The concept of dating your spouse is beautiful, in theory. Of course, most of us would happily continue the excitement and romance that characterized the beginning of our marriages if we had our way. But, as most of us have learned, life, parenthood, and its many demands swiftly get in the way.
Parenting is a killer of romance. I’m sorry, it just is. It’s difficult to plan elaborate dates and exciting getaways when you’re under-rested and overwhelmed. Most of us don’t even have the energy to look at reservation availability on Open Table, much less find a babysitter, get showered and dressed, and venture out into the exhausting Jumanji that is outside. And often, when we do manage to make all that happen, our plans are quickly squelched when we get that last-minute cancellation text from the babysitter.
It’s enough to make you stop trying altogether.
When our kids were one and three years old, that’s precisely what my husband and I did. We decided that maybe this was the time of our lives when we should just focus on raising the kids and surviving, and we’d return to romance when they got a little older. Fast-forward a few years and our marriage was falling apart. We were separated, bitter, and broken, and pretty sure we were heading for divorce. I’m not saying it was strictly our lack of date nights that led us there—there were many problems that resulted in the downfall of our marriage. But I still say that, looking back, I think most of those issues could have been much more easily navigated if we were actively investing in dating each other. In connecting romantically. In prioritizing our relationship not just for ourselves but also for our children.
So, part of our marriage reboot since our reconciliation has focused heavily on making sure that we are making romance a priority. This has meant making time for ourselves, even if it’s inconvenient or when plans fall through. The first step in that direction was finding reliable babysitters. Doing thorough interviews to find babysitters who are dependable—who we can trust not to cancel on us last minute, and who show up on time. Of course, even the most dependable people still have unexpected circumstances come up, and of course, we are understanding when that happens. But having several people who we know we can trust and count on has been huge.
The second step was committing to making time for dates and romance even when the babysitter bails or the plans fall through. Date nights don’t have to be elaborate or even out to kindle feelings of affection and romance. Last night, for example, our babysitting plans were cancelled. We were disappointed because it had been a long week, and we were really excited about a night out without the kids. But, we cancelled our reservations, changed back into our comfy clothes, and went about our regular bedtime routine with the kids. Once they were in bed, we made a nice dinner for ourselves. It wasn’t extravagant: cheap steak I got on sale at Kroger and instant mashed potatoes. But when we dolled it up with some candlelight and two glasses of wine, it was everything we needed. We ate and laughed and talked about our week. It wasn’t what we planned, but it was exactly what we needed.
Dating your spouse can be so hard once the kids come along, but it doesn’t need to be made harder by unnecessary self-imposed expectations. Dating each other can be as simple as investing intentionally in the quiet moments you can steal away together.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.