It's an unfortunate, incorrect myth that parents seem to accept too often: the romance in our relationship cools off and takes a back seat once there are children in the scene. My wife and I reject this notion, and we have learned from experience that establishing a regular date night together helps our romantic relationship continue to grow stronger, even as parents.
These 5 tips have helped us make date night a meaningful experience that helps us grow closer as a couple.
1. Get a babysitter
My wife and I have a goal to go out on a date once a week. While we don't always succeed, we have learned that to truly have a meaningful date, we need to get a babysitter.
We love our boys. We love having them around. We love planning meaningful activities to do with them, together as a family. But trial and error has shown me that one of those family activities should not be date night. When we have brought the boys along on a date to save money or because we didn't manage to set something up with a babysitter, I've noticed that my wife and I don't have the same meaningful opportunity to spend time together. Duh, right? Seems pretty obvious, but it took experiencing it for myself to understand the importance of spending date night together without the kids.
So, if you want date night to be meaningful and to nurture your relationship, get a babysitter.
2. Serve each other
Serving each other throughout the week is an important part of getting ready for a meaningful date night.
I remember a lesson from high school where love was defined as putting someone else's needs before your own. The definition has stuck with me, and I feel like it's very accurate. And there's no better way to show someone you're putting them first than to serve them.
My experience is that serving a spouse can be more difficult once you have children. You both get so caught up serving your children that you sometimes lose track of things you can do for one another. Sometimes the most meaningful thing you can do for each other is to lighten the load of the children for a bit. Be especially sensitive to the needs of the spouse who stays at home with the kids. Allow him or her to get out and get some fresh air at the end of the work day.
Sometimes service opportunities arise spontaneously, but, more often than not, you need to be purposeful in searching them out. I'm confident that if you haven't been putting one another first throughout the week, date night won't have the same significance.
3. Hold hands
Showing affection throughout the week is also important to enjoying time together on date night. Physical touch is a natural and powerful way to connect with others. A simple touch releases oxytocin, a.k.a. "the love hormone." Some experts recommend up to 3 hours a day of hand-holding and other non-intimate physical touch. Maybe you can't claim to reach that threshold, but as with service, compassion and love, physical touch needs to be shared throughout the week if you want date night to be a success.
4. Make a plan
To be meaningful, date night requires planning. Sure, come date night, you could just leave the kids with the babysitter and see where the road takes you. But if you give the night a bit more advanced planning, you'll get more benefits out of the date. First, if you've made a plan, you'll have something concrete to look forward to, which helps anticipation and excitement build. Second, you'll share more experiences of substance than you would if you always just "see what happens." And third, you'll find date night is easier to cancel without a plan or commitment.
Keep in mind that a plan doesn't mean expensive or elaborate. Also, planning for date night doesn't always have to be the task of one spouse or the other. Generally, my wife and I try to take turns deciding who gets to plan the upcoming date night.
I remember when getting ready for a date was a big deal: fresh shower, fresh clothes, fresh breath, clean car. These days, at least for my wife and me, date night seems less like that. Instead, it seems more like hurry home, hurry and feed the kids, hurry and get them in pajamas, then hurry out the door once the baby sitter has arrived. No special attire. No freshening up. No fresh cologne or perfume. No clean car. It's something we've recently noticed and are trying to change.
Also, as a helpful tip to fellow husbands and fathers-I once was in a meeting with an expert on clothing design. At the end of the meeting he offered a grooming tip for men: to be more attractive, focus more time on the cut of your hair and the cleanliness of your shoes. The comment has really stayed with me, and I believe it's worthwhile advice. In my personal experience, my wife is quite careful to make sure her own hair and her own shoes look good, so it makes sense to me that she would find it attractive when I do the same.
I hope these tips make date night a more romantic and meaningful time for you and your spouse. What tips would you add? Please share them in the comments below!
This article was originally published on Bookroo Blog. It has been republished here with permission.
Chandler is a husband, father of two, and graduate of Harvard Law School. He and his wife are co-founders of Bookroo.com, a startup making it easier for moms and dads to spend more time reading with their children.