Editor's note: This article was originally published on Rachael Yerkes' blog, Travel Parent Eat. It has been republished here with permission.
I have been married to my husband for more than a third of my life. 10 Years! That sounds like a lot to me right now. But the best part is, I know I will be married to him for the rest of my life. Despite high divorce stats, and low societal expectations for marital longevity, I am confident that Brett and I are in it for eternity.
How am I so confident? Because Brett and I work on our marriage every single day. We take time each week for us. We have four kids, and we both work, so finding time for our weekly date night would not happen if we didn't prioritize it. But we do! We go out once a week, EVERY week. Never fail!
I always see lists of date ideas on Pinterest and I want to throw up. Don't get me wrong, it is great someone put together a list of ideas, and I totally applaud the sentiment, as well as many of the ideas, but most of the time I am like, "Who did these women marry? My husband would NOT enjoy half of this stuff." It is often kind of cheesy, and far too sentimental to make our regular date night rotation. That is why I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to spend a date night. Some are low cost, some are not. But the point is we always get out and have fun together!
1. The restaurant passport
I love dinner dates. They are a great way to talk. They also mean I get to eat, and not clean up the mess. Big win-win in my book.
I am one of those people who tend to order the same thing every time I go to a restaurant. I know I like it, so I order it because then I am not wasting food or my money, or have to be put in an awkward position of telling the server that the food was not to my liking. But the same places and the same orders gets a little boring.
Date night should not be boring. So we decided to be a little adventurous, and we created a kind of restaurant passport. The idea being to try as many new places as possible. Here is my suggestion for how to do it: Go on Yelp and make a list of the first 12 restaurants that come up. Then once a month visit one of those places. Choose one and eat at it for your date night. Then if you want, you can write a Yelp review together about the experience.
2. The great outdoors
My favorite date my husband and I ever went on before we got married was sledding on this little hill in a cemetery. We had a blast not just zipping down the hill, but tackling each other into snow banks, white washing one another, and of course flirting in the cold. We warmed up by drinking hot cocoa.
The outdoors offer lots of things to do, so do what sounds fun. Snow shoe, hike, bike, fish, swim, tube down a river, skate on a pond. The idea is that you shouldn't discount the outdoors just because it is cheap/free. There is a lot of fun to be had.
3. The new experience date night
I am all about branching out and trying new things. Thus, every once in a while I like date night to involve some of those things. For example, we went indoor sky diving for a date night. Pretty cool stuff. It doesn't matter what it is, rock climbing, swimming with sharks, taking a pottery class or a dance class. We took scuba diving instructions together, and the twice-weekly class served as our date night. We got dinner before, held hands during, and talked to and from. Trying new things together is a great way to bond, make memories, and forge a stronger marriage. Plus it is fun.
4. The "at-home" date
I only recommend this as a last resort. We go on a weekly date, but every now and then we can't find a sitter, no matter how hard we try. And that is when the at-home date is crucial to master. The key is to wait until the kids are in bed and to turn off the smart phones, tablets, and other distracting devices.
We try to make it special. So not what we would do on a normal night. This might mean take out, it might mean not watching TV, it usually involves playing some kind of board game, and renting a movie, making a special dinner, or in our case, planning a vacation (our favorite thing to do).
5. The out of the box dinner and a movie
This is when you do something rather traditional but with a spin. So, for example, maybe see a foreign movie and try a new cuisine. Or, get take out and eat it at a drive in theater. There is nothing wrong with dinner and a movie for a date night. It is a classic for a reason. But you don't have to get in a date night rut or be too predictable either. Mix it up. Redbox and homemade dinner work, or your favorite chain restaurant and a Cinemark. As long as you both have fun!
I 100 percent believe that date nights are crucial to a successful marriage. I am totally bias because I love date night, and never miss them if I can help it. Having babies has occasionally gotten in the way, but we still do an "at-home" date night where we mostly just stare at and talk about our perfect baby. However, I digress ... date nights are essential to our marriage. Partly because they keep me sane, partly because I enjoy them immensely, and partly because they help my husband and I reconnect and feel love for each other.
We are best friends, and we NEED to spend time together, time where we don't talk about work, kids, finances, or other stresses. Rather, time where we can work through differences and get back to "us."
Date nights help us touch base, we use them as a foundation to work through problems, and remember why we enjoy spending time together. When it comes to our marriage things aren't perfect, and probably never will be. In fact, we have continuous arguments over three things: The first is me feeling like my hubby puts sports above the family from time to time; the second is when I feel like he is not contributing enough around the house and with the kids; and the third is when he feels like I overrun and interrupt him (I have a pretty strong personality). But our efforts to stay connected mean these problems don't become grounds for divorce. Instead they are opportunities to strengthen our marriage.
Despite frustrations we take the time to reconnect, and find the good in one another on our weekly date night. We spend a few minutes airing our grievances, along with our joys. Then we have some fun together. It is as simple as that. I hope if you aren't already going on a weekly date night that you will.