Before marriage, my future-husband at the time, and I had the most romantic date nights, as I can guess most couples in love would have. We lived in New York City and enjoyed Manhattan together. Once married we continued to go to little bakeries, long walks and quiet evenings at home. Then children came...(You do hear the impounding music with those very words, right?)
With our first baby, it was hard for us to leave him because he was our first, but especially because we had just moved into an area where we didn't know any young people well enough to be our sitter. With our second child, who was born sickly, it was definitely hard to leave her. Then with our third pregnancy we found we were having twins! I tried a few, different, young girls to babysit our four children under four years old and for some reason, they were always busy when we needed them. =S
It's been a struggle. A big struggle to find someone who was mature enough to handle four young children and still not charge too much. We found that after paying a babysitter, there wasn't much money left to do anything fun or romantic. Our dates ended up being long walks- not my favorite. What I really wanted to do was get dressed up and have a special night out at a restaurant or go somewhere special, but with our budget it just wasn't going to be. We eventually had more children and of course to pay someone to watch six kids was out of the budget. So, eventually, our date nights became pretty much obsolete. What started as a date night in our early marriage, of once a week, moved to once a month, to finally once every three months. After many years of this inconsistency, we really just forgot about dating each other and the importance of it.
Our marriage needed quiet, consistent date nights. I needed a time where I knew I could have my husband's undivided attention to talk. I needed to share with him what was going on in my heart and mind all week long. I wanted to talk about the trillions of things that seem to happen every day. I wanted to hear about his job, his thoughts, fears, prayers, concerns, joys, et cetra. Waiting weeks for that one opportunity to really talk and be alone wasn't working. I began to feel unimportant, and unheard. I felt that I had to store it up for the one night out, but by the time the date rolled around some things resolved themselves and some things didn't seem worth talking about. I began to feel like he didn't know me because I wasn't able to share with him, big or little, the things that were on my heart.
Well, I am happy to say, that after eighteen years of marriage, we have figured it out. We have had consistent dates every single week for the past three years. Every Saturday night we are alone together. No children around. It is quiet. Did I say, we are alone? When we started this, three years ago, our oldest was still too young to babysit all of his siblings and we still couldn't afford a babysitter, so we decided that if we really wanted a date we had to stay home.
So, this is what we do: Every Saturday evening we feed the children dinner, have them shower, get ready for bed and put the littlest two to bed early. The other four are sent upstairs at seven-o'clock and are required to stay upstairs until their appointed bedtime. The children know they are to be quiet, read or play nicely until their bedtime. They are not to disturb our date. At seven-o'clock we kiss them all goodnight, go downstairs and have our date night together.
I know some of you are thinking, "I could never get my kids to be quiet and put themselves to sleep on their own." Remember, everything we want to teach our children takes training. ("Train up a child in the way he should go...") Train them. It doesn't happen over night, it takes time and training. My husband and I talked for weeks at the dinner table about our Saturday date nights. We shared with them what was to be expected. We shared with them that it was our special time together and it was only going to happen one night a week. There were questions. There were problems that arose, but after about four date nights the children understood what we expected and were able to obey. If you really want something you fight for it-right? Well, I'm telling you, that this is worth fighting for.
After kissing them goodnight, we go downstairs, and we have the whole main-floor to ourselves. We usually make a nice dinner for two, and talk. Once a month we order Chinese food, and rent a movie. We spend about fifteen dollars a month, total, on our date nights. It's not about spending money to have a good time. It's about having our night to be together. To talk. To catch up. To just have peace and quiet.
It has made such a difference for me. I used to feel frustrated, even resentful, that we couldn't have a date night. I needed it. I really needed to talk to my husband, my best friend, and share my heart with him. Now, I know that if the week is busy, hard, difficult, whatever, I have Saturday night to be alone with him to unload, and recharge. After eighteen years of marriage we are falling in love all over again.
I really encourage all the married couples out there that have forgotten to have time alone with their hubbies each week, to talk about how you can have a special time together each week. Marriage is work, so we need to remember to put 'fun' into it somewhere. We need to find a time to remember why we are in love. I know for me, I have learned so many new things about my husband. Things that have changed in the way he looks at things or feels about things and I didn't even know had changed. It's been exciting to feel close again. I just wish I had thought of this or was advised years and years ago. Date nights are important for both of you- I encourage you to fight for it, it's so worth it!