Once you get into a routine it can be hard to change. You go to work, come home, eat dinner, veg out in front of the TV, and go to bed. Throw in kid shenanigans and a very occasional night out and you had our life. I can’t say we were drifting apart, but we certainly weren’t as close as we are now. Things don’t get like this right away, and if this is your typical day/week/month you might not ever see anything wrong with it.
Before we moved to Raleigh, Crystal and I had never really taken time for us. Every once in a while Crystal’s parents would take the kids and we would go out with friends, or maybe just the two of us would go out to eat, but it was never a regular thing. We lived close to friends who could watch our kids, and close to restaurants that we both enjoyed, but we just never made the time. We had three kids to worry about and probably weren’t getting divorced any time soon, why would we worry about spending time away from the kids? We had the time between when they went to bed and before we went to bed. Isn’t that enough? I can tell you now that it’s not.
When we lived in Michigan we both worked. I worked a typical 8-5 on weekdays and she worked a mix of weekdays with longer shifts on weekends. When Crystal wasn’t working she did volunteer work as a CPST; she is very passionate about child safety and it got her out of the house. Even though she worked on weekdays she took at least some of the kids with her, so volunteering on the weekends was her only real “adult time” out of the house. Because of our busy schedule we never took the time to spend time with each other. We could have. We could have planned it out and Crystal could have gotten a shift covered, and we could have dropped the kids off at a friends house but we just never did.
In the last few years Crystal and I made a decision to start focusing a little more on us. We decided to start trying to go on a regular “date night”. It isn’t anything fancy, a t-shirt and jeans would be more than welcome at most of the restaurants we go to, but we get out of the house all the same. We’ve found that we are too lame to go out on Friday nights (we are both practically falling asleep by 9pm), so we usually go out on Saturdays. Our typical date night consists of booking our regular sitter, calling a Lyft, having a long leisurely dinner and a few drinks, and then calling another Lyft and heading home. Sometimes we’re home by 10pm, but getting out counts all the same.
Besides our nights out, we have started doing “Date Night In” as well. Sometimes spending money on dinner and a babysitter isn’t in the budget, and sometimes we are just tired and need to relax, but whatever the reason is, a night in to connect can be a good option. Every weekend we try to watch a movie together, typically something we haven’t seen, and sometimes we’ll just opt for an old standby if we can’t find anything (without shame I can say we both enjoy Julie and Julia, The Devil Wears Prada, and Eat, Pray, Love ). Other nights we might eat a light dinner with the kids and then share a “fancy” cheese plate after the kids go to sleep. The point is that we make specific time to do something together.
I’m not going to lie and say that it’s always some magical connecting experience when we have a night in/out. Sometimes one of us (or both of us) aren’t really into it, sometimes on “movie night” we can’t figure out what to watch, and sometimes we just have a lapse and go for a while without taking some time to connect. But we try, and I think thats what makes it work. I feel like nobody talks about how a marriage isn’t just some static thing, it takes work to maintain it, and it’s always changing.
It can be super easy to take a marriage for granted, especially easy when you have kids. Suddenly all of your time is dedicated to making sure your kids are getting what they need, and making sure they are happy, but what about you and your spouse? Are you happy? Take some time with your spouse. You don’t have to spend a bunch of money and have a night out on the town, the only thing you need to spend is time. Set some time aside and just sit and talk, work on being together. We made that choice and our marriage is stronger than it has ever been.