I've heard lots of different excuses for why a couple isn't making weekly date night a priority in their marriage. I use the word excuse because that's exactly what the reasons are, excuses. Chances are, you started making these excuses to yourself and/or your spouse when life got busy and taking time out of your week to have a date seemed almost impossible. The more you make these excuses and let things get in the way of date night, the easier it will become to set date night aside for something else that you need or want to do instead. With a preemie in the hospital and a toddler at home, we have every reason not to go on dates right now, but because our marriage is a priority and we want to make sure we are spending time with each other, we have been determined to make date night happen.
Date night is difficult when you're spending all of your time together at the hospital or at home after your toddler is in bed. While I was in labor, I had to cancel plans and reservations that I'd made for an overnight date I was planning to surprise Joe with the next weekend. It would have been easy to forget all about date night while we were in the hospital and I don't think anybody would have questioned us on that decision. To be honest, the weekend that Emmy was born was so hectic that we didn't do anything for a date. Unless you count watching an episode of Psych while I was stuck on hospital bed rest and sharing a turkey sandwich in the room after she was born as a date. I knew that because of how crazy life was and how limited our time together was, we needed to set aside time to date each other during our stay in the NICU. Spending a few hours together, uninterrupted and away from both of our kids was just what we needed to reconnect at the end of our long and exhausting weeks.
The thing about date night while you're in the hospital is that you have to be creative. We don't have a lot of time between cares (when we change diapers, take her temperature and feed her) and there are only a few hours between the time Joe gets to the hospital after work and when he leaves to pick Bensen up and put him to bed. I've had so many ideas of things that we could do together, but couldn't achieve all of them in the three weeks that we've been in the hospital because ultimately, the majority of our time had to be spent with our two little ones. I was surprised to find that I was somewhat disappointed that we weren't spending more time here so that we could get to more of these activities. I had really fun plans for date night this coming weekend, but Emmy decided that she was ready to meet all of her goals and escape the hospital, so once again I'm changing my plans and we're having date night at home instead. Whether you have a baby in the NICU or not, I hope that you can enjoy a few of these dates yourself!
Order pizza, play a game and/or watch a movie
A few days into our stay, we noticed a local pizza company delivering pizza to the hospital and our floor on a couple of different occasions. I immediately knew that our date that coming weekend would be low key, pizza delivery to the hospital. As soon as Joe got here after work that Friday night, we placed our order to be delivered when we knew that we'd be ready to eat and then went to spend time together with Emmy until it arrived. Because we only had an hour or so for our date, we turned on an episode of Psych to watch while we eat.
We also love to play games, and these card games from Grandpa Beck's Games are great! Golf has always been a favorite of ours and it's been fun to learn some new games together. We'll have lots more opportunities to master these games when we're spending lots of time at home this winter. I have a feeling that Cover Your Assets is going to become a favorite of ours.
Go Out to Dinner
We've been blessed with lots of homemade meals delivered to us at the hospital by friends and family. When we don't have a meal coming, we'll order room service. We spend so much time in the hospital, at home and at work (Joe), that even a quick stop at the store on my way home at night feels like a vacation. The night that we left Emmy in the care of her awesome nurses and went to one of our favorite restaurants nearby was a great break! We were only gone for two hours, but we spent our time laughing and talking about less serious parts of life. After a week of working to balance life, that date was exactly what our marriage needed and we were able to connect in a different way than we'd been connecting during our challenge.
A change of scenery can do wonders for your relationship, so getting out of the hospital one night for dinner, even if it's just a quick meal inside a fast food location. Find a few restaurants near the hospital that you want to try or that you already love but aren't able to frequent very often. While you're enjoying dinner, try not to talk about the challenges that you're going through in life. Lighten things up and talk about something fun that you're looking forward to doing, plan your date night activity for the next week, or share funny stories from your week. (I've found that after we tackle the must discuss topics every day, I always forget to tell Joe about the funny things that happened to me throughout the day.)
Go for a Drive
Part of our date night plan for this coming weekend was going to be to take a drive up the canyon a ways and enjoy the fall leaves. I was looking forward to holding hands while we listened to music, talked about life and enjoying signs of my favorite season. You can have a car karaoke party, laugh and talk, or enjoy sitting in silence together (it can actually be really nice when life gets chaotic). Find somewhere scenic close to you, roll down the windows and enjoy your time outside of the hospital.
Share a Treat
Maybe you don't want to leave the hospital for the length of dinner. You could grab a treat and enjoy it together either in or out of the hospital. Check out the cafeteria, or if your hospital offers it, order something from room service. You could also research places near you where they might have really delicious and unique desserts. There is a chocolate shop just a block from the hospital where we'd planned to stop for hot chocolate and a treat this weekend.
Sightsee and Play Tourists
Our hospital is located in the heart of a city that's the tourist destination of our state. Some of the areas around the hospital are great for walking around and exploring and are not places that we frequent very often. The state capitol building, a few gorgeous parks, and a few other popular locations. If we'd had a bit more time on a weekend, we would have taken an hour break to get some fresh air and enjoy some of the sights that we take for granted because we live so close to them.
Date night is so important for your marriage! Setting aside time for each other during every stage of life is important. Your relationship will grow and you will grow together as a couple if you make each other a priority during the hard times in life rather than letting life get in the way.