My husband Mark and I will be celebrating 40 years of marriage this summer! We don’t have any particular plans yet, but I told him early in our relationship that milestones that end in zero and five are extra special and deserve to be celebrated in a big way! The sharing of this kind of information is necessary when you are a right-brained romantic who loves celebrations, and you are married to a left-brained pragmatist who ranks holidays by how much work/stress they cause him. He did take my words to heart for the most part, and we try to meet each other halfway in our expectations. That could be one of the reasons we’ve lasted 40 years – that, and pure tenacity.
What does that have to do with Date Nights? Well, some might think that after 40 years together, there is little need for romance or dedicated time to spend focused on our relationship. Can’t we just coast at this point? Then there is also the fact that we are empty nesters, which some young parents might think means every night is Date Night at our house. After all, there is nobody here to worry about but us! Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. We might eat out more often than we used to, but regardless, dinner is usually quick and involves talking about the leaking pipe that needs to be fixed or the problem at work that is making him crazy or what the grown kids are up to. Then afterwards we chill out and watch our separate shows on TVs in separate rooms before our separate bedtimes. So yes, Date Night (or morning or afternoon) is still a needed investment in our relationship.
Ideally, Date Night should be a time to set aside the mundane daily concerns that occupy our minds – work, household chores, family needs, checklists, etc – and focus on connecting with our partner in meaningful ways that will reinforce and strengthen our bond. This is especially needed if, like us, you tend to be quite different in your interests and in the ways you give and receive love. It might be a weekend getaway, a trip to the farmers market, a game night with friends, a good meal over which to talk about good memories or about dreams for the future, a slow dance in front of the living room fireplace, an evening sitting on the deck with a cold drink and deck of cards. What it shouldn’t be is something to check off your list or a time to air grievances or to go over the honey-do list. That is a different kind of evening. Talk about expectations ahead of time – we’ve been together over 40 years and he still can’t read my mind!
After 40 years of marriage, we still need Date Night because every relationship needs to be nurtured and cared for. We have committed ourselves to love, honor and cherish one another til the end of our days, but loving each other doesn’t always include liking each other. I think remembering that we like each other is the goal of having Date Nights. Marriage can be lonely and frustrating sometimes, and it is too easy in our rushed and stressed out culture to live parallel lives – essentially behaving as housemates, each doing their own thing. Our busyness can lead to emotional distance, and lack of connection. Being deliberate about spending time focused on one another, on having fun together, and on being vulnerable creates glue in a relationship that carries us through the mundane and the unexpected.
Date Night doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t even have to involve leaving the house, but it does have to happen fairly often. Once or twice a year probably won’t cut it, but at least once a month could be a good goal! It only takes a quick search on Pinterest to come up with dozens of ideas! Dating Divas is a favorite site when I need fresh ideas for dates with my honey. However, be careful of expectations again. Sometimes the ideas that I get the most excited about are of no interest at all to my mate, and then things can get chilly. brrrrrr.
Alternate between who gets to choose what you do and agree to be good sports about what the other chooses. Be creative. Surprise one another. Basically, it boils down to a boy and a girl wanting to impress and woo one another – over and over again. Still. Even comfortable old folks who have been together since they were teenagers and know the other person inside and out need to remember those things that made the heart flutter on those early dates when the relationship was new, and what made us fall in love in the first place. We make time for and put effort into the things that are important to us. Our marriage relationship needs to be at the top of that list.