Can you remember the last time you and your partner went on a date? There was a research project done recently by Bradford Wilcox and Jeffrey Dew showing that having regularly scheduled date nights can greatly improve your relationship. The project results demonstrated that date nights allowed an opportunity to better communicate with your partner. Wilcox and Dew pointed out that communication is important because individuals are constantly changing and as their relationship progresses couples begin to encounter new challenges and difficulties. The report also showed couples who went on dates often were less likely to take each other for granted, they were able to de-stress from daily routine and they were more committed to each other, which could be associated with lower divorce rates.
One of the things that I remember the most in the weeks following the arrival of our twins was that my in-laws kept offering to take the kids for a night so we could have date night. At first I thought this was more of a plot for them to get more time with the kids and when I mentioned this to my mother in law and she laughed and reminded me that date nights are important! I dismissed this suggestion almost immediately due to the fact that I felt guilty leaving the kids and before we had them, my husband and I were never really big on date nights outside of our home in the first place. In the past, we would spend time together but it would be spent playing board games or binge watching movies. If we tried to do either of those during those first few months after their birth, we would’ve definitely fallen asleep on top of the Monopoly board.
For a while I felt that everything was fine between us but the more time that passed, the less time we devoted to one another. We quickly grew into the routine of me always being busy and tired from keeping two newborns alive while he was at work, he would come home and give me enough of a break to eat and shower before he went to bed for the night. We did this routine over and over and over again for weeks. After my maternity leave ended the bickering started to become more constant, the tension in the room seemed to get bigger and some days I swore that if he exhaled just a little too loud, that was the day I was going to lose it. We were putting all our time and effort into raising twins and trying to function for a full day of work. There was absolutely zero energy for us to put any effort into our marriage. The days passed and I began to feel so unhappy with the atmosphere. This was not the type of relationship I had with my husband and I missed it so much. He is my best friend and we used to be able to talk and joke with each other for hours on end. I’d heard it so many times before, “kids will change a marriage.” I guess this is what they meant but no! I refused to be okay with us being like this forever, we had a talk and realized we needed to put more time into our marriage. So we agreed we would give date days/nights a try.
I mentioned to my sister that we wanted to try this out but I didn’t really want to be sitting across a booth from someone that felt like a stranger to me at the time. She suggested a “thrift challenge”. We were instantly hooked on the idea! We would get a little break away from the house, and we were able to go shopping (believe it or not, I think my husband has more fun when shopping than I do!).
We planned for a day and had my sister watch the kids. We set the rules for our thrift challenge… there was a $30 limit per person and we had to buy five items for the other person and one item that would be something that we could use for the kids
1. An item that is their favorite color
2. An item that reminds you of them
3. Their favorite snack and beverage
4. Something for the house
5. BONUS: Something for the kids
It took us about an hour of searching and dodging each other throughout the thrift shop before we finished. We agreed he would pay first, then I would pay and meet him in the car and we would open everything together at home. We opened up one thing at a time.
1. For an item of their favorite color I got him a small green bookshelf and he got me a blue Stitch shirt (from the movie Lilo and Stitch)
2. For an item that reminds you of them I got him a s’more machine because he LOVES s’mores and had been talking about how he can’t wait for the twins to have some when the weather got colder. He got me a string art canvas in the shape of The United States, because he knows I love to travel.
3. For something for the house he got a placard that reads “Wine is proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy” and I got a little fondue set.
4. For our favorite snack and drink I got him a Coke and Funyuns, and he got me Dr. Pepper and hot fries. This category was one of the more difficult ones to choose from since thrift shops aren’t exactly known for their snack varieties.
5. Lastly, for the kids he got them a Melissa & Doug dinosaur puzzle (he had no idea why I was so excited over a $2 M&D puzzle). I got him a whoopie cushion because he’s a prankster and I overindulged and got a STEM plankton catcher *insert nerdy emoji here*
With all the stuff we bought his total came out to $19.56 and mine came out to $28.12! We loved everything and laughed the whole time and are dying to do the challenge again at a different store!
After this date, things between us felt a little more normal than they had. I knew after adding two kids to the mix, we would never truly go back to “normal” but we were slowly creating a new normal for us which now included regular date nights. As we have continued going on dates, I felt us reconnecting with each other more and I have learned that our communication skills have overall improved significantly. I love making memories and being able to show our kids what they should look forward to in their future relationships. A few other random benefits that I have found from date nights are you get to dress up and someone else cooks lunch or dinner and cleans up for you.
Excuses…. I know it is easy to make excuses, especially when we are tired after a long week but I have learned that this is something I have to prioritize for my family. I know sometimes finding a babysitter is not the easiest or cheapest task but one of my favorite “perks” about being in a group like FWMoM is that some of our MoMs do date night swaps. This means one couple watches the other couple’s kids so they can go out and then the next time they swap kids so the other couple can go out!
If you are trying to stay under budget, a few other date ideas that we have done that require little to no money have been going on nature walks at some small hiking grounds near our house, having a picnic at a park, or having game night with other friends.
If you are not able to leave the house, you can always try to cook, watch a new show together or even do yard work at the same time. What really matters is spending the time together and acknowledging each other. Whatever you choose, try to make date nights a priority in your household! I suggest planning in advance as it helps with the excuses. If you feel guilty like I did at first, just remember that your partner matters as well, and it is difficult to parent if you are not communicating well and your children will gain so much from seeing their parents build a strong relationship.
Valerie has one year old identical twin boys , Oliver and Dexter. She is currently serving the board as co-chair VP of Programs.