Thursday, September 17, 2009

Romance Your Spouse Without Spending A Dime: How to Have Successful Dates at Home

photo by Christine Zalewski

After the birth of their second child, my friends Damon and Sarah were—like many couples raising young children—drained and exhausted. They were tired, and it was taking a toll on their marriage. “It wasn’t the way I wanted it to look,” Sarah says. So she decided to make some changes. First, she tried to do a better job of meeting her own emotional needs through prayer, Bible study, and regular exercise, instead of expecting her husband to be her knight-in-shining armor at the end of his grueling work day. Second, she and Damon began making a weekly date night a priority in their relationship. With young children and a strained budget, an at-home date was more feasible for them than going out and paying for a sitter each week. But with the children around, how did they make their date night a success instead of a stress? Here are some tips Sarah shared with me that I hope will help you too:

  •  Plan on it and stick to it.
Much like hosting dinner guests, you commit to a date and
then follow-through—even if you’re tired after a day’s work, even if you’re having a bad day, even if the kids are crabby or hyper or otherwise uncooperative. Make keeping your date “a date” a priority—don’t just bow out and opt for the same old, same old, when you’re both drained at the end of the day. You do whatever you need to do to enjoy a pleasant experience. (By the way, preparing the house as if you were cleaning for company can often help set the stage for an enjoyable evening.)

  • Occupy the kids, involve them, or exhaust them.

Sarah’s children (now there are three, going on four) look forward to Mom and Dad’s date-nights, because they know that for them, it’s movie night. They trek to the local library and pick out some children’s movies, which they watch while their parents enjoy some quiet time to themselves. They know not to interrupt their parents unless it’s an extreme emergency. Extreme.

Sarah’s children, however, are older than mine. For us, we've chosen to have our boys in our midst during our dates. For instance, one night we rented the Disney movie Ratatouille. On his Blockbuster run, my husband also picked up some French bread, grapes, semi-expensive cheese, and an inexpensive-but-still-very-tasty bottle of wine. We made dipping oil (olive oil and balsamic vinegar), sliced the bread and cheese, and had a picnic in the living room while watching the movie. It was fun and special, because it was different from the ordinary; and we were all upbeat because we found a way to have a date even with the boys running around the living room like crazy little monkeys.

However, if your children are too young to occupy themselves safely and independently like Sarah’s, and you don’t want to involve them in your date like we do, another option is to simply tire them out through the day in whatever ways you know will send your children off to dream-land easily and quickly, and then put them to bed early. Very early, hopefully with very little fuss!

  • Think outside the box.
If having a date night at night really just does not work for you for whatever reason (and let’s face it, moms would often rather prefer a date with the bathtub and a good book at the end of a long day!), find another time that works well for you as a couple. The important thing is not that the date is held at night, but that you and your husband are spending quality time together, focusing on each other and on your most important relationship.

One of my friends, for example, wakes up early once in a while to share a special morning with her husband before he goes to work. They talk over coffee while their little boys are still asleep.

Another option is to set a lunch date. You could have a trusted friend watch your children for an hour or two and enjoy a mid-day date (and then return the favor), or follow the ideas in tip #2 if your kids will be home with you and your husband.

  • Keep it consistent.
When you and your husband were dating before you were married, you probably did not just go out once a month, or once every other month, or once a year. You wanted to spend time together in a special setting, regularly. Just because you are choosing to not leave the house for your date does not mean you should let the demands of home and children rob you from investing in your most important asset—your marriage.

Damon and Sarah look forward to their planned time as a special escape from the rigors of the week. Sarah says that her husband comes home from work in a much lighter mood knowing that he has a fun night awaiting him. The date gives them both a much needed break from monotony, and it’s nice (especially on the wallet) to be in the comfort of your own home.
  • Twist the ordinary.
What is ordinary? That’s for you and your spouse to figure out. However, the important thing is to do something out of the usual that feels memorable. Sarah has found that whatever you chose to do, it’s important to “twist it”—make it more special, more meaningful, more fun. So, for example, you need to eat dinner. Don’t just make tuna casserole (although if that’s what you really want, go ahead! Just add something else to the experience that makes it feel like a real treat). If your budget affords, you could splurge on steak and shrimp, or something out of the ordinary that appeals to you. Maybe you’re going to watch a movie. Add an element or two that make that experience feel different from your usual movie-watching times. Whatever you choose to do, add elements that make the ordinary seem extraordinary.

Sarah says following these steps consistently has made a huge difference in their relationship. She and her husband are much closer because of the commitment they’ve made to investing in their marriage. And because they’ve held their dates at home, they’ve also saved money in the process. Frugal and fun!

(This post is my contribution to Frugal Fridays, hosted by

1 comment:

  1. Still lovin the posts! This is all so true! NOlan and I try so hard, it would help if we had "in house" dates. We dont do that. Great idea! We try to get out once a month but after the sitter, and whatever else we do it gets expensive.