Before I was married, I clearly remember a conversation I had with Linda, a very close friend of mine, about her marriage. Linda is older than me (we won’t get specific about how much older) and I’ve always looked up to her. She and her husband have raised four daughters, who have all turned out to be delightful, smart and driven young ladies. I’ve always wondered how she’s done it. Somehow, she’s managed to keep her sense of humor and a healthy perspective through it all. Many years ago, I asked her what her secret was and she told me that despite her busy life, ‘date night”, once a week, was a must in their marriage. I took her advice to heart before I was even married and decided that if the day came when I’d be blessed with a husband and children, I would make it a point to implement ‘date night’ into my own marriage.
My husband and I will be married 10 years in the Fall. We have two young daughters and I’m happy to say that from the start, he was a huge fan of this idea. Through the years, our dates have taken us all over the city. We started out with an addiction to tasting menus. I don’t know who we thought we were, but we happily stuffed ourselves silly, course after course at fancy restaurants all over town.
When we bought our apartment and put ourselves on a budget, it never dawned us to forsake the date. Instead, each week one of us would choose a spot that would easily qualify as ‘cheap eats’ in the Zagat guide. It became a challenge to see just how good the food could be in direct relation to how little we paid. For a while, we continued to take turns planning our dates; surprising one another with a little known spot for a pre-dinner cocktail, followed by mysterious subway rides before ending up at the surprise destination and starting the actual date.
These days, we plan our dates together. We use opentable.com religiously and when reservations are only available at 5pm or 10pm (as is often the case in NYC), we try our luck as ‘walk-ins.’ Sometimes we get lucky and are seated right away, and other nights we find ourselves having to come up with a spontaneous Plan B after being informed of an absurdly long wait.
After almost of decade of dates during our marriage, I can honestly say that this ritual has been a critical part of our union. While it’s been so much fun discovering neighborhoods, cuisines and hot spots with my husband, what’s been far better has been this dedicated block of time, each week, with just him.
Sometimes, our conversation revolves mainly around kid-related stuff. More often, it doesn’t. It feels like we’ve covered everything under the sun sitting across from one another. We’ve had those necessary serious conversations that have needed to take place outside of earshot of our lil’ eavesdroppers. We’ve planned vacations, discussed career goals and aspirations, and have caught up on a fair amount of family/friend/work-related gossip. We talk about what’s going on in the world and sometimes just sit back and reminisce about the life we’ve built together. At many points in the night, there’s laughter, and lots of good food!
We’re lucky to have two amazingly reliable babysitters whom our kids adore and we trust implicitly. We make it a point to keep our ‘date’ as a tete a tete. We try not to schedule for double dates or group dinners on these nights.
There have been Friday nights when, after a busy week, all we’ve wanted to do is get in our pajamas and order in, but we’ve hardly ever actually canceled a sitter. Once we go out, we know it was the right call.
Years ago, there would be nights when our children begged us not to go out and we had to explain to them why it’s important for us to have some time together alone each week. The message sunk in for them quickly. They’re no dummies and they were quick to realize that they get spoiled by our babysitters and get to stay up later than usual, at least once a week. There have been weeks where we’ve had to skip our rendezvous, but we try our best not to let that happen. When it does, we both feel it, and miss it and it makes us look even more forward to the next one.
We have friends who are still not comfortable leaving their kids with sitters and others who have social lives that make us dizzy. At the end of the day, there’s no right formula that works for everyone. All I know is that date night is one of my favorite parts of the week. I look forward to the time alone, the great meals, and the feeling of connectedness. For years now, each week, this time together has given us a chance to sit back enjoy each other’s company (uninterrupted) while recharging us to face the quick pace of our lives. As an added plus, we’ve created a new batch of culinary memories together.
I am grateful for my friend’s wise advice all those years ago. This Saturday night, while we settle in to our table at an Italian place in the East Village that we’ve been dying to try (thank you opentable), I’ll raise a glass to her and toast to “Date Night.” May it always be a weekly part of our marriage.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer.
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