If we flew by the seat of our pants with date nights and fun, purposeful time together, I’m not sure it would happen. Dan and I are both very laid back, which sometimes translates into full days spent at home on our computers, reading, watching TV, or playing Mario Kart. This is quality time for us. But we’ve found that we learn the most about each other and have the most purposeful conversations while outside of our house. We both do enjoy getting out, too, so we capitalize on that when considering how we’ll spend time together.
Analyze your calendars
Unlike we’ve heard of other couples doing, we don’t really sit down together to pick free times for dates. We both love it enough that if we’re looking at the calendar and see an open night, we mention it to the other person and add “date” to a chunk of time. Some weeks, date night happens a little more organically. “Hey, want to do something tonight?” Other weeks — the busy weeks — we look ahead at the week and choose some time.
Get excited about date ideas
We keep a shared Google Doc with lists of places we want to eat and things we want to do. We go to this first if we don’t have any quick ideas for a date. For me, it’s easier to get excited about getting up from my comfy reading chair if we’re doing something we haven’t done before or haven’t done recently.
There are a few places we frequent, though. And I’m realizing now, even though we repeatedly ate at Tortillaria, we found ways to change it up to keep it exciting. For restaurants, we eat there, we get take out and bring it home to eat on the living room floor, or we take our food to a new park. We once had burgers and fries in a little gazebo on a pond at an apartment complex. For movies, we visit different theaters and sneak in different snacks.
Non-traditional “dates” have been fun for us, too. We’ve spent a lot of time thrifting and Craigslisting together. We’ve done craft and home improvement projects together. If you’re members, Costco dates are pretty great, too. Hot dogs, frozen yogurt, samples, and bulk items. Seriously!
Anticipate + protect time together
This is big. In pre-marital counseling, we talked about wanting to have weekly date nights no matter how busy we get and how many kids we have. But, if you can’t set aside date nights now, how will you do it when life ramps up in craziness?
We anticipate time together by going to extra lengths to get other obligations taken care of. Dan is phenomenal at this… He gets up extra early to study and listens to podcasts required for work on his way to and from work. Also, to avoid the temptation to flake out, I work extra hard to communicate to Dan what kind of date I’d prefer — more relaxed or high energy. Likewise, Dan sometimes has days of work that are more intense than expected. It’s been important for us to be flexible and understanding when big plans turn into just walking over to a nearby restaurant.
The first step to protecting time together is putting the date on the calendar. Once it’s there, we usually find it easy to turn down other opportunities that come up. Likewise, we have found it necessary in especially busy + stressful seasons of life to cancel existing plans to spend some time alone together. When adoption stress has hit, we’ve stepped back from busyness to be together. It makes me feel horrible to flake out on other people, but it has been pivotal for our ability to grow despite the biggest stress we’ve faced.
Similarly, while on dates, we have made the decision that some topics (our wedding and now, adoption!) are off limits at times. It’s sometimes hard to keep to, but I always come home feeling like I enjoyed our conversations so much more. We also try to avoid using our iPhones unless doing something beneficial for us both… like looking up the last movie that familiar actor was in.
Time together can look so different depending on your personalities, schedules, and interests. This is the groove we’ve found, though, and we hope to carry it through for years to come. I hope something in here might be helpful for you — whatever personality, schedule and interests you have!