My husband and I are supposed to be having date nights. I know this because I’ve read it probably a hundred times and all the professionals agree that in order to maintain a healthy marriage, date nights — preferably weekly — are crucial to a family’s well-being. Except, we haven’t been out alone in four years. Yeah, four.
In four years, we haven’t been out to dinner alone together, or seen a movie in a theater without a kid in tow. We haven’t been to a play, a festival, a wine tasting, or whatever else normal couples do on dates (I obviously wouldn’t know), and we sure as heck haven’t been on a kid-free vacation.
But the thing is, I don’t really care.
I mean sure, I used to care. I used to read all the articles and listen to all the advice telling me that what we were doing was all wrong; and I even started to believe it. I began to question my marriage and my relationship, comparing it to everyone else’s and feeling like we’d somehow failed because we couldn’t find a reliable sitter so we could go to paint and sips together and take cute selfies with our mediocre canvases and post them to Facebook to prove to 800 of my closest friends and loved ones that we were still going strong after 14 years.
Except, we are going strong, even though we don’t leave our kid at home while we try out that new sushi and tapas place down the street. That’s because we take her with us.
The truth is, there are a million reasons why my husband and I don’t do date nights, and none of them have anything to do with our marriage being in a state of toxic dysfunction. We’re actually having a lot of fun!
Our closest relatives are a thousand plus miles away. Neither my husband nor I have anyone close by, and not surprisingly, the couples we know who go out alone the most are the ones who have lots of family here in town. They’re also the ones who have the most money.
And can I just say it? Date night is expensive. On our budget, hiring a sitter (whom we may not fully trust) at $10 or more an hour would relegate us to the value menu at Taco Bell. Not that I don’t love a good seven-layer burrito, but the ambience in our local fast-food joints isn’t exactly conducive to romance.
Movie theaters these days are even worse. Factor in the sitter, plus the tickets, and a celebratory box of Junior Mints and we’re easily out a hundred bucks. Do you know how many household supplies I could buy at Target for that kind of money? Or how much interest I could gain if we put that money into savings for our daughter’s college? Probably enough for half of a textbook.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Our family isn’t sitting home every weekend broke and lonely. We’re out having a good time — together. We go to the beach and go snorkeling and paddle boarding. We visit museums, gardens, and state parks, then come home and barbecue. We have culinary adventures trying new restaurants together.
And all the money we save on babysitters we get to use for weekends away. I feel like we had a more meaningful experience petting cats at Hemingway’s house in Key West than we would have if my husband and I went to a cooking class while our child was stuck at home nibbling on chicken nuggets and staring at Sofia the First reruns. (I’m positive she agrees.)
My husband and I were together for eight years before our daughter was born, so we had enough adults-only experiences. Parties, dancing, cocktails on the roofs of fancy hotels, concerts, and plays — we did it all. It’s out of our systems and we know our only child is going to be little just this once, right now. It’s already apparent that our time with her is slipping away.
Soon, she’ll have sleepovers and class field trips. She’ll get a job on weekend nights, then off to college, and hopefully she’ll travel the world as an independent woman. We’ll be empty-nesters one day. There will be time for date nights then, and we’ll probably need them even more. Her childhood is passing fast; we can’t believe she’s almost seven. So why not make the most of this time we have as a family, while she’s little and not embarrassed of us yet? (Ha!)
My husband and I get plenty of alone time, anyway. Every night, we sit together on our back porch and talk. We watch PG-13 movies when she’s asleep (Netflix is way cheaper than the multiplex). Sometimes we read in bed and listen to podcasts. We’re so close in fact, that every morning we talk on the phone our whole way to work. If we get up early enough, we have coffee and read the news together. There is lots of intimacy in our relationship, trust me. Neither of us feels like we’re missing out, and that’s why this works.
Sure, money and a lack of trustworthy sitters do play a small part in why we don’t have date nights, but ultimately, this is also a choice we’ve made. A lack of going out child-free hasn’t created a rift in our relationship. The fun times we’re sharing and the memories we’re making together as a family are bringing us closer together. Our marriage is actually stronger because of it.