I have four kids ages 7, 4, 2, 1. I run my own business. I hate finding a babysitter. And I also have a husband… We even have a happy marriage. In fact, it’s happier and healthier now than it ever has been because I figured out one good way to show him that he’s way more than an “also” to me, in fact he’s a priority: Weekly Date Night. Scheduled on my calendar, set to repeat every Friday for as long as Google will allow it, it reads “Date Night/Sexy Time”. We have not always scheduled this night, and as a result, have missed out on reaping the benefits of such a commitment. So today, for any and all who want to better their current or future marriages, I’m going to share with you what works for us, and I’ll tell you now it doesn’t require finding a babysitter.
Our Dating History
Jordan and I dated in high school, the beginning of my junior year, his senior year. We really only had that one year to be physically present and together every weekend. After graduating, he flew across the country to start school in Connecticut, was there for a year, then left to serve an LDS mission in Russia for two years, came home, went back to school for another year until we were finally married. All the while we were apart, we “dated” other people up until we got engaged but not a week went by that we didn’t write a letter/email to each other. I never quit loving him and was totally passing the time until we could be together officially. I kept busy, got a degree, etc. while we were apart, but in all reality I probably never really gave any other guy a fair shot at love. But that’s because I knew I had a good thing and I wasn’t about to let him go. I’ve saved all our letters back and forth and know they will be a family treasure one day.
We were married May 2006. After summer internships in Utah we moved to Connecticut so he could finish his bachelor’s degree. We met up for lunches and often enjoyed late night dinners around midnight when food tastes it’s best. Ella was born with just enough time to be a tax right off in 2007. Our midnight rendezvous stopped, but with only one baby, we still went out together often just toting her along. As a baby, she’d almost drink the salsa at Chili’s and was happy to accompany us to any restaurant we chose.
Hazel came along in 2010. By then we’d moved to Utah and bought our first home. We would still go out with two kids but it wasn’t all that relaxing. Peirce was born in 2012 and officially ended any sort of night out that I could honestly dub a “date”. We still ate out occasionally because I love yummy food, especially the kind I don’t have to cook, but once Peirce was mobile and could launch ketchup bottles to those seated at the next table, that had to be the end. Besides that I was about to have another baby (Peirce was all of 15-months old). Sisi was born. Who knows how to take FOUR little kids to a restaurant with any hope of a good time? Not I. Not unless it has a play place.
Earlier This Year
So now it’s January 2015. We’ve been married 8.5 years. We don’t really “date” much but I totally love Jordan anyway. For Christmas he’d just given me a 3-ring binder with 52 empty sheet protectors and the promise of one letter a week for the next year. As Valentine’s Day approached, I was feeling like I really wanted to get him something equally sentimental but more than anything I just wanted to spend time with him-like 52 sheet protectors worth of time. And then I had one of those moments personal revelation moments, nothing earth shattering, but exactly what I needed to try. The thought came clearly that if I wanted to spend time with him I needed to schedule it on our calendar, stick to it, and I be creative in my “dating” approach.
Jordan and I share a joint Google calendar. I can access it anywhere there’s internet and we can both add to it and see each other’s plans so we don’t double book ourselves. Generally speaking in life, if it’s on my calendar, I make it happen. So this was step number one: I committed to spending every Friday night focused on Jordan and pledged my allegiance by literally booking it on my calendar.
Step two was finding a way to make it happen without the stress (aka. planning, finding a babysitter, spending a lot of money, etc.). In the past, we’d had good intentions for date night but often fell short. I manage our finances and our monthly budget. And even though I budgeted enough money to pay a babysitter so we could go out weekly, we both hated the process of lining one up so much that it rarely happened. So in light of this, I thought to myself, what would happen if we didn’t get a babysitter? Could we still go on a date? The answer, I’ve found is YES, but it takes refining your “date” definition a bit.
At Home Dates
Since Valentine’s Day this year, we’ve gone on a date every week. For his valentine present, I gave Jordan a big red velvet heart chocolate box I found at the DI filled with pieces of paper. Yep. Super tasty. But diet friendly! So what’s on the paper? A restaurant and menu selection of my choice. Every Friday he picks one out before leaving for work. On his way home, he picks up whatever was on the paper and brings it home for dinner (Jordan hates making decisions, so if I simply expect him to bring home something for me every week without saying exactly what I want that would be stressful). I love yummy food and the one part of date night I wasn’t willing to redefine was me getting to “eat out”. But I realized it’s the food I care about, not the going to the restaurant part. So now we eat out by staying in.
(Side note: I remember my parents going on weekly dates and my mom recounting that getting to leave the house then was her moment of sanity. I think because I’m usually gone at least one night a week shooting/working, this “getting out” part isn’t as important to me.)
So Jordan brings home take out every Friday. What do we do with the kids? They watch TV downstairs. Yep. It’s that simple. To them date night is the best night of the week. It means pizza (or whatever else they request) and a movie of their choice. I try to feed them before Jordan gets home and we decide on what they’re going to watch, then as soon as dad gets home they know it’s time to go downstairs and let us do our thing. I’ve been amazed at how supportive Ella and Hazel are of this whole idea. They love Fridays. For the most part, they stay downstairs as asked. And I’ve even heard them incorporating “date night” into their make believe play. Usually Ella goes out with Harry Potter, and Hazel nabs Ron. But I love that they’re internalizing the importance of healthy romantic relationships. They know what we’re doing upstairs (or at least warming up to do) and it’s been a great segue to discussing a healthy sexual relationship in a marriage setting.
Peirce and Sienna obviously don’t really get date night yet. But if they pop in for a few bites of my dinner, I don’t mind. They aren’t conversationalists yet, so it generally doesn’t interrupt the flow too much. Yes, I wish they’d just magically play downstairs but I accept they’re still babies and this is the life I chose. And it was a happy choice. In a few years, they’ll all be on board the movie watching train. And in a few more years from that, they’ll be old enough to babysit each other. But in the meantime, this is working for us.
Date Night Agenda
Okay, so all I’ve really told you is Jordan brings home take out and the kids watch a movie while we stay up stairs. Is that it? Yes. And No. If I’m in the mood, I hop onto the Dating Divas website and go to their “at home” section HERE. They’ve already planned a bunch of fun dates for me, and they’re free, so I just go with it. No stress. I customize their “invitation” for that date in Photoshop and email it to Jordan just as a way of saying, “hey, I’m thinking about you and our date”. If you’re super into the printables and making things pinterest cute, great. They’ve got that option. Usually I just keep things simple because that’s our style. But having an “activity” planned for after dinner while the kids are still awake is a great idea.
I mean, you can just eat and then go straight for a make-out session and see where it leads, but we tried that one week and let’s just say it could have lead to one of the most embarrassing moments of my life if it hadn’t been one of my closest friends knocking on our front door. Needless to say, what you do on your date is your prerogative but I recommend something that forces you to engage as a couple beyond your everyday interactions. Something that either soothes your souls or energizes your relationship. Once the kids finish their movie, we read books and put them to bed. And then it’s back to our date and doing whatever we please until we fall sleep exhausted because we have four kids
Love is a Verb
I know this might sound too simple, but I swear to you that the real benefit of a scheduled date night like this is that you’re actively loving your spouse for one evening a week and that is enough to bring most couples together regardless of how you spend the time. As a society, I think we forget that love is a verb not a noun. It requires consistent, purposeful action towards another person. Unlike the movies, it doesn’t just happen on it’s own. Marriage. Intimacy. A Healthy Relationship. They’re all a choice you make, one that’s worth scheduling, pondering on and talking about. We’re all human and we all want the same thing: to be loved unconditionally. Consider this my best attempt at world peace by starting this conversation…
So back to date night. For me, it’s more of an entire day thing to mentally commit to being romantic. If at all possible, I avoid working on Friday. I don’t schedule shoots, and I also try and stay out of my home office. I’ve found the hard way that if I work during the day, I’m too wound up to relax that evening. So Friday is never a “work day” for me anymore (if you haven’t read about how I divide my week into set days, that’s another good read HERE)
A few weeks ago, on a Friday morning, Perice came running into my room to get me out of bed. I immediately noticed that he smelled amazing. Unlike the overnight diaper smell that often lingers in with this little man, he smelled exactly like my high school boyfriend now turned husband. Jordan had doused him in his cologne so all day long, any time I picked up that little boy guess who I thought of? Yes. My husband is no dummy and he totally gets that I can’t just flip a switch on and off when it comes to my sensual side. And I know, as a woman, I am not alone in that regard.
It Keeps Us Going
The other day, when asking Jordan about his work week, he commented that though it’d been long, what kept him going every day was the thought of date night at the end of his week. I realized then just how important this had become to him, to both of us. It’s so easy to put our kids needs, our work assignments, cleaning a messy house, etc. ahead of our spouses, especially if you’re married to someone as patient as Jordan. He doesn’t demand my attention like the rest of my to do list. However, I 100% believe that he should be my top priority. In my opinion, that is the marriage commitment. It’s what I signed up to do and I love that I’ve found one small way to make it something I WANT to do.
I’m so grateful to be married to an amazing man who is thoughtful and kind, who doesn’t questions my crazy picture requests. “Babe, I think you look so hot just getting out of the shower, covered in water droplets, freshly shaven in my nice bathroom window light. Can I take a picture of you like that? Oh, and can you wash Sienna while you’re in there because then I don’t have to bathe her today…” It’s true. I’m probably crazy. But I’ll always love these fun, somewhat sexy shower pics of my husband because he’s MINE and I want to cherish every little thing about him forever.
Friday night dates are the highlight of my week and I hope if they aren’t for you, that you reconsider where you’re at in life, except the limitations, and then think outside the box for ways to connect with your spouse. If you aren’t married yet tuck this thought away because one day you just might need it. If you’re in a relationship now and want to connect on a deeper level with your partner, start writing those love letters I mentioned. It’s so good to learn to express your feelings and thoughts to one another in written format. I adore the fact that Jordan still writes me notes even though we share the same bed at night. Sadly, as divorce statics show, physical proximity alone does not keep a marriage warm and tightly knit, but there is hope for all of us who’d love to love like in the movies and make things end happily ever after. It is possible. But you have to remember love is a choice, one worth scheduling for! Date night. Just do it