One of my favorite things I hear frequently from readers is that they are setting a goal to start dating their significant other more, and I love that so many mentioned our date night posts have inspired them to do that! I always applaud strengthening marriage and other relationships, and there’s nothing that helps create those positive, happy experiences and memories together like getting out and having some fun together.
Up until this year, I just had to cheerlead and never really understood the struggle to get back in the habit when you’ve been out of the habit. We set that goal to go out once a week no matter what, and we’ve been pretty determined to do it! But, when your spouse is given a work assignment abroad and spends several months living away with some weekends they aren’t able to come home, dating becomes quite a bit more tricky. We still did our best, and I’m glad we got out one-on-one at least once a month, but we ended up having two days with Jacob home the weekends he made it home, and since he often worked such late hours he couldn’t Facetime his little boy, we decided it was a time and season of more family dates to be together until the assignment ended. Three and a half months later, he was home- hooray! And we were beyond excited to start hiring a babysitter on Fridays (a day he hadn’t been home to date) again and start going out weekly.
But something we’d never experienced happened: We both looked at each other and went, um, what do we do? How do we plan these things? We used to have more ideas than nights available for fun dates and now we’re pretty stumped. It’s like writer’s block, only it’s date night block, and we’ve learned it takes some practice and planning to make sure we’re rocking date night to its full potential.
So I wanted to share the things we’ve learned to get back in the dating saddle so to speak, and how to get back in the habit of making date night happen for anyone ready to jump back in!
- It’s okay to start small. If you need to just plan a dinner and get out to dinner, that’s completely fine. This was our baby step, we really could only think of dinner the first few weeks, and I think our sitter was shocked to see us home after only an hour and a half or two, but that’s all we had. And you know what, that’s just fine! You need to start somewhere, and dinner and actually wearing date night clothes is a great place to start!
- Mix up dinner with something new. Find a place you’ve never been, eat in a neighboring city, find a themed restaurant, eat a cuisine you’ve never experienced, these all help the date night feel a little more exciting. It may still only be dinner, but looking up a new place creates novelty and makes the date feel a little more special.
- Set a budget. I hear often people want to start dating, and then they look at costs for tickets or dinner and they shy away. I’m going to be blunt, it can be free, but you’re going to need some money and planning and setting a budget really helps here! I know people who have huge budgets, and I know people who have very small budgets, and they still seem to make it all work! It may look like a cheap ice cream cone instead of a fine dining dinner, but you find a way to work with what you planned. Knowing it’s set aside, making it a priority, and working with the budget it going to aid you big time in planning and not feeling guilty.
- Take turns planning, and agree to do whatever the other person plans. I get more women than men who ask me how I got my husband on board with this. Well I lucked out, I didn’t believe in marriage and he convinced me to get married and promised we’d date, but I totally get what you mean that sometimes one spouse isn’t as into this. Let me say this, often what women think sounds fun or romantic and what men think sounds fun or romantic is very different. I had a friend once tell me about going to a WWF wrestling match on a date with her new husband and I told her I had no idea she was into that. She said, “I wasn’t, but Sean is, and I’m into Sean, so now I’m happy to go!” I’ve always remembered that, and that’s become our rule. When it’s someone else’s turn to plan you go along with a smile. This is how I get him to the ballet, this is how he gets me to car shows. We enjoy watching each other enjoy, and we know we’ll get our turn to do what we really think is interesting next time. Plus, I think I’m to the point where I get more joy out of watching him get excited about something than feeling selfish about what we do. Take turns, agree to go to whatever sounds fun to them, make the deal they have to go with your plan too. It becomes so much easier this way when you take pressure off to find the perfect thing you’ll both enjoy.
- If you have kids, book a regular sitter. Just make it a standing date, we pick you up every Friday at 6:00 (or whatever works for you). Knowing they are coming forces you to take action and find a date. I’m also going to add you’ll want a few backups, they get sick or go out-of-town, and know that’s a part of the equation and plan for it. If it’s too much to book one weekly, we have a plan we follow for making date night happen with a baby/kids, check out our post for our system that works really well!
- Get a calendar and plan in advance. It’s amazing to me when we sit down and plan how we come up with much better dates than when we procrastinate. Instead of saying we’ll go to the Science Museum, we look up what night is a free night or has a special exhibit, and suddenly our budget has more flexibility or we get a really amazing special experience. It’s easier to find concerts, to get tickets to opening movie nights, to plan the holiday and seasonal dates, etc. when there’s a calendar. We’re both digital people and have a shared Google calendar we add date plans to and block off time for. It makes us well aware of what we’re doing, when it’s our turn to plan, and helps us think ahead. I’m a firm believer you have to be intentional about planning.
- Find new ideas. This is where we love to help! We’ve blogged over a thousand dates, and we have our Beyond Dinner and a Movie series that sends our best date night lists/ideas to your inbox once a week. Our archives are full of dates listed by category so you can find your price range, your type, and your season. We plan dates together, they are all very his and her approved and we strive to not be cheesy and to be super approachable. I promise you want in on the Beyond Dinner and a Movie series!
- Know where to look for local ideas. We know we love concerts, and we know which venues to check out for upcoming shows. We know which cities, community centers, venues, and malls put on events, and we love to check those websites and newspapers regularly. No matter what size of city/town you live in, there’s a good chance you know where you could potentially go and where events take place, start checking those places for new ideas!
- Plan some backup ideas. Babysitters do fall through, you may have a sick child you can’t leave, sometimes the budget doesn’t stretch as far, we all know there’s a lot of excuses. But we’ve learned to have backup plans. There are movies we’ve saved to watch at home for these nights, there are activities we plan to do at home. There’s no shame in doing something small, something free, or something less glamorous at home on the nights you need to.
- Get creative with date times. If you can’t ever make evenings work, try meeting for lunch. If your only sitter option is the morning, try morning hikes or breakfast outings. We love having a set night, but we’ve learned that there are times that we just couldn’t leave a newborn or take them out at night (colic, it was rough), you may have job schedules that make weekend dating rough, these things happen. We’ve learned to love whatever time we can get together, even if it’s at a non-traditional day or time. The good news is, it’s often cheaper and less crowded to make dates work outside of the weekend. Don’t feel like a failure if life is just so crazy you need to fit in a small date at another time, it still counts no matter when you do it!
I can promise you this, as we’ve learned this year, even when you’ve been out of the habit you can always get back in it. It may take a few weeks or months, but once you have a few fun experiences and adult conversations together, you’ll remember why date night is so fun and why you need it regularly in your life. It does it easier, just like any habit, it just takes a little work and a little planning to make it happen.
Anything else you’d like to add? Have you found any tricks to getting back in the groove? I’d love to hear your success stories!
And check out more Resolutions You’ll Want to Keep from some of my favorite bloggers linked HERE.
Beyond Dinner and a Movie
Grab Our 5 Ways to Keep Your Love Alive and Make Date Night Fun