It's okay, Christopher Walken. You can be in my picture.
We’ve been married for three years. Date nights are high priority in our house particularly because the responsibility of raising three kids is a lot of weight for such a young marriage to sustain. Every marriage is unique. What stands us apart from most married couples our age is easily the fact that we have a full house so early into it. But every marriage has their defining characteristics; those things that makes romance come so easily and those things that serve as more of a challenge.
Raising three kids, we’ve found, is a lot of work, (Duh. Right?) but not just because kids are a lot of work; rather because it can often mean being separated even when we’re both under the same roof at the same time. I can’t tell you how frequently my husband and I end up saying, “You do this while I do that.” (You bathe the kids while I finish dinner. You handle Matthew in here while I fix the gutter outside.) At the end of the day it’s a must just so that we can make it in to bed together before one of us falls asleep. But if we aren’t careful, we end up doing it all weekend long and not having a minute to spend together ourselves.
Sometimes “being together” is reduced completely down to our weekend obligations. A niece’s birthday. A school event. A holiday dinner. Fun, sure (most of the time, anyway) but not exactly romance rekindling.
For the longest time, date nights had this stigma attached to them; this pressure to pack a punch that would get us through the next half-month or so before our romantic life could be rehashed again. It also came with the pressure to do things that were really fucking lame.
Back in the day we could have fun doing anything, but when you’re married with kids so much of what you do together is out of obligation that it makes you feel like what you do in any window of time you aren’t catering to kids, BETTER be worth it. Even if I’m fine with only having a mediocre time somewhere on a date, Spencer feels like he disappointed me for weeks (even though that is never the case!) and apologizes until he feels like he’s redeemed himself with a better one.
I’m extremely easy to please, but it doesn’t take long for dinner and drinks to get old, and because of our early schedules, late-night dates often mean we’re exhausted by the first drink and slightly irritable from the start. It got better when he told me he’d just rather I pick the places we go. At first I wasn’t sure I liked this idea, but I soon realized it works in my favor to appease him on this. It takes the pressure off of him which already sets a better mood because he isn’t stressing over every little thing that doesn’t go right, I get an easy route to something I want to do, and with the pressure off, he focuses a lot more attention on just relaxing with me and having a good time.
This spurred me to start looking into date-night ideas online for inspiration. You wouldn’t believe how disappointed I was to find a bunch of crap that we already do all the time. Not because they’re fun. Because we have to, BECAUSE THEY AREN’T DATES. Things like these:
Date night ideas that are really lame when you’re married:
(terrible ideas that have shown up multiple times on searches for date-night inspiration)
-go to the flea market!
-fly a kite at a park!
-clean out your storage room!
-cook something together!
-refine a piece of furniture!
-go to an open house, just for fun!
-play at a neighborhood park like a kid.
-Bring home a tray of fruit and take turns feeding each other.
-eat in bed.
-wash the car…
Seriously? Wash the car?
Okay, look, just because these things can be sweet when they happen on their own, does not mean that they qualify as a date. Is that seriously how lame marriage is expected to be? That making a date to refine a piece of furniture is the best way we can come up with to enjoy each other anymore? To be fair, some of these might actually be cute for a dating couple. It’s true, there is no bigger turn on than watching my husband get all dirty, fixing something around the house with his big, sweaty man-hands. Just like he thinks it’s super sexy when I’m all dolled up just to be housewife-y, so I get where these (ex: pick a day to fix things around the house, cook a meal together, etc.) are trying to go, but they would never cut it as date-night material. Anything you’ve done out of necessity before immediately loses any potential to be even remotely interesting when reserved for a date.
Then again, there are other ideas that might be great for some couples, but just don’t work for us -- partially because our interests aren’t identical, but mostly because we’re not fictional characters out of a made-for-TV romance. We actually have trace shreds of dignity. I’m sorry, I’m not asking my 30 year old husband to take me four leaf clover hunting at our nearest state park.
For instance, I like running and I like reading and he likes that I like those things, but he would never be into training for a marathon with me or reading a book I like and setting up a coffee shop date to talk about it. I’m not going to make him do things he obviously isn’t going to like and call that quality time. (It’s not just him either. I hate snow like most people hate old band-aids so everything from sledding to snowball fighting to skiing is out.) And seriously, enough with the Salsa Dancing! Salsa Dancing! Salsa Dancing! suggestions. I mean, sure… get a few drinks in us and we can get down with the best of them, (he’ll even humor me if I’m drunk and he’s not -- now THAT’S love) but I’ll spare both of us the humiliation of dragging him to a salsa dancing lesson we’ll both spend the entire time pretending I didn’t drag him to. And coupon books. Coupon books are cute for other people. I got some from a friend once it was the cutest thing ever. I thought it was absolutely adorable and totally fun. My daughter made me some when she was eight and I’ll keep them forever. But this is not a date-night idea. Please, stop calling it one.
So I’ve made my own list. A bucket-list of date night ideas that I wouldn’t be totally embarrassed to ask him on and he wouldn’t be totally embarrassed to take me on. A collection we could draw from whenever we find ourselves with a day or a night (or even a few) to ourselves. I thought it’d be fun to share and see what other people come up with.
Some are big and would take some planning. Some are small and we could do them all the time if they wind up being really fun. In fact, a bunch of them we already do. Some of them aren’t even available in our area, but might be worth planning as part of a road trip. Some are things we usually write off as something only to do with the kids, but end up being fun when taken out of their usual context. Some of them will probably wind up feeling totally awkward or forced or lame anyway, but they’d be cool to say that we tried and laugh about later. (Once, we went to this awful 70’s nightclub with women in bikinis and rollerblades dancing through hoola-hoops to Madonna. It was the worst thing ever, but we’ll probably be laughing about it at each other’s funeral wakes.) Take the good with the bad and roll with it. At least you aren’t repurposing furniture.
It's four a.m. and we are not looking our best, but you can bet we're having fun.
Cool Things Real People Might Actually Like Doing On A Date.
- go to a wine tasting
- find a drive-in movie
- get seriously dressed up and hit the casino
- take a road trip to visit someone
- rock climbing
- take a class together -- it’d be cool to find something you’re both willing to give a shot
(I won’t judge you if it’s Salsa Dancing. But seriously, a lot of local colleges have one night classes. And I’m joking about not judging you.)
- ice skating
- skinny dipping - (Sorry. This one’s protocol.)
- nighttime picnic
- go on a dinner cruise
- park somewhere cool with a laptop and have your own drive-in movie
- see a play
- go to a carnival without the kids (or the zoo, aquarium, fair or museum; pick out something for each of them at the gift shop. I love picking up gifts for our kids when they aren’t around.. We get so sentimental.)
- get drunk on a plane -- this one isn’t really a date, it just sounds cool. I want to do it!
- see the ball drop in Times Square
- go to a shooting range
- fishing in a new spot
- have a game night with friends
- rent something cool like a four-wheeler or a wave runner
- regular golfing, for that matter
- Restaurant hop - 3 stops in one night: appetizer/drinks, dinner and dessert
- go to an art show (there’s usually free wine!)
- stay at a bed and breakfast, hunker down with some junk food and have an up all night TV show marathon
- go to a psychic reading, just for fun
- volunteer somewhere together (Sounds corny for a “date,” but I could see this being a cool experience. Especially Habitat for Humanity or something.)
- see a comedian
- bet on a horse at the tracks
- take a trapeze class
- disc golf is seriously fun
- go to a chocolate tasting
- take a helicopter ride
- go horseback riding
- do karaoke night at a bar
- Cook live lobsters at home (Okay, I don’t know if I could go through with this, but duh! that’s what a memorable experience is all about. Apparently, livelob.com has a cooking guide.)
- ride a ferry someplace cool (The next time we go to Atlantic City Spencer suggested taking the long way around to park the car on a ferry back home. I think that’s such a cool touch.)
- go to a pool hall (and play the darts! No one ever plays the darts…)
- set off our own fireworks
- go to a rodeo show
- swing dancing
This was actually really fun to sit and think up. What would you add??