When my husband, Aaron, and I were newlyweds, dating was effortless! Not much had changed from our dating life to our married life—we still met friends to hang out or met for dinner after work. Date nights were easy and convenient.
Then we added kids, and all of that changed. Date nights became harder than ever. I was tired from being momma all day, and he was tired from work. By the time 5 pm rolled around, all I wanted was for the kids to go to sleep and for me to zone out on the couch. Aaron was welcome to join me on the couch, but the idea of getting dressed, fixing my hair, and putting on make-up was something I couldn’t imagine finding the energy for.
Then the kids got older. We only thought it was difficult to plan and execute a date night when they were younger. We had absolutely no idea how hard it would be when they were teenagers! Now, by the time 5 pm rolls around, we are just beginning the evening shift of games, practices, youth group, homework, and everything else they’re involved in. With four kids ages 11 to 15 in our home, there is literally something every single night, leaving little room for our formally easy—but still highly-coveted—date nights.
Date nights are a big investment in the health and growth of a marriage. Relationships need nourishing. Just as we need to sit and spend time with our Father, learning about Him and talking to Him, we need to sit and spend time with the person we promised to honor and cherish until death parts us. And no matter the age of your kids, there will always be challenges when trying to carve out time for these much-needed date nights. Though the obstacles look different in each season of life, over the years Aaron and I have seen that this one-on-one time is always worth fighting for.
I want to encourage you to keep pushing through the difficulties around dating your spouse once you have kids. We have the tendency to believe the lies that we don’t have time, that the kids are the most important thing, or that we can date again once the kids are gone. But the truth is that your marriage should be the most important human relationship that you foster, no matter what stage of life you are in—newly married with no kids, exhausted parents of littles, parents for 15 years, or empty nesters. At the end of the day, your family is built upon your marriage, so its health is of the utmost importance. Dating is a proven and enjoyable way to foster growth in that relationship.
We have fought for this particular aspect of our marriage for over 18 years now, and here are some of our favorite ways to make sure we are getting date nights, even when life seems crazy and out of control:
1. Couch dates
Many of us think that date nights should always involve us leaving our homes and eating at a restaurant, but in some seasons, it’s just not practical. Babysitters get expensive, you may be nursing or have a child with special needs, or maybe you just don’t feel like leaving home. When our kids were younger and were in bed by 7 pm, we would have couch dates about once a week. Aaron would stop by the grocery store on the way home and get some salmon that was just for us (no idea why, but that often only happened for couch dates!). We’d feed the kids an early dinner, get everyone in bed, and then it was our time—no phones, no distractions. It was just us in the kitchen cooking and talking together.
2. Day dates
There was a season of life when our oldest three were in elementary school and our youngest was in preschool. This meant that twice a week I had some time to be kid-free, and we took advantage of it! Tuesdays were for lunch dates. Aaron and I had this crazy idea to meet at the same restaurant every week and see how long it would take us to eat through the entire menu! It was not a fancy restaurant at all, but it’s nostalgic for us now, because it was our Tuesday meet-up spot. We weren’t paying for a sitter, neither one of us was overly exhausted at that point in the day, and we were able to sit and talk for an hour with no kids interrupting us.
3. Practice dates
Now that our kids are older, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will be at the baseball field, basketball court, football field, choir room, or theatre room at some point during the week for one (if not all) of our kids. Many times, we have squeezed a date night in during one of these practices. The other kids will be at home doing homework, and instead of just one of us taking a kid to practice, we will both take them. We go out to dinner together during practice, and when practice is over, we pick our kid up and head home. The evening routine still goes on, feeding our kids at home and helping them with homework. But for an hour, we snuck away to be alone and to talk to each other uninterrupted.
Dating your spouse takes work and intentionality. It’s not always easy to find the time, the money, or the energy. Sometimes just getting out the door together is the hardest part. But what we’ve found over and over again is that it’s always worth it.
So keep dating your spouse, even when it’s not as easy as it used to be. Our kids need parents who are in love, and dating each other is a vital part of keeping that flame alive.