Family · Life

From Date Moments to Date Weekends: sharing how we stay connected

Happy Valentine’s Day! Do you have special plans for the day? An annual tradition of some sort? I would love to hear about how you celebrate the day.

We’re not really into Valentine’s Day with chocolates and roses and extra declarations of love. Although AB received some jujubes in his lunch as my gift to him and I hung up a wreath on the door that is love inspired in its colour palette…so that’s something!

Our plan for night is trying a new recipe. Thank you Martha – this looks delicious. This year February 14th is more like an excuse to both get home ‘on time’ and for me to have fun making a dinner we haven’t made before as we hang out in the kitchen and drink wine. That’s a gift to me for sure. (It also meant I was able to buy soufflé ramekins)

Martha Stewart Cheese Souffle with Bacon Arugula Salad
mine likely won’t look this good: image via Martha Stewart

The approach of Valentine’s Day got me thinking about date nights. You know, that thing couples are supposed to do on a regular, some say weekly, basis in order to stay connected, keep the spark alive, etc.  You know, that thing AB and I kinda sucked at for awhile. Yeah, that thing.

So I started chatting with AB about our History with Date Nights. It was actually a fun trip down memory lane, and a good reflection on how we do stay connected. And so this post was born!

Our Date Night History

It’s funny how two people who live together and work at the same place of employment can NOT see much of each other from week to week. That’s the case with us. We work at the same University, albeit in very different departments. We go to work together most days, but usually don’t come home together. Weekends are for visiting with friends and family and working on house projects. That’s when I’m not working weekends. Some friends live here in town – many do not. None of our family lives closer than one hour away. Most are a three hour drive.

Staying connected with family and friends is important to us. But years ago we realized that staying connected with each other was even more important.

When we were a just a couple of years into our marriage and our careers were starting to solidify, we realized that, despite working at the same place (instead of different countries like we used to), we didn’t actually get to see each other very often. And unless we made changes, how often we saw each wasn’t going to increase.

Cue the genius idea that we should have weekly date nights! I will own that it was my idea to do this. I kept reading articles and posts online about how if you don’t do regular date nights your marriage is doomed to fail. Now, I wasn’t insecure in my marriage – just trying to do the ‘right’ thing. At the time, it seemed reasonable that we do could spend dedicated time together each week. But our execution of this concept was a little lacking. Reality was not cooperating. It wasn’t fun. It was a lot of pressure. And we weren’t good at it…yes, we were failing weekly date nights.

Loathing the Weekly Date Night

Loath is a strong word. I am using it with all of it’s perceived strength. We started to loath date night. We didn’t loath time spent together. It’s just that date night became this thing that we HAD to do. And no one likes being told they have to do something, even if its them telling themselves.

It quickly became a challenge for times of the year when our work load is always heavier than usual and we are literally not on the same schedule. We were stressing about getting our ‘date night’ in instead of focusing on enjoying time together. And, we made the rookie mistake of over planning things. If the date wasn’t some contrived event it didn’t seem to count. TV on the couch definitely didn’t count.

For context, we didn’t really ‘date’ when we were courting – I really can’t come up with a better word for our progression from deep friendship to couple to married couple. We spent the first few years of our relationship not living in the same part of the country…and most of that time I was usually out of the country entirely. When we saw each other, it would be for a solid weekend or even several days.

What I’m really saying is we were bad at dating in the traditional sense. And because we’re both goal oriented people, failing at having a ‘proper’ date night each week was just plain awful for everyone involved.

Around the time we realized that we sucked at the version of date night we had constructed in our heads, we also realized that we’re really good at doing our relationship our way. We were comfortable in our relationship to do what worked for us. And that meant no planned weekly date nights…for now.

We practice Date Moments

Once we got over ourselves, we were able to start planning for ways to connect and feel rejuvenated that work for us. After doing it our way for last 8 or so years, we’ve mostly figured it out. It’s not a perfect system. But that makes sense given we’re imperfect people who are in a (loving and lovely) imperfect relationship.

We do date moments.

Instead of feeling the stress of always having to plan some kind of date event, we recognize and take advantage of moments that are already happening and then spend that moment together.

Sometimes the moment is really like a little date night in that it’s watching an hour of television together. Usually this means a show that is different from what we would normally watch. That means we skip HGTV, Food related channels, BBC and sports and instead hit up NOVA, PBS, TVO  or a short documentary style show on Netflix. It can’t be long and it needs to be a show that sparks some conversation.

Sometimes it’s simply walking the dog together for half an hour. These can be quiet date moments as we simply enjoy being in each other’s presence and laughing at our dog who is silly and funny and loving.

Sometimes, for those moments when we need to talk about something or make a decision about something, it’s the car ride to the cottage on a summer weekend. We pick up a coffee/tea treat, hit the road, and chat about what we need to chat about.

Often, it’s passing each other in the kitchen while pre-work morning is happening around us with breakfast making/eating, lunch making, dog feeding/walking, etc and actually stopping for a moment. Saying something loving to each other. Spend 30 seconds simply holding one another. These moments can have serious staying power for both us.

We are masters of the Date Weekend

Like many people, we have jobs that extend beyond regular hours. Some times of the year, we are at work, or doing work at home for long stretches of time and a couple of weeks without a real break. We’re okay with this – it’s part of how our careers work and right now that works for us.

We do date weekends.

I know some people can do a staycation…but our house is a huge project and it wouldn’t be relaxing at all. We tried it. So we save up and go away twice a year instead. One weekend each winter at an inn with a spa and one weekend each summer at the family cottage give us two touchpoints each year when we know we will be undisturbed and totally focused on us.

Our winter one is coming up soon! We spent 4 years doing a weekend away at the Pillar and Post in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Gorgeous wine country here in Canada and a beautiful place to stay. And then we switched to staying at the Millcroft Inn in Caledon for a long weekend. The Millcroft is a little more remote in some ways but we love the spa (and the recent addition of outdoor hotsprings!) and the land to walk or snow shoe around. We stay in one of the crofts and so it feels like we’re really away from it all despite driving less than 60 minutes to get there. And I share about it on instagram.

Whether its our winter date weekend or the long weekend every summer where we ask for the family cottage all to ourselves, there are a few things that are consistent.

  • Quiet time alone – although we can be in the same room, and it’s usually reading.
  • At least one dinner out but more often dinner in.
  • Physical activity like walks in the wood or paddling on the lake.
  • Bathing suits. At some point, whether a hot tub or a lake, we’re going swimming.
  • Quiet time together.

We have our date weekends down to a formula that really works for us. After each one we come away feeling refreshed, reconnected and ready to tackle what’s coming up in life.

And yes, we actually do date nights too

We don’t do them weekly, and they don’t have to be a super planned night out, but we have kept some date nights in the mix as well. After all, the time between February winter date weekend and July summer date weekend is a long time.

We do date nights…sometimes.

Our dates nights can be movies at home, cooking a new meal together (like tonight!), going for a long run or bike ride, or simply finding a quiet evening to be together with no other distractions. We know they don’t need to be overly contrived or planned…except trying to get one on the calendar every month or so.

After more than 10 years of marriage, we do ‘us’ pretty well. Our current way may need to change in the future. And that’s okay. Change is inevitable and we’re pretty good at tackling it together.

Whatever you’re up to tonight, I hope its good!

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