Sticky Rice! ↩
- More often, “Shut uppppp.” ↩
- Me. ↩
- I think the people at Bev’s get happy when they see me walk down the street. Or run, if it’s basil ice cream day. ↩
- Brussels sprouts, when chopped up, work just fine. ↩