Date nights are sacred time at our house. After a busy week of work, life responsibilities and toddler fun, we look forward to the time that we have together, just the two of us, to focus on our marriage relationship. We used to take date night for granted, and didn't make it more special than any other night of the week. I wish I could go back and give newlywed us a glimpse of the future and encourage us to make the most of date night while we don't need babysitters and can stay out as late as we want.
When we started making date night more of a priority, we noticed that there were habits we'd fallen into that were keeping date night from really making a difference for our marriage. We set what we considered rules for our date nights to keep us in check. I don't like to call them rules anymore, I consider them more of guidelines. Guidelines that make date night count and help us grow closer as a couple. The guidelines we set help us think more intentionally, and set aside the habits we might not realize had come between us when we were on dates in the past.
Rules for Better Date Nights
Planned and Purposeful
One of the things that we've always had a problem with and that I feel contributed to the date night rut early in our relationship is the fact that most weeks, our date nights were spontaneous. And by spontaneous I mean that we usually decided the day of that we were going to have a date and then when we both were home from work, we'd sit around trying to decide what to do. This usually ended with us getting fast food or takeout and watching something from Redbox or Netflix.
I wouldn't say that there's anything wrong with spontaneous dates because they can be some of the most fun and memorable. And we love dinner and a movie dates at home more than anything, but the way that we were using them wasn't allowing date night to benefit our marriage. Now we put date night on the calendar, decide which ones will involve going out vs. staying in and then we make tentative plans for each one. Those plans often shift and change by the time date night rolls around, but having a plan in place to begin with helps us to be more intentional. If you're facing a similar challenge, let me suggest a few guidelines that we've put in place over the years that have helped this aspect of our dating life.
When we first set this guideline, we sat down and took time to map out who was in charge of date night every week for a year. It was simple really, we just put two recurring events on our Google calendar and scheduled them for every other week. One event said "Joe in charge of date night" and the other said "Amberly in charge of date night". They popped up with a reminder on our phone in the middle of the week so we would remember to start planning. We paid special attention to things like our birthdays, anniversary and Valentine's, and shifted things accordingly.
Another thing that we did, when we could, was plan on date night to fall on the same night every week. That way date night wasn't a surprise and we had no excuse for not planning ahead. We also look ahead to events going on that we might want to attend and plan for those. It gives us something to look forward to and makes the thought of date night even more exciting.
Getting out of our dinner and a movie routine was important to me a few years ago, especially when we had a baby coming because I knew that would be our automatic go to if we didn't come up with something better to do. Finding creative and budget friendly date night activities, even if it's just finding a way to spice up our normal routine on nights when we're really too tired to do much else, has brought a lot more fun to our relationship. I've enjoyed finding new things for us to do and I have become a big fan of stay at home dates because we've found unique things to do and ways to have fun beyond dinner and a movie, without even having to leave our house.
Avoiding Certain Topics of Conversation
When we're out on a date, we want to enjoy our time together and sometimes that means that we avoid talking about certain things. For most couples I think it's safe to say that staying away from the subjects that often lead to disagreements for the two of you is a good idea when you're out on a date. Some couples have a rule that they don't talk about the kids while they're out on a date. We generally don't make that a rule for us, but if you find yourselves only talking about the little ones or if your relationship has become nothing but a parenting partnership, that might be a good guideline to have in place to help you reconnect and build your romantic relationship.
No Unnecessary Technology
This is the one thing that I would consider a rule and is the one thing that I think most couples think about when it comes to date night. If you haven't already set boundaries when it comes to technology, particularly your cell phones, it's something that I think every couple should do. Our world has become so saturated by technology that it is almost impossible to go anywhere without our phones. We refuse to be the couple who you see sitting across from each other at dinner, engrossed in whatever is on their phones and not paying attention to that important person sitting across from them.
I remember when my parents would go out, they'd leave the number of a neighbor who would be home and the information for the places where they planned to be for the night so that the babysitter knew where to reach them if there was an emergency. Cell phones have made our lives more easy and more difficult at the same time. I love having my phone on hand for when the babysitter texts to say that they can't find the taggie for bedtime, or to send us cute pictures to let us know the kids are having fun. And I love knowing that I'm easily reached if there is an emergency. But it becomes a temptation to check every time I receive a notification which could lead to becoming sucked in
There are so many guidelines I could suggest for this challenge, but I'll try to keep it to just a few. You can set specific ringtones for you babysitters, so you'll know which calls and texts you can ignore and which ones actually need your attention. There are also options for setting your phone on do not disturb but still allowing calls from specific numbers, including your babysitter. If sports games playing on the restaurant TV are a distraction, avoid those restaurants on date night or ask to be seated somewhere you can't see the screen.
When you set your date night guidelines, be sure that you are both on the same page. If you see a struggle in your date night routine, talk about it and get your spouse on board with making the change. Setting the boundary and telling them what's going to happen, without giving them a say in the matter will set you up for disagreements and resentment, which is the opposite of what you want to happen. When you're both on board with making a change, you'll see positive change in your date nights and your marriage.
What guidelines have you set for date night? I'd love to hear what they are and why you put them in place.
Photography by Sadie Banks Photography