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Series: Dating Idea: Challenging The Traditional Understanding Of What A Date Is

Going on a traditional date with your spouse can be a difficult event to plan when you have children, not a lot of money to spare, and/or limited amount of time. Childcare is expensive, going out to eat is expensive, going to a bar is really expensive, and going to a movie is just ridiculously expensive.

Now it is true the grandparents can watch your kids (assuming they live near by), and you can woo your spouse with the unhealthy dollar menus at the fast food chains, while picking up a cheep box of wine before heading off to the dollar theater, where you will watch a two month old movie with a flood of adolescent children texting each other about the latest gossip. On top of these annoyances, you will mostly likely lose your shoes to the endless stickiness of the soda-infested floor. Plus, it’s not likely the grandparents (if they are around) will let you do this on a weekly basis, for they have lives too. So, this means you get to enjoy each other every now and again and, I might add, not in the most romantic of settings—assuming you don’t go into further debt for the real experience.

So, assuming that the dollar menu date option is not all that appealing (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is fun to do this), the idea of ‘going on a traditional date’ with your spouse can actually be a fairly stressful event. What I suggest is you challenge the traditional understanding of what a date means and adapt the meaning to meet you and your spouse’s lives. In other words, try to figure out how to get the effects of the so-called traditional date without technically going on a traditional date.  In what follows is how my wife and I have changed such a meaning.

As already mentioned, going on a traditional date can be expensive. We have several children and we don’t think it is prudent to constantly ask the grandparents, who live by to watch our kids, least our children over stay their welcome. Furthermore, while I tend to really enjoy movies, my wife tends to not be bothered with the idea of never watching a movie again. I enjoying going to the local pub, but my wife has never liked ale and fruity drinks tend to make her sleepy after a few sips. Plus, since we both really like children, lately she often finds herself with child. So that leaves us with going out to eat, but I have just found out that I have really high cholesterol and need to cut back on the types of foods I go out for. So, the idea of spending loads of money on healthy food is just not appealing to me.

Seeing the traditional options for going on a date slowly dwindling, I began to ponder what going on a date does for our marriage. Ideally, the point is to simply enjoy each other’s company, which results in a deeper friendship.  It is not a time to talk about your finances, the children, how your spouse is failing in meeting all your needs and wants, or how much you hate your job and life. Rather, it is a time to simply find enjoyment in being with your spouse. A time to acknowledge her beauty or his charm, a time to remember why you love this person, a time to be silly, laugh and flirt, and a time to just relax and be with each other.

I thought to myself, how could I achieve these effects without needing to find a childcare provider, spend loads of money, and lose my shoes? The answer for my wife and I is the hour or two after our children go to bed. The day is over, the house slightly picked up, and the children somewhat quite in their beds, and now it is time for my wife and I to build our friendship. Not a time to talk about all the wrong things that have happened, but a time to simply enjoy each other. For us, this sometimes means reading next to each other with a hot cup of coffee or ale. Sometimes it means watching our favorite T.V. program together and laughing and talking about it afterwards. Sometimes it means me giving her a message. Sometimes it means us talking about some deep theological or philosophical concept that confuses us both. Sometimes it means us just laughing and talking about who knows what. Sometimes it means us just lying on the couch holding each other. Sometimes it means playing a game, but not so much anymore because she always wins.

The point being, this hour or two in the night is for us. It is a time to build friendship, a time to rekindle our love and affection, a time to simply be with each other. It costs very little, I don’t need a childcare provider, I keep my shoes, and I don’t have to be around kids texting. Plus, I get to do this several times a week with my wife.

But don’t misunderstand me for one moment. It is good to get out of the house and experience something new with your spouse. In fact, I would say it is required. And here I echo Dr. Bing that dates don’t have to be expensive like the traditional date, but it might take some creativity.   Dr. Bing has written else where, that a date

doesn’t have to cost big bucks . .. You can get a used inner tube to float the river for five bucks. Grab a blanket and a pair of binoculars and go look at the stars on a cool August evening. Split a Sundae. Attend some of the hundreds of small town festivals across the state. Walk some of the local trails. Find a favorite TV show or sports team or sport or hobby you both love. Go in search for the best onion rings or pizza or nachos.

Luckily for you, Dr. Bing has also written several blogs on ideas that break the traditional dating routine and I suggest you read some of them to get new ideas.

However, with this being said, I also suggest that you broaden your understanding of what a date is and try to find a routine where you and your spouse can spend quality time together to just be friends in your own homes on a weekly bases. It might be a half-an-hour here or there, it might be more, but such a time will greatly enhance your marriage.


Brandon Wall is a counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa:


Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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