There are seasons to life.
When hubby and I were dating before marriage we could pretty much afford to go out to eat, or get ice cream, or attend a sporting event whenever we wanted.
Early in our marriage we took trips, went to concerts, went to an actual theater to watch movies, ate out a few times a week.
Then, the babies came. This definitely decreased our ability to leave the home. What with a nursing child and such. Add on top of that a major decrease in salary for me (going from working full-time to maternity leave to part-time to maternity leave to online work-from-home teacher) and dates were no longer even affordable.
I think we went a full seven months before we went on a date just the two of us after our second daughter was born.
However, I didn’t really feel deprived. Having two babies so close together and living on a tight budget taught us some awesome ways to keep dating, even when we couldn’t go on dates.
I read, in Women Living Well, by Courtney Joseph, that date night is a cultural thing. Meaning, it doesn’t exist in most of the cultures of the world. It is also a generational thing. Meaning, generations ago it didn’t exist either.
So, what did people do in the past? What do people do elsewhere?
I think the answer is simple. They simply BE. Being together is the vital ingredient necessary to date night. If you have flowers, fancy clothes, delicious food, and great entertainment it still isn’t a date unless your significant other is there. The BEING together is what makes it a date.
I’m sure you already do many of the things that I am about to list, but it is the intentionality and perspective behind these things that can change them from routine to a date!
So, here is how hubby and I date when we can’t afford a date:
1. We Find a Common Interest:
One way we do this is by choosing ONE show at a time to follow. We find something on Google play or Netflix that we love and then we only watch that. That way, instead of having a “whaddya wanna watch” moment where we simply veg out at the end of an exhausting day, it is something we look forward to. We talk about it. We get excited to watch “Our Show” as we affectionately call it. It doesn’t feel like wasted time. It feels like purposeful time. A show is also much shorter than a movie, so we watch one episode and still have time to chat or do something else.
Another way we connect is through food, because FOOD! This may seem silly or gross to you, but we take pleasure in a spontaneous decision to pick up Criss-cut fries at Carl’s Jr. or to skip cooking dinner and grab some T-Bell after the kids are asleep. Often hubby will run out to grab it and also come back with our favorite ice cream treat from the grocery store. These moments don’t feel like man-we-can’t-afford-a-fancy-dinner or I’m-too-tired-to-cook-just-go-get-something, because they have become special to us. Bonded us. We choose to look at the act of sneakily eating greasy, bad for you, fast food as a fun thing that we do together.
2. At-Home Movie Nights:
This is not a revolutionary idea by any means, but we try to make it extra fun. We watch movies here and there, typically from Rebox (often with a free rental code). However, we always try to make it fun! We pop popcorn in the Whirley Pop, eat a favorite dinner while watching the movie (Breakfast for dinner, Pizza, Cobb salads with tons of bacon). I usually reserve our rental during the day and then send hubby a text telling him I rented a movie. I might say something like, “Movie and Pizza tonight!” or “Can’t wait to watch a movie and pop popcorn with you tonight!” Hubby always says that getting that message makes him excited. It adds anticipation. It feels like a “date night” when there is a formal invite and a specific plan.
This, in some ways, is a new one for us. We have nights where we both read separate books and while we are near each other, I wouldn’t count that as BEING with one another. With the movie “The Giver” in theaters, we decided to read the book aloud together in the evenings. So, we get ready for bed, snuggle up, and read a few chapters. We often chat about what is happening in the story. Doing this together bonds us in new ways. We are connecting intellectually and I love it!
4. Outdoor Entertainment:
We do a lot of outdoor activities with the kids, but escaping to the outdoors with just the two of us is rare. Although, we totally could and should and it would be awesome and free! However, there are ways to be outside together while at home. We use our yard! Sometimes this looks like coffee outside on the patio, or eating snacks on the lounge chairs while the kids nap and discussing our dreams for our yard. Sometimes we sit in the hammock and rock. We have even built fires in the fire pit and had s’mores by ourselves or just simply sat and talked. Once we went up on the roof and watched the sun rise (and now that we own a ladder we will do it again). We could even star gaze up there. It is much cheaper to invest in items that make your yard seem like a special place than it is to go out to eat or to seek entertainment at special places. In fact, I just ordered solar twinkle lights for over the hammock and I foresee many more outdoor “date nights” in the yard as a result!
We don’t do this enough, but whenever we do it is awesome. A favorite is Sequence. We’ve also had fun in the past with our Wii. Being competitive with your spouse is always fun. Again, we try to make it special. We’ve played at a card table by candlelight before with hot chocolate in fun mugs. This can overlap with outdoor activities if you have lawn games and lights!
As you can see, I don’t really have any new ideas. In fact, most of my ideas might just sound like LIFE to you. But, here is where it is different. We view these simple moments as special. We cherish them. We anticipate them and enjoy them thoroughly instead of wishing for a fancy night out on the town.
Then, when we do get those nights, they are AMAZING! It feels like something incredibly special and no moment is wasted. Just this past weekend some friends blessed us with a gift card to a nice restaurant and babysitting! We went for a mini-walk to a local dried up lake (to see what it looked like without water during this CA drought), then we went to dinner. It was such a special time. We enjoyed every moment from choosing an appetizer to share to sharing a dessert at the end and we talked about everything under the sun.
And you know what? When we came home, we still had time before bed and you know what we chose to do? We watched “our show” and snuggled up to read a few chapters of “our book”. And that was so good too.
I encourage you, if you are in a season where “dating” is difficult, be intentional. View the time you do have differently. So many ordinary moments can be special. In the long run, you aren’t going to be saying “remember that restaurant we went to on September 8th, 2014?” No, you will be saying, “Remember how we use to always snuggle up on the couch and watch shows with our greasy criss cut fries after the kids went to bed?”
Don’t look down upon your inability to go “out”. Don’t feel that your relationship isn’t as good or as romantic as someone else’s who is able to eat out and go to movies all the time. Who knows? They might have been fighting about where to eat or how much to tip! Instead, just love your spouse. That can be done anytime, anywhere.