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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Making our marriage stronger through frequent dating

I was a little surprise by the overwhelmingly positive response to my post on the moment we saved my marriage and the six words that started it all.  After several private messages and emails from both readers and friends asking what types of things I have done to strengthen (and save) my marriage, I have decided to post a few ideas intermittently on this blog.
The first (of many) things we implemented was frequent dating.  I have talked to so many friends who don't go on frequent dates with their spouse.  I get it.  We used to be the same way.  Life gets busy and expensive, especially with young kids, and it's hard to align schedules and find sitters.  I have talked to several friends who tell me they want to go on dates but sometimes it's hard to convince their spouse it's a priority.  I get it.
Let me stress again that I am not a marriage or personal therapist.  I do not pretend to know the answer to everyone's marriage struggles.  However, for my marriage, planning frequent (weekly) dates was a big part of helping us grow (and stay) close and strong.
It sets aside time during the week where we can connect again.  It's different with the kids (or even big groups of family or friends) around.  We get interrupted or distracted and it's not the same.  By prioritizing a date night, we are prioritizing our marriage, keeping it a focus and in the front of our minds instead of an afterthought we don't really worry about.
For me, as a stay-at-home mom with young kids, date night is sometimes the only time during the week I get a break and feel like an adult.  I take the diapers and wipes out of my purse and have a real conversation with an adult and eat my food while it's still hot and take a breath.  I need this break to be a kind, patient wife.  If I'm too overwhelmed, overworked and stressed it's really hard for me to be a nice wife and overall pleasant person to be around.  These breaks help me reset.
I know I could leave the kids with my husband one night he's home and go out by myself or with friends to reset and get that break.  Although I definitely think that's a necessity too in it's own way, by looking forward to something fun with my husband I am turning to him for happiness.  I look at him as a source of joy.  I am looking forward to something with him.  I want him to be part of my fun.  It really does help us feel closer.
It allows us to create these happy memories that keep us strong when something gets hard.
Although we try to go out at least once a week (partially so I get that break from the kids), sometimes kids are sick or we can't find a sitter or the budget is tight or schedules are crazy.  We never sacrifice date night (part of keeping our marriage our highest priority) so occasionally we do stay-at-home date nights.  It still puts our marriage as a priority.  It still gives us time to connect.  It still lets us create happy memories that make us strong when something gets hard.
All week long this week I am going to post some of these stay-at-home date night ideas.  Stay-at-home dates are a good way to make your marriage a priority if you don't feel comfortable getting a sitter, have a tight budget, or even if your spouse is hesitant to make frequent dates a priority.  "I planned this fun thing for us to do after the kids go to bed tomorrow night" might be easier for them to commit to than "I want you to start taking me out on dates every week."
This picture is from of one of our first stay-at-home date nights.  We just did a puzzle by the fire but it was so much fun.
Three things we like to keep in mind for a successful date night at home:
1.  Movies are probably the easiest stay-at-home date night (and we love to watch movies or shows together) but we don't only watch a movie every time because it's not as social and doesn't allow us to talk and connect as much.  Although, it does allow us to cuddle, which is important too.  My suggestion is to pair it with dinner or some time where the TV is off (a game or something) so you can still have a conversation and feel connected.
2.  Most of the time, I still get ready to go on a stay-at-home date as if I were going out.  I figure if I'm going to do my hair and makeup to go to a business meeting or family party, date nights (even when at home) are just as important.  It's not necessary but something I do to show him that I care and that it's an event I take seriously and look forward to.
3.  Plan ahead.  By deciding ahead of time when you're going to have a date, it keeps your schedule open and doesn't get it pushed off with other things.  Commit to a night before you fill your schedule with other things.  If I don't plan ahead it doesn't happen.  Also, it allows me to look forward to it all week, which creates these positive feelings about our relationship and the memories we make together.
What are your favorite stay-at-home date night ideas?

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