A romantic partnership is the foundation of a stable loving family. Try to let go of any guilt you may be feeling about spending time and/or money on yourselves. Remember, creating a stable family structure outweighs any short term discomfort your child (or you!) may have. The goal of date night is to feel connected to your partner as a human being again and not just relate to each other as co-parents/co-CEOs of the family.
1. Put the “Date” in Date Night. Conduct yourself like you did in the beginning of the relationship: Shower. Shave. Dress up for each other. Put on some make-up. Allow yourself to transition from “Mommy” and “Daddy” to wife and husband. On the date, do your best to be present mentally. Do not check email or “check-in” on Facebook. Only answer calls from the babysitter.
2. Have a plan for what you want to do. Take turns planning the activity. Sometimes plan things you want to do, sometimes plan things you know your partner wants to do. Whatever activity you choose, you’ll probably feel most relaxed if you stick close to home and keep dates to just a few hours at first. If one of you has to cancel, that person should express that s/he is: sorry, devastated that the date is missed, and immediately seek to set up and new date night (including booking the babysitter). Otherwise the other person may take it personally and feel like s/he is the only one who really “cares.”
3. Go with the flow. Maybe your partner never plans anything because s/he feels that nothing is ever good enough for you. It may be true, maybe you are a complainer. It could be that your partner never feels good enough because of childhood issues. Either way, don’t criticize, judge or in any way indicate to your partner that you are not enjoying the activity. It is one night, suck it up.
4. Limit talk of the kids for 10 minutes then promise yourself you will talk about other things. What to talk about other than your kids? What did you talk about before you had kids? Can’t even remember? This is even more reason to have a date night! Remember, date night doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie. If conversation is difficult for you two, then plan activities that will give you something to talk about. For example, you could sign up for a cooking class, go to a museum, or go to the batting cages.
A word to Men:
The goal of this is for your wife to remember why she married you in the first place. She might have a hard time transitioning from mommy to wife. Reassure her in a positive way that she is allowed to be a human being too. Please do not use date night as a pretense to having sex. Often women complain to me that her partner won’t do anything romantic unless he is hoping to get lucky. This then ruins it for her and she feels like she has been manipulated.
A word to Women:
No, the night doesn’t have to end up in sex. But, as you need to connect emotionally through words, most men need to connect physically to feel close. Women tend to boil down physically intimacy to the physical act of sex. Understand that for men, it is a whole lot more than just an orgasm. Making love to you is the way he feels that he is valued, that he is special, and that you still view him as “your man.” Male clients have reported that sex with their wife makes them feel less like a “walking ATM machine” that “can’t ever do anything right” ” and more like part of a team and therefore, willing to do more to help the partnership. To put it female terms: How would you feel if after a night of having sex, he didn’t talk to you?
Caroline Madden, MFT is a Relationship Specialist in private practice in Burbank, CA. She helps adults, both individuals and couples, have more satisfying relationships. She is the author of several relationship books including: How To Go From Soul Mates to Roommates in 10 Easy Steps (A Tongue & Cheek Guide to Marriage) Contact Caroline at: (626) 644-1609 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit CounselingWithCaroline.com or follow her on Twitter: @CMaddenMFT for more relationship tips.