Anyone in a long-term relationship, especially parents, know that it can feel incredibly difficult to set aside quality time with your partner. Work, family, friends and personal pursuits can easily fill up our plates, leaving us with little to no time with the one we love.
I suppose this is probably why date night was invented in the first place.
Happy couples know that the sizzle can easily fizzle when we don’t tend to our relationship. And, in most cases, all it takes to get back in our groove is a few uninterrupted hours designed to reconnect with each other and reignite the good thing we’ve got going.
But when it feels like there is no time, no energy or we’re just not getting any buy-in from our partner, how do you lift off a regular ritual of “us time”?
1. Create the habit of weekly QT
Designate one night a week, any night, and schedule a one hour chunk of time to just hang out. No need to leave the house or create an elaborate night out; simply start to create a habit of sitting down together on the same night every week to just catch up. No agenda, no phones, no TV and no serious conversations.
2. Schedule your “us time”
The key component of starting your habit of time together is scheduling it. Everything important that needs to happen eventually happens because it lands on your calendar and you commit your time to it exclusively. We do this for dentist appointments, business meetings, parent-teacher conferences, our annual physical and oil changes. The same goes for your couple time. Get it in both of your calendars… in pen!
3. Take it outside
Besides time, one of the major hurdles to date night for a lot of couples is money. I totally get it: not everyone has an extra $80 sitting around for a night out on the town. So scrap the idea that date night needs to be a fancy dinner out and simply schedule a walk or hike in your neighborhood or in a nearby park or trail. Walking together is an excellent way to reconnect. Unlike dinner, walking lets you spend time together without the pressure of sitting across from each other for an hour trying to fill the conversation with something interesting. You can enjoy casual conversation, as well as moments of silence, as you stroll.
4. Become a great conversationalist
Speaking of conversation, having satisfying dialogue will make your date nights richer and will have you craving quality time together more and more. Coming up with creative and engaging conversation topics isn’t easy. So equip yourselves with some fun conversation cues, maybe just five to ten, so you can dig beneath the surface of small talk.
5. Create your wish list
Use a journal or jar to begin capturing and storing your favorite date night ideas. Keep a list on the fridge or on your notes app. Sit together and brainstorm. Email each other ideas you see online. Simply get in the habit of collecting the ideas–restaurants, events, activities and experiences– that you’d love to share together on date night next week, next month, or even next year. This list will come in handy when you’re ready to plan your time together.
6. Take turns planning
If you have a date night every other week or even once a month, swap the planning duties each time so the same person isn’t always responsible for the recon.
7. Have a dugout filled with babysitters
It might take some time to build your perfect kid care team, but it’s an endeavor that will pay off ten-fold. We have six sitters that we work with on a regular basis because we know that a few will be busy or one might cancel at the last minute and having several sitters that our kids are familiar with makes it much easier to land one for our weekly date night. Start with one then recruit her friend or cousin. Reach out to neighbors, coworkers, people at church to find potential sitters. Shoot to have three you can rely on regularly rather than just one. Check out our babysitter tips.
8. Say “No” to unimportant distractions
Saying “yes” to quality time with the one you love may mean saying “no” to some other things in your life. I’m not saying you have to completely give up social media, your favorite mobile game or that new HBO series you’ve been bingeing on. But you get the same 24 hours everyone else does and perhaps the time we could be setting aside for quality couple time needs to be borrowed from somewhere else in our life. In the long term, our relationships are a heck of a lot more important than Game of Thrones, ya think?