Remember the days when quality time with your partner was plentiful, date nights occurred with spontaneous regularity, and conversation didn’t revolve around feeding, bathing or changing the baby? No? You’re not the only one.
When we become parents, our relationship with our partner inevitably evolves very quickly. In fact, it evolves so quickly that we barely have time to wave goodbye to our days of freedom as they leave the building – and, in their place, monotony and routine move in.
Studies have shown that many marriages fail in the first year after having a child, with many admitting that having an additional family member caused them to drift apart and put pressure on their relationship.
So what’s the answer? Well, if we take a leaf out of Norway’s book, apparently a good place to start is by scheduling in quality time together. The country’s ruling party has previously promoted ‘date nights’ for married couples in an attempt to reduce their divorce rates of 40 per cent, and have also announced an intention to campaign for increased funding for family counselling.
Could a regular date night work for you? Well, I guess there’s no harm in trying. Here are some tips for making it work.
Schedule a regular date time
It’s all too easy in our busy lives to get swept up in the day-to-day routine that is working, parenting, and just generally existing. Before we know it, days have rolled into weeks, which have rolled into months, which inevitably roll into a year, and still the nearest you have got to anything remotely resembling a date is being slumped in front of the TV together with take-out on your laps and a bottle of wine with a couple of straws (glasses require washing up, right?).
It’s important, despite how much of an effort it may take, to make the time to schedule in a regular date night. Even if ‘regular’ means only once a month or once every six weeks, it will be worth it. Confirming a date in advance and working out all the necessary logistics, such as securing a babysitter and organising any restaurant or venue booking, means that it’s much more concrete. As a result, you are much more likely to stick to it.
Don’t make excuses
As a follow on from the above, we all know how easy it is at the end of a long day to talk ourselves out of doing anything that requires more effort than climbing into pyjamas. We happily convince ourselves that staying in would be nice, we have a headache, or we’re simply too tired to even contemplate anything more than some moronic reality TV.
But the truth of the matter is, getting out the door means that you have overcome half the psychological battle. Once out, it is surprising just how much better and enthusiastic you will feel.
Choose an old haunt/discover a new place
In choosing a place to go on a date, it’s always nice to revisit an old favourite or a venue you frequented pre-children. Something about it can often conjure up feelings of romance, or just be a nice grounding for reminiscing about years gone by. On the flip side, it’s also really nice to discover new places together – visit a new wine bar that’s nearby, or a restaurant you’ve heard good things about.
You can add an element of surprise for one another by taking it in turns to decide on what to do or where to go for the evening.
Make an effort – dress up
Lots of people like to get dressed up, and while the idea of putting on a bit of slap and doing anything even remotely resembling stylish with your hair can be painful to even think about, it’s nice to see the end result and feel somewhat like the old you for an evening. It can also help reignite that old spark seeing your partner swap their habitual home clothes for something more attractive. Overall, it shows that you care enough about each other still to make the effort.
Try to avoid talking about your kids
We’ve all been there and done it: you’ve eaten your way through a starter, main, and are now reaching for the dessert when you suddenly realise that all you have talked about the entire evening is your offspring! Of course it’s easy enough to say “don’t talk about your children”, and to a certain extent it’s really hard not to. But you did have a life together pre-child, and it’s important to remember that. Embrace the opportunity to talk about other things while you have the chance … and some peace!
Don’t ring the babysitter to check in
The reality is that while you are wasting precious time on your night off worrying about your child, he/she is either fast asleep or taking full advantage of having a babysitter and playing games and watching TV. Either way, there’s nothing so pressing that should require you to ring in and check. The babysitter has your number, so if there’s a dilemma or drama, they will call.
In the meantime just relax, have another glass of wine, and enjoy a well deserved night off with the one you love.