The arrival of our third child this last December brought some expected changes for our little family. We rearranged the girls’ rooms so that our oldest two are now in bunk beds. We had to buy a new car to fit all of our family. (For those keeping score, we ended up with a Mercury Mountaineer. We all love it.) We are no longer able to each take one kid and manage them. I’m told this new arrangement is called “zone defense,” and we are getting used to it. Like I said, we were expecting to adjust with most of this.
Then, during one of our many middle-of-the-night feedings, it suddenly occurred to me. “We have THREE kids now! We are never going on a date again! What have we done!?!?”
With two kids, it didn’t seem very unreasonable to send them to our good friends for the evening or even overnight. Three kids is a whole new level! Paying for a babysitter for all three – even if I could confidently leave the little one with someone other than her dad – would cost us way more than our average date. I began to panic just a little bit. I thought to myself, “How are we going to connect and de-stress with each other if we can’t go on dates!?! I already feel so disconnected now that all of my attention is consumed with kids and feeding the baby every two hours, and fitting in the laundry and a shower now and then. I miss my husband!”
I calmed myself to go back to sleep and decided to let it go for a little while. A couple of nights later, after Claire and Nora were in bed, I sat in the living room with Tony. I had our sweet baby snuggled up on my chest and was flipping through my Real Simple magazine with my free hand. In an article on finding balance within your family life called, “Nobody’s Perfect,” I came across the very thing I needed to read…
Don’t stress about date night.
You know that you need to make time for your spouse. (Focusing on the kids instead of each other is a major reason that many couples grow apart.) But babysitters cost money, and who can stay awake after 10pm? Here’s some good news: Sitting on the couch together is probably more important. You need ways to connect with each other that don’t take a lot of effort or time; try sending a loving text (not “Bring home milk”) or talking at the dinner table for 10 minutes after the kids have finished. “A grand gesture, date night included, isn’t going to work very well if you don’t have these smaller moments throughout the week,” says Vagdevi Meunier, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of counseling a St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas. And you don’t even have to talk. “There is value in just being in the presence of another person,” says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in New York City. “Don’t make time together contrived or you’ll resent it. There’s something healing in reading a book or surfing the internet in the same room.”
With a relieved sigh I looked up at my husband and decided not to stress. We believe so much in going on dates, in making that special time together to invest in each other, that it hadn’t occurred to me that our marriage could still thrive without them. Reading this advice calmed my heart. We are in a unique season with our little ones. We are tired. We are busy. We talk to each other less than we used to and instead we communicate a lot by stealing hugs in the kitchen and holding hands in the car. I was reminded that Dr. John Gottman says, “The small moments of everyday life are actually the building blocks of relationship.”
Some of the sweetest connections we’ve made lately have been when he has “asked me on a date” for later that same evening. I know he really wants to spend that winding down time with me on the couch with a snack instead of both of us going straight to bed after we put the girls down. We choose a show from our Netflix queue and sit together under the same blanket. We are never without our youngest, Alice, and that’s perfectly fine with both of us… for now.
Have you been stressing about not getting to go on dates with your spouse? Take some time to think of ways you can make a connection tonight. Can you prepare a special late evening snack? (We like Cambozola cheese with toast or hummus with cucumbers) Can you pick up a Redbox movie? Instead of putting so much effort into arranging one evening out, enjoy the simple, frequent connections. Know that even if it’s been months since you’ve been out on the town or seen a movie in the theater, your marriage can thrive on the less complicated efforts and you can absolutely #staymarried.
You are reading There Goes Date Night, a #staymarried blog. If you liked this post, you may also like to read Why I Date My Wife and 22 Ideas for Your Next Date. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing.
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