Fairytales and our favorite romantic flicks would have us believe that with “I do,” the last puzzle piece has fallen into place, the mystery has been solved, and dating is over—because, really, marriage is just one big date, right? Longtime married couples know this isn’t the case.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still date your husband after you’ve discovered that he tends to dribble toothpaste all over the bathroom sink. In fact it’s healthy to do so—schedule time for each other, talk about your days, and let your hair and your guard down. Every couple’s date night looks different, but there are a few essential elements. Here are three tips from women who have learned over the years that dating doesn’t have to end at the altar.
01. Get it on the Calendar
Busy schedules are the most common excuse for abandoning date night. But, just like excuses to fend off your dentist, putting off date nights will catch up with you when it comes to your marriage. There is no doubt that life can be crazy, especially when there are two jobs and a child involved, but like your other priorities, add it to the calendar and it will get done!
Verily’s lifestyle editor, Krizia Liquido, says that after two years of marriage, one toddler, and another on the way, keeping a shared calendar has become a necessity. Krizia says that she and her husband are “two incredibly busy and independent people,” but a shared calendar ensures they get at least a couple date nights together each week. “Keeping a shared calendar and going over it once daily (either early in the morning or right before bed),” Krizia explains, “has enabled us to hit our individual and professional goals each week, while ensuring we’re still prioritizing our marriage.”
Summer Bellessa, producer and host of The Girls With Glasses show,echoes the importance of scheduling and “storing up good times.” If you have a steady diet of quality time, Summer tells us, then “when down times come, and they will, you have enough energy and love to work through them.”
02. Do the Unexpected
For many couples, the budget and/or children often rule out exotic vacations or the excitement of fine dining. But date night doesn’t have to be limited to dinner at “our usual place” and a movie. Spontaneous dates don’t have to be expensive or even require you to leave the house. A registered nurse, after being married for 42 years and having 4 children, shared her secrets with us under the pseudonym Katherine McCourt. According to her, carefree and spontaneous dates are what will bring you back to the early days when you were first getting to know each other.
One idea Katherine had is to leave a humorous note for your husband to meet you at a secret location after the kids go to sleep: “After the village goes dark, meet me at the big oak.” Meanwhile bring a blanket, candle, bottle of wine, some music source, and relax. “The key is it’s got to be a private spot so the children don’t think there’s a party somewhere,” explains Katherine. “You can even choose a fun theme for the food and mood if you want—Polynesian or Caribbean are always winners and give you an excuse to wear a tropical dress, serve Mai Tais, and play Bob Marley.”
Another idea is to take turns picking the way to spend a Saturday or Sunday. Katherine suggests visiting a museum you haven’t been to or a community theatre you don’t usually attend, or going to get fresh items at a farmers market to create an exciting dinner together.
03. Experience New Activities Together
According to a detailed study of 1,000 American married couples, having at least three shared hobbies is the key to marital bliss. Shared hobbies let your spouse see you in a new light and provide fodder for fun and new conversations.
There is nothing like exercise to keep you feeling sane and energetic—two crucial elements for motivating yourself for a date after a long day. In fact, Alana Newman, who founded the Happy Couple Workout and co-authored the Happy Couple Creed: How to Make Your Love Last a Lifetime, explains that, “you can’t underestimate the power of nurturing your body to supplement your efforts at relationship success.” In addition to the good energy a healthy lifestyle can bring to your marriage, a workout can also double as a date. Verily reader, Elena Kilner, says that, even after nine years of marriage and five children, making time to work out with her husband has been a great way to keep the spark going. “My husband and I do Crossfit together and it has really brought us closer!” Elena explains. “Even though we are at totally different levels, it’s something we can do together and take interest in each other’s progress.”
It can be exciting to see your spouse get outside their usual routine. Katherine explains that even after many years together, there are many facets of your partner you still don’t see. Try learning a new language together with a weekly tutor, and plan one night a week where you only speak that language and eat food of that culture; listening to each other’s faulty accents is hilarious. Take a class at a university extension program on a mutually interesting topic—an inexpensive way to stimulate new conversation. Or volunteer together at an organization you both care about. According to Katherine, “it comes down to having fun together. Life can be hard, and a fun, playful spirit can be elusive. Like planning a journey—stop in this town to see this, another to see that—invigorating fun deserves a place on your calendar. Make time to nourish your combined spirit.”