I wrote about the importance of having a date night back in August of 2016, but more than a year has passed and I live in a new town, and a new house. Date nights look A LOT different now, so I thought I’d revisit the concept.
Date Night is a Misnomer
I rarely have date nights at night. I do go on dates with my partner about once ever one to two weeks, and it’s almost always during the middle of the day. Usually while my mother in law is visiting with Rory we go out for a long lunch alone. We try to pick places we don’t want to take a toddler.
I think it’s helpful to take any amount of time you have for your date and not worry about trying to make it fit the definition of a date night. Do what works for you on your timeline and your budget. The Girl Next Door podcast had a great episode about this. Kelsey is a great proponent of morning dates!
Errands Can Be Dates
Running errands or going to appointments can be pretty tedious, but if you can make a date of them they can actually be fun. I’ve been going through some health things and Nick often accompanies me to my appointments and we try to either get coffee or lunch together afterward. It’s nice to have the company and support when he’s with me, and we like having a treat to look forward to after we’re done. I normally hate errands, but I have totally put on a dress, dropped Rory off at my parents on a Sunday, and gone for a cup of coffee and then to Lowe’s and Costco with Nick.
Once you get out of the mindset that date nights are big romantic plans you can really get creative and intentional with your time. Sure, errands aren’t sexy, but dates are a time to reconnect with your partner and who says you can’t do that while restocking the fridge?
You Can’t Afford (Not to Have) a Date Night
Money continues to be a point of stress for us. We bought a house and moved in this summer, and the repair bills have been out of this world. It’s definitely meant that our finances are directed toward un-fun things like water heaters and air conditioners. It’s forced us to be much more thoughtful about how we spend money on dates.
Nick and I love to go to concerts, so we bought tickets to two shows this summer/fall. It meant we had to say no to a lot of other things, but I don’t feel like I’m missing out. It’s all about picking and choosing and prioritizing what’s meaningful for you as a couple.
Ideas for a cheap night out:
- Free music, festivals, or events around town
- Dining with coupons or BOGOs
- Walking or riding bikes to get ice cream or frozen yogurt
- Making drinks and hanging outside on the patio
Design Your Season with Dates
I posted about designing your summer (inspired by the Happier podcast), and a lot of those plans provided a date night opportunity. One thing I knew I wanted to do this summer was go to the movies, no small feat when you have a toddler! We ended up seeing The Big Sick in the theater and I liked it so much it actually renewed my interest in romantic comedies.
Since I really enjoyed designing my summer, I am planning to design my fall too. I’ll definitely make sure to include at least one date activity. I really like how designing a season allows for long range planning, I find this really useful since we do need to stick to a budget and always have to consider child care needs well in advance.
Stop Waiting for Inspiration to Strike
My husband recently read an article in the local paper about the best foods to try at a bunch of local restaurants. He made a list in the Reminders app and now when we want to go out and and need some inspiration, we consult the list and try one of the suggestions. I think I’m going to take it a step further and make a list of activities I want to do—bowling, apple picking, wine tasting, hiking—and check things off as time permits. Use your favorite reminder or note taking app or go old school and write a list in your journal.
I think it’s important to come to terms with the fact that most people are not especially creative or romantic. Stop waiting for your partner to plan a picnic unprompted. Inspiration may never strike, so put ideas on a list and dates on a calendar.
Traveling, Getaways & Overnights
I know that a lot of couples are used to the freedom of being able to travel whenever and wherever, and then have to mourn the restrictions once they start a family. Sure, there are people who don’t feel hindered by time or money (or guilt), but I think that’s probably a rarity. I think it’s worth it to plan trips, getaways, and overnights when and if you can. Even if it feels like it’s never going to happen, make it a goal (even a very distant one) and a priority.
Nick and I have not spent more than one night away from Rory since he was born. Our overnighters weren’t even together—Nick took a one day work trip in February, and I went on a one night girls-only wine tasting trip in April. Now we are finally getting away for our first overnight together this week! We’re headed back to Santa Barbara for a concert and my parents are watching Rory. It may not be the most adventurous to go back to the place we lived for almost 18 years, but I’m never going to complain about visiting Santa Barbara.
Be realistic about your travel goals and find a way to save. We have a tiny savings fund where we plunk gift money and dream about going back to Italy or Spain (or literally anywhere). Use work trips or social engagements like weddings as an opportunity to get away. A friend of mine told me about her friends that go away for a weekend semi-frequently to any place within a two hour drive that’s got cheap hotel rates.
You’re Uniquely You
I am good at delayed gratification and would rather save up for a splurge than take tiny little breaks, but that’s just me. Maybe you’re always down for dinner and a movie once a week like clockwork. Date night isn’t static, it’s going to change as you age, and as your tastes change. Date night might look different when you’re dating versus married and/or married with children, but then again, it might not. Figure out what kind of couple you are and rethink what date nights mean in your relationship. Revisit and revise as needed.