Last week, Tony and I slipped out for a couple hours alone while the kids watched a movie. As long as Fulton and Teddy are healthy, or at school, we’re comfortable stopping by a nearby restaurant for lunch, dinner, drinks or just uninteruppted adult conversation. Taking a walk after lunch or dinner is also no big deal.
Back when Teddy was born, and my oldest was eight, these days seemed light years away. Especially with two special needs kids, Tony and I wondered if we’d get to arrange a spontaneous dinner out, or go away over night again. We had willing grandparents, but not always willing babies or toddlers. And Fulton’s bedtime routine can still be overwhelming for those not used to all the machines. For years, we contented ourselves with Sunday walks while visiting family, and the rare evening out.
We also set aside time in the early morning to share coffee, or late in the evening once the kids were in bed. Now that we have teens up later than us, and little kids still getting up before the sun, we relish our date nights and our daily walks.
I know that date nights and quiet time alone can be hard to come by, especially for those on limited budgets or with lots of littles. But I wanted to share a few of the things Tony and I have done over the years to make time for each other. Even when it seemed we only had hard things to talk, or remain silent about, the time together was instrumental in helping us through those times.
Some of my ideas can be done at home, once the kids are in bed, or distracted in another room with a movie for a couple hours. Some will require babysitting. If you don’t have family nearby who will watch your kids for free, look into swapping childcare with another family with kids around the same age as your children. You get a night out while your kids have fun and then you can return the favor. Teens from your parish, or from a trusted family, are also a good affordable option. You will have to pay them a fair rate, but if it’s the only cost for the evening, it’s well worth it.
Newsletter subscribers can get access to a date night printable, perfect to stick on the fridge, with all the ideas from this post plus space for your own ideas. It’s part of the free resource library I’m always updating with printables and templates.
Book Discussion – Read the same title and study it together. It could be a spiritual classic, something written to stregthen your marriage, classic literature, or anything in between. You could also listen to an audio book together and then discuss teh chapters as you go along. Libra Vox has tons of free books to listen to, or check your local library for audio books (and discussion guides) that most appeal to your spouse and you.
Attend a parish mission – There will often be a free will offereing collected, otherwise these retreats are usually free. Lent and Advent are good times to look for these events at local parishes. If you can’t get out for a mission, there are several sites online with free talks you can stream. Check YouTube as well. Tony and I have done this during Lent and focused on talks about Catholic parenting and discussed teh talk afterwards.
Make a pilgramage to a shrine, basilica, historic church, or other religious site – There might be an amazing shrine in your area you didn’t even know about. I love discovering old historic churches near us, or while we’re traveling, and studying the art and architecture. Some parishes will even have a guide book or tour available if you call in advance.
Find a new park nearby and go for a hike, walk, or bikeride – Pack a picnic lunch, or bring a blanket just for taking a nap in the woods. Nature guides are great if you want to try foraging your lunch or learning about local plant life.
Library movie night – Most people have streaming video services now, but just a friendly reminder that your local library has lots of free movies. Plan in advance: keep you kids up late, make sure they run around outside a lot, then toss them in bed and hope everyone goes to sleep ASAP. We’ve sometimes wore headphones to make sure the kids didn’t know we were watching anything….though often my laughter would give it away.
Library museum pases- I’m not sure how common it is, but our library system has museum passes that patrons can check out and use. Museum admission can be pricey! We have done yearly family memberships in the past, but sometimes even that’s not an option. And paying for everyone also isn’t always in the budget. But making a trip as a couple, with borrowed passes, is a great way to spend an afternoon enjoying art, history, or whatever, without making 2,498 trips to the bathroom or tackling a toddler before they unknowingly destroy a modern art installation. If you do have a family membership, use it for just the two of you, or see if it will gain you admission to another museum. Groupon is also a great place to look for discounted museum passes.
Explore your town – Practically every town has a historical society staffed by very enthusiastic and knowledgable members. Often times they can also provide you with pamphlets of local places worth visiting, or they can point you towards books that detail local lore, ghost sightings, and other places of interest. (Libraries will often carry titles related to these topics, even if they’re not big sellers.Some historical societies will also have their own libraries with titles you can borrow.) Create your own ghost walk, or hunt down deserted factories, cemeteries, or homesteads.
IKEA – This is my own idea as Tony doesn’t like IKEA, but I enjoy meandering through the display area and adding to my wish list or figuring out new ways to rearrange the rooms of my house. IKEA even has free childcare and a restaurant. If you and your spouse are DIYers who love looking for inspiration, an afternoon at IKEA could be just the ticket.
Cooking together – Tony and I don’t do this often, but giving the kids an early dinner and then popping in a movie provides a great opportunity to make a special dinner together and try some new cocktails or dessert, and then most importantly, sitting and eating it together without a chorus of “Ewww, what is this green stuff??” “This smells like dog vomit!” “I want plain noodles!”
Lastly, I just want to suggest GIFT CARDS. For birthdays and anniversaries, Tony and I both always ask for gift cards from relatives. It how, even when money was extra tight this last year, we could continue to go out. We planned our dates around happy hours when food and drink was cheapest and stuck to national chains that family could easily find gift cards for no matter where they lived.
Making time for each other as a married couple is so important! I’m known to give impromptu lectures to my friends when I hear it’s been ages since they’ve been alone with their spouse. (Sorry! You know I do it cause I care!) In time, you may find it easier to get out, but don’t use that as an excuse to not spend time together now. Plan even just 30 minutes alone together some evening, twice a month and see if it doesn’t make a difference.
How do you make time for your marriage? Share your best suggestions in the comments below!