You've heard it over and over again: Date nights are an important part of keeping a marriage strong and vibrant. You want to have more date nights but, like me, you live in the real world of limited time, tons of distractions, and of hectic work schedules. You want to connect with your spouse (even a couples devotional would be nice) but you live in the world of kids who have constant needs and of unexpected expenses.
And date nights? Well, they're one of those things you aspire to as a couple, but maybe you're convinced that date nights are just not practical for this stage of life.
Your lives are focused around raising babies, growing a career, and honestly, just trying to make ends meet. You're not sure you can squeeze one more thing into that insane schedule.
I live in this world too. My husband and I have four kids (that we homeschool), plus we both have work-at-home careers. Time is our most valuable commodity as we work together to parent, encourage, and let's face it–shuffle–our four kiddos to all their activities. We live on a budget and work very hard to make every dollar stretch.
And yet, date nights have been a regular part of our marriage for our entire 21 years together.
I share that to say that we get it.
We understand the reasons why regular date nights are difficult. We deal with the same obstacles that other couples face.
However, there are a few simple mindsets we've adopted about date nights. We keep our definition of a date night flexible, adjust the type of date nights to fit our family's current lifestyle, and we simply choose to make it a regular part of our family's rhythm (more on that in a minute).
But most importantly, we've discovered 26 powerful-yet-simple solutions for the 6 biggest obstacles that keep busy couples like you and me from experiencing the marriage-revitalizing power of date nights.
And I can't wait to share with you our secrets in this post!
Friend, I get it that planning regular date nights can be a challenge. I'm not here to add guilt. Truly.
Instead I want to talk about those common issues and give you some utterly simple-yet-revolutionary solutions that work!
You'll love how regular date nights with your spouse will:
- bring you the added closeness you're longing for
- grow your relationship in new and powerful ways
- give you a fun chance to escape and unwind together; and
- offer the opportunity to enjoy life more as a couple!
Ready to get started and to (finally!) discover realistic ways to add date nights to the regular rhythm of your marriage?
I think you'll find yourself relating to each of these common “why we don't have a date night” reasons.
Reason #1 is probably the biggest issue for most couples…
Solving the 6 Reasons Why Your Marriage Doesn't Have More Date Nights
Problem #1: “We don't have a babysitter.”
We totally get this! We have always lived far from extended family and are incredibly choosy about who we let watch our children. Here are some solutions we've used to solve this issue.
Solutions to the “no babysitter issue”:
1) Trade time regularly with another couple.
We did this for a good 5 years. We would simply choose two days each month–one where we would watch the other couple's kids, and one where they would watch our kids. We keep it simple and flexible by agreeing to watch the kids at the house of the couple that went out. If we had a new baby, the baby would come along and sleep in the pack and play. And sometimes we would bring our own kids along so that it was like a party for everyone!
2) Go on a double date with another couple and have your kids hang out at their house (with their older kids or, with a babysitter they know).
Our kids love this scenario and are actually excited for us to go out because they know they will have a blast too! If the other couple has hired a babysitter, we just make sure to pay the babysitter extra to watch our kids too.
3) Ask others for names of trusted babysitters.
We have asked other families from church, friends from work or even neighbors about who they've hired to watch their kids. Right now we are super lucky to have a babysitter that lives down the street from us! But we would not have known about her if we had not asked around.
4) Consider having an at-home date night (after the children go to bed, or another room in the house while the kids are occupied or napping).
At-home date nights can be really fun! Of course they're not quite the same as leaving the house together, but at-home dates still allow for time alone to talk and enjoy each other (and thats really what it's all about, right?). Host a picnic in your backyard, bring food in from your favorite local restaurant–you get the gist. The at-home date is a great solution, especially in a pinch.
5) If you have only one child (and he is very small), consider taking him with you on a date.
This was our lifesaver when our kids were super little because all of our kids were breastfed and none of them took a bottle. None. So when they were tiny (and nursing frequently), we'd simply keep them in their car seat or stroller and bring them into the restaurant with us. We would plan the date around the child's nap or nursing times so that he would sleep while we were out. It wasn't a perfect solution, but it got us outside the home together during those seasons of brand-new-babyhood (when we really, really needed a date).
6) Ask extended family to watch the kids while you're visiting at their home.
While on your next out-of-town family visit, see if you can plan one night away as a date night where family members can watch the kids. This isn't a regular solution to the date night issue (and obviously not one to take advantage of), but it's a great solution that we've called upon if we've really needed some time out together. We've found that both our kids and extended family enjoy this option because they get to have one-on-one time together too (which they also crave)!
Problem #2: “Dating is expensive! Our budget is too tight for us to go out regularly.”
For the past 7 years, our family has worked hard to stay debt-free. That means that we pay cash for everything and that we live on a budget. Let me share some tips we have for keeping expenses down on a date and for making room in the budget.
Solutions for inexpensive dates that stay within the budget:
1) Make it a cheap or free date.
Go for a hike and bring sandwiches from home. Choose a fast food option instead of a fancier restaurant. Make homemade coffee drinks and bring them with you as you stroll through a local nature preserve. Be creative!
2) Budget for dates each month in an envelope.
Date night money is one of those non-negotiatable things in our monthly budget, and we simply take that amount in cash and place it in an envelope at the beginning of each month. Here's the cool part–the money is always there when we're ready to go out! And if we happen to skip a month (or use less than normal for that month) then it really adds up for the next date!
3) Take advantage of discount movie theaters and early bird dinner prices.
Nearly every community has some sort of “dollar theater” and/or special pricing times for local movies. Some cities offer free summer movies too. We also keep our eyes open for those restaurants that offer happy hour prices on food, or that give discounts on certain days of the week.
4) Watch for special online deals on local attractions or restaurants.
You know those local deals you get in your inbox, right? What if you purchased a few and set them aside for future date nights? It's a great way to try a new place together (and to save a few bucks along the way)!
5) Participate in “group date nights” planned by a church, etc where babysitting is free or provided at a cheaper cost.
Sometimes a local church, mom's group (or even your child's sports group) hosts an activity night where the kids enjoy pizza and fun time together while parents enjoy a time out. This is often offered at a lower rate than if you were to pay a babysitter to come to your home.
6) Consider an at-home date (perhaps one alone in your bedroom with candles and the lights down low?)
Stay-at-home dates are an inexpensive option to hiring a babysitter. Perhaps your budget only allows for you to go out every other month, so on those off-months you set aside a time for an at-home date together.
Problem #3: “My husband and I are so busy. We want to go out, but honestly we forget about it because we already have so many other things going on.”
The “way-too-busy” syndrome is something my husband and I can fully relate to! I am always trying to gauge our family's “busy” meter and make sure that we haven't overcommitted ourselves. Here's some ideas we've used to keep date nights front-of-mind and a regular part of our family calendar.
Solutions for making date nights part of the routine:
1) Pick a day of the week or a certain day of the month that is reserved for date nights.
For us, this is one or two Friday or Saturday nights a month. But I know couples who have their date night every Thursday night, or every Tuesday night. Really, just pick what works for you!
2) Plan a date around certain events in your week/month (every Sunday after church, the night after your husband gets home from a business trip).
Honestly, right now, we're kind of doing a combo of both number one and number two. We do try to get out at least once a month on a Friday or Saturday, but we especially make it a point if my husband is going on a business trip or has just returned from one.
3) Ask another couple to keep you accountable.
If you're finding that you need help in making date nights a priority, try asking another couple (or even another mom friend) to ask you about it regularly. Maybe she needs help in this area too and you can both encourage each other!
P.S. When you set dates up as a regular habit, they will be easier to remember and you'll want to go out more (because you see the benefits in your marriage)!
Loving these ideas and tips? I've got three more common issues that keep us from having regular date nights with our spouses, plus 11 ideas you can use as solutions!
Problem #4 is something my husband struggles with from time to time (maybe your husband does too… I'm guessing it's common for most guys!)
Problem #4: “When we do go out, we always end up doing the same things which can get boring. Also, sometimes we don't know what to talk about (besides our kids)! Help!”
My hubby. He's the sweetest guy, but oh-my-goodness he can also be Mr. Quiet (especially after a long day of business phone calls and meetings).
Here's what we do to keep the conversations lively (and the dates fun and interesting). We plan 15 minutes a day to connect. Sometimes we do a couples devotional as part of our date, or just in our daily connection time. Either way this daily marriage maintenance makes the date night conversations easier and more fun.
Here are some other ideas on how to keep date nights fun:
1) Keep a marriage board on Pinterest that's filled up with great date night ideas.
What things would you and your husband like to do on a date? Create your own marriage board with both your “someday” date ideas plus the ones you could do now (P.S. Follow my boards here to see what ideas I pin!)!
2) Switch off planning each month.
If you plan once-a-month dates, perhaps you could share the planning: One month you plan, the next he plans. Actually, this can also make date nights even more fun because you can each keep your plans a surprise!
3) Consider seasonal dates or dates where you explore activities related to that season.
There's something magical (and quite date-worthy!) about doing seasonal activities with your spouse, such as looking at Christmas lights or driving to see fall foliage. It's a great way to get a breather together, especially when you've just come out of a busy season or you're about to enter one (Thanksgiving/Christmas, anyone)? Here's a list of 80 fun fall family activities (that could also double as date night ideas).
Problem #5: “Our child is really young and we can't really leave him. We're also not ready to let anyone else watch him yet.”
Oh my, we've dealt with this! Especially after our first baby. He was just so little and we were afraid to let anyone else step in!
However, after the second little guy was born, it became clear very quickly that this mama definitely needed some time with her husband to remember that she wasn't just a child-watching, milk machine up at all hours of the night. We got super creative in how we fit date nights in. Here's how we handled it.
Solutions for date nights when your babies are really little:
1) Plan an at-home date night after the child is in bed or during nap time.
This is probably the easiest solution. While it's true that a baby's sleep schedule can sometimes be unpredictable, most babies quickly fall into enough of a rhythm where you could loosely plan a time for a date. Again, have fun and get creative with your at-home dates!
2) Go outside for a walk/hike or to a place where you can push the baby in a stroller or carry him in a backpack.
We've done this multiple times. When our babies have been really little (and are at the wonderful stage where they're happy to stay and sleep in their carrier/car seat), we bring them in a restaurant with us and simply have them sit in the car seat. Most often our kids would just sleep, or they would nurse quickly and then sleep.
Either way, it got us out of the house and remembering that we needed to not just nurture a new baby at this time but also our marriage.
3) Consider leaving the child for short bursts.
I mentioned before that none of my four kids ever took a bottle. I enjoyed nursing, so this wasn't a huge problem.
Except for our second child. He was over 10 lbs at birth… and ate every 45 minutes around the clock for the first 8 months of his life. Seriously, I could never ever feed this kid enough (and now as a ravenous 11-year-old he continues to prove to have a non-stop metabolism). Because of this, date nights were very, very tricky.
Our solution was to take a series of “short bursts” as date nights. We'd leave for 45 minutes, come back and feed the baby, and then leave again. Our dates weren't especially glamorous during that time, but they gave us the much-needed chance to leave the house without him and to spend time as a couple.
Problem #6: “Right now our marriage isn't in the best place. Honestly, going on a date would be awkward.”
We all go through periods where we deal with little (and sometimes monstrous) marriage issues. These can easily rip the delicate connections we have with our spouse, and honestly, going on a date is the last thing we'd want to do together. Here are some ideas to consider.
Help for those times when your marriage is strained:
1) Start with just 15 minutes a day of chatting.
Sometimes, especially if there is conflict in a marriage, the idea of spending several hours alone together can be downright overwhelming. Start by building a 15 minute habit each day of chatting together (read more about this simple habit that can change your marriage here).
2) Reserve date nights as “neutral” zones where you don't talk about difficult topics.
Sometimes marital issues are long-term and take months of ongoing discussion to work out. We've had periods like this. During those times, we've called a “date night truce” and agreed to not bring them up while we're out together.
3) Think about what dating activities you used to do before you got married or back when your marriage was more peaceful.
What did you used to enjoy doing together? Could you do any of those activities again? Again, start building a list of date night ideas and fun activities (you can get a good start by looking through my boards here and here.)
4) Consider counseling or asking another wise couple for guidance on what you're experiencing.
If your relationship is really strained and suffering, never be afraid to ask for help from a trusted friend or counselor. You may also want to check out these 5 signs that your marriage is headed for trouble.
Better Date Nights Start with Better Communication
It makes sense that communication and marital closeness make you want to date your spouse! One of the best ways we've found for maintaining closeness is by working through a couples devotional together, especially this amazing one from marriage coaches Mike and Carlie Kercheval.
If you'd like some great wisdom for spiritual growth in your marriage (including a proven, 30-day roadmap to better marriage communication), I highly encourage you to check out our pick for best couples devotional: Consecrated Conversations from Mike and Carlie Kercheval.
This awesome couples devotional from my dear friends (and marriage coaches) Mike + Carlie Kercheval goes deep on important topics that matter to Christian couples (everything from forgiveness to communication issues to better sex). I love that it's goal is to help you create the healthy habit of better marriage communication in 30 days or less!
This best-selling couples devotional has helped over 16,000 couples build a better marriage!
The Kerchevals, certified marriage coaches, Bible teachers and an awesome married couple of over 21 years, will introduce you to a 30 day, step-by-step proven process for learning:
- how to pray together as a couple
- how to read the Bible as a couple
- how to better communicate about important marriage issues
With three sections in each devotion (including a Bible verse, “Converse & Reflect” questions, and a sample prayer), this marriage resource encourages couples to discover intimacy in marriage like never before.
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- Why a Daily Check-In Makes All the Difference in Our Marriage
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