BC Era = “Before Children” Era
My husband and I do not go out on many dates. I don’t mean that to sound whiny and I do not feel like my relationship suffers because we don’t go to the movies or out to eat. I very much enjoy spending my time together as a family and would prefer pizza and pajamas over a fancy dinner and a dress any day of the week. The interesting thing is that I love our “deck nights” more than any date he’s ever taken me on. A few times a week I will put my daughter to bed as my husband starts a fire in our backyard, gets the lawn chairs out, prepares himself a cigar or a drink and we just sit out there and talk. Not the superficial “how was work” talks, but we have some enlightening conversations out there about our relationship, our family, our careers and society. It sets up a very comfortable environment to discuss issues we may be having, or struggles we are internalizing or exciting dreams of the future. I find that when I leave these conversations that my “cup runneth over” and I feel closer to him. Believe it or not, he loves them even more than I do.
We started dating when we were children and so our BC Era is a span of almost 9 years. The boy I first started dating with a varsity jacket, a thin chin strap, acne faced and awkward is not the confident protector of man I lie next to at night. I think the entire point of dating when you are married is to reconnect outside of wearing the “mom” and “dad” hats. The point is that when your kids are off and living their own life that you don’t look to the man next to you and have essentially no idea who they are anymore. I think as a society we put unnecessary pressures on what that dating looks like. The first point I want to make is that dating is exactly what you make it. I’ve seen plenty of couples out at a nice restaurant just sitting on their phones barely speaking or touching each other. Secondly, a date is more about reconnecting and learning about each other rather than a location. Lastly, a date is about dropping the titles we carry around in our everyday life (manager, wife, mother, sister, daughter) and just seeing the other person for who they are.
I fell in love with my husband on a cold day in April 2008 at the Paine Estate in Belmont, Massachusetts. As cliché as it sounds, I walked away from that date knowing that I wanted to marry him. I look back at photos of that night, and you can just see it in our eyes. My husband absolutely loves astronomy and had convinced his astronomy teacher to let him borrow his telescope. We went to the Paine Estate late at night and he set up the telescope under the moon. It was a beautiful and chilly night. I think he spent more time getting the telescope ready to look at the stars than we spent staring up at the sky. We forgot to bring a blanket and after standing around for a while, I was freezing and wanted to leave. He wanted to stay under the stars so I took off my jacket and put it under us on the ground and we snuggled next to each other and he put his jacket on top of us. We were nose to nose and just talked for hours. I can remember this night so vividly. Nothing fancy, two silly children who forgot a blanket and were probably past our curfew.
To my second point, dating is about reconnecting and learning about each other. Full disclosure, there are times where we are so excited to see each other and have time together after our daughter goes to bed, and we end up sitting on our phones. Yikes! I know! So when we have our “deck nights” we make sure to say that phones are away so that we can focus on each other. Of course we make the exception to check the baby monitor, but other than that we dedicate our complete focus on each other.
Lastly, we make it a point to not focus on talking about our daughter or work the entire time. While it is one thing to blow off steam or reflect on the cutest thing our daughter did that day, when we come to each other for our “deck nights” we come as individuals – not just mom and dad. My husband loves his cigars and a nice whiskey so we make sure that he is able to indulge for our “deck dates.” It’s important that we remember and know each other outside of those titles. Sometimes we have to hold each other accountable for this one.
So, if you have a young family (or a large family) and coordinating time to go out on a date sounds more like a chore than something you’re excited for. Consider doing something the two of you, like a long walk after dinner or a fire in your backyard. A date does not have to be dinner and a movie, or a dress and fancy dinner – a date is what you make it. It changes with the seasons of life and is meant to make you feel closer to your spouse.