You’d think it would be easy, but even married dating varies in quality.
My husband, Chris, had just finished graduate school in Norman, Oklahoma. We started grad school with two kids and ended twenty-two months later with four kids (very productive period for the family). During that time we were so broke almost never had extra money for babysitters and dating. After graduation, Chris got his first job in Chicago where we bought our first house and had two more kids in the next three and a half years (still pretty productive). With a mortgage and a growing family, we were still pretty tight but we squeezed enough out of the budget to pay a babysitter every other Friday evening and I scrounged up some 2-for-1 sandwich or dinner coupon and we planned our first real date in a long time. We went out that first time and it was . . . okay. Well, maybe we were out of practice. Two weeks later we went out again and, again . . . okay. We weren’t having any particular issues or difficulties in our relationship but we were both a little disappointed that the dates didn’t seem to be as much fun as we had expected.
We talked about it and at some point realized that during our dates, all we talked about was kids and money, the two biggest stressors at that stage of our lives. So we made a rule: from the time we left the house to the time we returned, we couldn’t talk about kids or money. Sounds simple, but it was harder than it sounds. I remember thinking: “What else is there? I’ve become incapable of small talk. We’re going to be left with ‘Nice weather we’re having’ and ‘How ‘bout them Yankees?’”
The next time a Friday date night came around—no kidding—I found myself listening to the news on the radio during an errand with the kids, hoping to stumble upon some interesting conversational tidbit. I heard a report about Congress considering a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. I thought, “Hey! I can ask him what he thinks about that.” Sounds pathetic, I know, but I did ask him and, you know what?, it turned into an interesting conversation about which issues warrant amending the constitution and when to avoid tampering with that document and handle concerns in other ways.
The point is that our dating rule worked a treat. We had a great time on our dates from them on, slipping happily back into our mutual enjoyment, discovery, sharing and courtship mode. That was about 6 years into our marriage and over the next 29 years our dates have been fun. Of course, we’ve adjusted the list of prohibited topics from time to time. When I was Relief Society president, “Sister Jones”, a particularly challenging welfare concern in the ward, went on the list. When I was in graduate school, school went on the list. Lest I be misunderstood, the serious, stressful subjects need to be discussed, but they should not be allowed to absorb—and suck the enjoyment out of—every moment of partner togetherness. In fact, taking a break from the serious subjects to have fun together brings an infusion of positive energy into the relationship, which can make it easier to tackle the stressors.
Give it a try.