With our 8-year wedding anniversary coming up (whoa!), my husband and I were talking the other day about going out to celebrate. We were trying to decide on a dinner spot when suddenly he asked, “Actually, when’s the last time we went out by ourselves, period?”
I thought about it and realized: The last time we’d gone out on a real date was… our 7-year anniversary. Almost an entire year ago.
Now I know we’re not the only couple whose dating habits have changed drastically since having a child. We have plenty of friends who are happy when they get to go out once a month, or once every other month, or even 3-4 times a year. But what got me was the fact that not only had my husband and I not been out on a date in almost a year, but that we—or at least I—hadn’t even realized it.
While my husband and I don’t always get a ton of one-on-one time during the week, we do our best to spend our weekends doing family things, from Shabbat rituals to kid-friendly outings. And since our toddler is generally in bed by 8:00 p.m. or so, that leaves us a decent amount of time to catch up, watch movies, and relax together at night. But I can’t help but wonder whether we’ve grown a little too content with the notion of spending all of our one-on-one time at home. I mean, it’s not like we tried numerous times over the past year to get a sitter but failed, or had things come up to ruin our plans—it’s that we hadn’t even thought about getting out for a date night until a specific occasion—our anniversary—prompted it.
I have to admit, I’m conflicted about what our lack of dating means for our marriage. On one hand, maybe it’s a good thing that we feel content enough in our lifestyle to not miss dating in the classic sense of the word. But part of me can’t help but take it as a sign that perhaps my husband and I are not putting enough effort into our relationship—the one that existed, and should continue to exist, independent of having a child.
While certain aspects of our lives haven’t actually changed so drastically since our son was born (we’ve been suburbanites since tying the knot), these days, we sure spend a lot more time talking about things like potty training and tantrums. And even though my husband and I are more than capable of discussing things that don’t revolve around parenting, it’s hard to have meaningful one-on-one conversations when our son is around, because he’ll often demand that we stop talking and instead focus on him. And of course there’s the whole concept of being able to just pick ourselves up and do something on a whim that no longer exists in our world. These days, every outing or activity requires advanced planning and a fully stocked diaper bag in tow. But for the most part, that doesn’t actually bother us—because about four years into our marriage, we decided we actively wanted a world that revolves around a child, and we fully expected our own relationship to change in the process.
Perhaps this is why my husband and I don’t really miss dating and instead find other ways to make time for each other and enjoy each other’s company. Besides, while we’re both big on daytime activities (we love hiking and outings to local parks, farms, and zoos), neither of us has ever been particularly enthusiastic about going out at night. We’re both far more apt to spend our nights cooking, reading on the couch, or watching sports on TV than dining at fancy restaurants or going to bars. And while it’s true that we used to go out on dates more often before we had our son, thinking back, there were plenty of weekends where we opted to hang out at home because that’s just what we were in the mood to do.
Even though it’s been close to a year since my husband and I went out on an actual date, we’re not uncomfortable with our dating habits—so should we really push ourselves to make more of an effort? Part of me just isn’t motivated, but another part of me worries that if we don’t change our tendencies soon, we’ll fall into a trap of becoming the type of people who forget how to have conversations that aren’t child-focused. Are we growing increasingly complacent in our respective parenting roles, so much so that we’re on our way to forgetting how to be a couple? Or are we simply nurturing our relationship in a manner that suits our lifestyle as parents? I’m really not sure, but at the very least, perhaps it’s something we ought to discuss over our upcoming anniversary dinner.