I had never heard of a date night before I had kids. Before kids, I just naturally spent time with my partner.
Now we have to plan for time together, and regular date nights take persistence and effort. It’s really easy to let them slip. When you have a new baby (or older child) they tend to take priority. Before you know it, you are two ships in the night, tag-teaming in order to get all the things done. In the struggle for “me time,” you miss out on “couple time”. Because let’s face it, sometimes a long soak in the bath is what you really need (and not more talking).
In the end, though, communicating is what keeps us together. Here are some ideas on how you can get the conversations rolling again.
Read more about relationships:
- Does your relationship need baby-proofing too?
- How being bad parents for a night was the best thing for our relationship
- 7 ways to strengthen your relationship when you have kids
1. Lay the groundwork
See the above words about preferring a hot bath to a catch up with your other half? I’m not judging here, because baths are awesome, but you have to actually want to talk with your partner.
Go back to the beginning
What attracted you to your other half in the first place? What qualities do they possess that no one else has? If the irritation of sleep deprivation and wet towels on the ground is muddling your memory, imagine what life would be like without them.
I know it’s morbid, but there’s nothing like understanding what could be lost before it’s gone to appreciate what you have.
Start touching each other again
When you have babies or small humans needing love and affection you can forget that both you and your partner need it too.
Psychologist Karen Young from the website Hey Sigmund explains the importance of touch for relationships. “It helps to nurture feelings of trust and connectedness and it also reduces cortisol (the stress hormone). Twenty seconds of affectionate touching (hugging, back rubs, gentle stroking) is enough to trigger the release of oxytocin.”
You could hold hands during the ads of your favourite show and you’d be well on your path.
Give each other time off
This might sound counter-intuitive, but when you’re both trying to juggle family life, personal relationships and work – it can feel like you’re always fighting for time on your own.
When you give someone this gift (rather than having to cave into negotiation) you create a space of gratitude. That kind of openness makes everything easier, including conversations.
2. Create space for conversation
Life is busy, but conversations need to happen in space. Space where there are no other distractions, where you’re comfortable and able to talk without the pressure to wipe someone’s bottom or find a lost piece of Lego.
Screens are the enemy
We talk a lot about how our kids are addicted to screens, but how many times have you collapsed on the lounge, and all you want to do is watch Grand Designs and go to bed? (okay the Grand Designs might be just me).
Snuggling on the lounge is great for oxytocin release, but it’s still not conversation.
Avoid using date nights exclusively on trips to the movies. Unless of course, you’re throwing in dinner beforehand. It goes without saying that phones should remain off the table during dinner.
Make it something you both enjoy
You want these opportunities to be something you look forward to, so think hard about what helps you relax and get downtime. That may be going for a walk on the beach, or having a cup of tea in the afternoon. There are no rules to this, it just needs to be something that works for you both.
Keeping it simple is also important here. It could just be a nice glass of wine after the kids are in bed. As all parents know, if it ain’t easy it won’t happen.
3. Follow through
It’s all about the follow through. The best-laid plans go astray when life becomes more important than your objective. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sleep is more important. But recognising this is worth committing to will make sure you don’t fall off the wagon.
Book in the time and treat it like a business meeting
Urgh, I hear you say. What a load of trollop! Who wants life to be like a business meeting? The fact is though, that date nights started for a reason. We may not like it, but sometimes the only way shit gets done is when it’s written (in ink) in the diary.
Time is not important – consistency is
If you’re tired and you just want to sleep, remember: it doesn’t need to be a marathon. Get out that glass of wine, or a nice hot cup of tea, and talk. It can be for ten minutes or three hours. The point is to make connecting a natural part of life.