For Christmas 2012, my sweet husband gave me the most amazing gift: a year of 50 dates. Inspired by our friends Jessie & Jeremiah, he promised me that in 2013 we would go on 50 dates. This was huge! The previous year we maybe went on 15 or so dates, so it was definitely going to be a challenge.
It was one of the best things we have ever done for our marriage.
After 7 years of marriage, intentional dating had unintentionally been pushed aside. We went on dates when we could: when we happened to have free childcare, or a scheduled event (like tickets to a concert), or decided that we desperately needed time together so we would fork over the money for a babysitter. We had a lot of valid reasons what it was hard to go out: our schedules were crazy, our budget was tight, we didn’t have family in town to watch them and we were just exhausted at the end of each day. Our nights at home together (which only happened a few nights a week) often ended up with us sitting on the couch watching a show “together”. Our marriage was good and healthy, but it wasn’t thriving like it could have been. I think that the main reason for this was not prioritizing quality time together.
When you are dating someone, the point of going on dates is to get to know each other better and better, to make memories, to grow your romance and to have fun together. Why do we so often let dating end when we get married? It is even more important in marriage to continue to grow our relationship with our spouse, to build memories and to have fun together. Once I started to think of dating my husband in this way, it greatly impacted how I viewed our time together.
Making a commitment to dating each other was so incredibly huge for our relationship. Yes- life was just as crazy, if not more, than the year before. No, we had not run into a ton of extra money. But we made a promise to each other that we would make time together happen. Here are some of the things we noticed throughout this project:
*Our communication was better than ever, because we were spending more time together.
*Even if we couldn’t get out for a date, we could plan great dates at home after our kids were in bed. This has revolutionized the way we think of dating as parents.
*It forced us to be creative and think differently about what makes a good date night.
*There were a crazy couple of months when my husband was working more than ever before. In past years, we would have likely let those weeks go by without a date night because we were so busy. We probably would not have noticed until we reached the point where our lack of time together was manifesting itself in more disagreements, increased miscommunication and feeling very distant from each other. Because we knew we had to stay on track with our dates, we made it work. We planned ahead and fit that time together into our nutty schedules. And it saved our sanity those months.
*Intimacy naturally grew.
*We both felt more secure in our relationship and our family thrived as well. My 6 year old already has a basic understanding of why mommy & daddy going on dates is so important. This is so huge for me- I hope and pray that our marriage will set a good example for our kids so that they have healthy expectations when they get married one day.
One of the most exciting parts of this project to me was seeing it inspire other couples to commit to dating. From newlyweds to couples who had been married over 30 years, I love hearing people say that they were encouraged to commit to intentional time together because of seeing what we were doing.
So, I decided to make it official. It’s your turn! I am challenging you to make a commitment to dating your spouse in 2013. I already have a few friends who have told me that they are going for 50 dates in 2014, which is awesome!
It doesn’t have to be 50 dates though. That is what we chose because it worked out to one date a week, with a couple of mulligans. But for some, 25 dates in 2014 is more doable number. My challenge to you is to pick an number of dates that is reasonable for you and your spouse, but would still be a challenge. That may be 25, 40 or even 12. Each marriage is unique and no one number is perfect for everyone. Figure out a good number for you and stick to it.
This coming year, we’ve decided to do 30 dates. Yes, it is significantly less than last year, but it is still going to be a big challenge as we are having another baby join our family in April. I know that this season of our marriage is going to look different than the past year, which makes me want to commit to intentional time together even more. So we are going to be creative. This past year taught me we could do it. At first, we said we were just going to try to have a date every couple of weeks. But then, I was reminded of this brilliant advice from my pal Yoda: “Do or Do Not. There is no try”. If we were just going to “try” to date more, it would not happen as much. There is something about claiming a number of dates as a goal that makes it much more concrete.
If you are going for it, I’d love to hear! If you are going to share your photos on instagram, like we did, I suggest making your own hashtag, rather than using #50datesin2014, so that you have your photos all cataloged together, not mixed with a stranger’s. So, something including your last name, like “#toney50dates2014″.
I am going to be sharing some tips and creative ideas along the way.
Here are some rules we set for ourselves, but again- feel free to set up yours in whatever way will work best for you as a couple:
*Dates had to include alone time, rather than doing something with a big group of friends. We did have a couple of double dates, but there was also time for just the two of us incorporated into that date as well (like having dinner on our own, then meeting another couple for dessert).
*We could do at-home dates. These were after our kids were asleep. The main rule is that they had to be something planned and intentional: a late night dinner, making dessert together, reading together, etc. Not just plopping down on the couch and turning the TV on.
*We tried to include an overnight date once a season. Leaving the kids with their grandparents and getting at least 24 hours together was incredibly life-giving to our marriage.
*They could be something simple, like a morning walk to the Farmer’s Market or a short afternoon walk. If we had family staying with us or were visiting family, we would try to sneak away for a bit for a date, even if it was only for an hour.
*We tried to not do the same thing twice to keep things fresh & creative. A couple of things made multiple appearances, but we didn’t want to fall into the rut of “for date night we go to dinner & a movie”.
To kick this off, I am doing a giveaway! I am going to giveaway a $25 visa giftcard to use for a date night. To enter, comment on this blogpost, telling me how many dates you are committing to for the year. You can earn an additional entry for sharing on facebook, instagram or twitter- just post a separate comment telling me where you posted. So that is a total of 4 opportunities to enter. I will randomly pick a winner next Friday, the 24th.
1. Dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants to kick off the new year and our year of 50 dates.
2. Snowboarding in our local mountains
3. An amazing candlelit dinner after our kids were in bed, made by my husband
4. Dessert & drinks at our local car dealership (yes- the Lexus dealership has a swanky restaurant on the top level)
5. My husband made pasta from scratch and we had dinner and drinks together while watching the Grammys
6. Valentine’s Day breakfast in Santa Barbara (while visiting family) followed by a walk down State Street & some shopping
7. We used up an old gift card for some cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory. Not all dates have to be super exciting :)
8. Breakfast at our favorite coffee shop, followed by some surfing and reading on the beach.
9. Pizza & movie night: we made homemade pizzas together after the kids were asleep and watched a movie.
10. A picnic dinner at Balboa Park, followed by a walk around the park and dessert and tea at Extraordinary Desserts.
11. A hike at Torrey Pines.
12. My husband had never seen The Sound of Music. We remedied this while making and eating homemade ice cream sandwiches.
13. Dinner and game night at home after we put the kids down.
14. While on vacation in Italy with Daveed’s parents, we snuck away to walk around the small town we were staying in and to have lunch and gelato.
15. Another night in Italy, we explored the seaside village we were staying in: skipping through tunnels, stopping in a local bar to get internet access and a glass of wine, then buying some dessert and eating it while sitting on the cost watching the nighttime waves. We spent a couple of hours just talking and dreaming together.
16. Back in the US, we made brownies together from scratch and had some time reading the bible together outside under the stars. We also listened to old Foo Foo Fighters records, which made us reminisce about our early dating days.
17. We went to see a movie- The Great Gatsby- which only happens about once a year.
18. We got frozen yogurt, checked out a new local store for tea, beer and good cheese, then headed to our favorite local restaurant for some french fries. Yes- dessert and then french fries :)
19. Going to a Padres game.
20. We checked out some new fun cookbooks from the library and looked through them over drinks and appetizers. From those cookbooks, we planned a menu to make for one of our future date nights.
21. We were headed to the Midwest for a friend’s wedding, so we planned an extra night in Chicago right after we flew in. We checked out the Bean, listened to a free orchestra concert in Millennium Park, took a long walk to get the best deep dish pizza in town and then took in fireworks and the view from the top of the Hancock Building.
22. A breakfast date in the city, during which we were reminded why I should not be the person to look at a map and direct us. What I thought was a couple block walk ended up being a couple mile walk :)
23. A hot date to my husband’s best friend’s wedding in Michigan.
24. Dinner at Karl Strauss brewery thanks to a generous gift card. It was a much needed date night in the midst of some really hard stuff- a time of processing, sharing our hearts and grappling with questions of cancer & God and looking back on the story he has given us.
25. We made the meal we picked out from the cookbook date a few dates back. You can see the full menu at the link above :)
26. Free summer movie night at Stone Brewery & Gardens- a perfect low-key date during one of the hardest weeks of my life.
27. Later that week, I needed a night to talk, process and mourn together. After the kids were down, we sat in our back yard around a fire pit and talked for hours.
28. Dinner out at a hip new casual dinner spot and ice cream and drinks at a swanky place next door afterward.
29. A night in San Diego’s Little Italy, reminiscing about our trip to Italy with pizza, gelato and browsing little Italian markets.
30. Some lazy beach time, kayaking in La Jolla and a picnic burger dinner with a Sprinkles cupcake to end a perfect summer date.
31. Another Stone Brewery movie night. When something is awesome, local and free, you gotta hit it up more than once :)
32. 8th Anniversary day date: a round of bocce in Liberty Station, paddle boarding in the bay and lunch at my favorite sandwich spot.
33. Anniversary dinner date at Seersucker, one of our favorite restaurants. I even wore my hot pink wedding shoes :)
34. Daveed’s birthday date: breakfast at Snooze and browsing some record shops in Hillcrest.
35. Seeing “The Last Goodbye” at The Old Globe theater. Amazing.
36. We both were attending a conference in Nashville, so we headed out a couple of days early to explore the town. Our first date was a BBQ dinner at Puckett’s and listening to a ton of live music.
37. Our second Nashville date was lunch at The Whiskey Kitchen, following by some shopping at the largest used bookstore I’ve ever seen and some downtime reading and talking at a cute coffee shop.
38. Our last Nashville date was dinner a great local restaurant, The Lockeland Table and delicious ice cream at Jeni’s, where we met up with a friend from college & his wife.
39. Another amazing dinner cooked by my husband with much needed time to process together as we had just found out that our 3rd baby was going to be another boy.
40. A morning walk to our local farmer’s market for a waffle and some groceries.
41. Scored major wife points by going to dinner at a wings place that had 30 TVs. We cheered on our alma mater (UCLA) and ate ridiculously slow so that we could stay until the ending to watch them win.
42. We snuck away to Palm Springs for 2 nights for a good friend’s wedding, where we played music and sang for the ceremony.
43. While visiting family for thanksgiving, we walked to breakfast through the neighborhood I grew up in and then grabbed donuts to take back to our kids.
44. An at home date, decorating our Christmas tree while listening to Christmas records and starting our advent reading together.
45. We went to see one of my favorite bands, The Head & The Heart perform in LA.
46. Dinner at a fancy restaurant in La Jolla, thanks to a generous gift card, followed by driving around looking at lights.
47. Another wedding date, for a friend from college, where we got the honor of singing their first dance song.
48. Sushi lunch date- which was a big deal for my hubs since sushi is pretty much my least favorite thing ever.
49. Gift card date night! We used gift cards we had been given for dinner, gelato and a movie.
50. New Years Eve party hopping: one party for our friends who were celebrating their 20th anniversary and another for a midnight gender reveal for friends who are expecting their first baby.
****GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Beth is the winner!