Why Date Nights Are So Hard To Do

 Credit: TRAVEL MAN/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM.

Why Date Nights Are So Hard To Do

Finding our way to each other's hearts

By June Yong | 2 June 2022

If we pause and check in with ourselves for a minute, we may all agree that we are weary to the bone. Pandemic-weary.

Although the recent easing of COVID-19 measures in Singapore has brought us some cheer, many of us are still walking around with a nagging worry at the back of our minds we just can’t put our finger on.

So it may not come as unexpected that date nights get relegated to a dusty corner of most parents’ minds.

Or as something that happens once in a blue moon, when all the stars are aligned - A babysitter is available, there’s something both parties want to do, and a restaurant they can agree on to try.

Just the other day, my husband asked if I wanted to go cycling with him after work. In that split second teetering between “Yes” and “No,” I thought of the daughter who needed a ride home after math tuition, and the bag of laundry waiting for some attention.

You probably know what my answer was.

And I distinctly felt a pang of guilt after. The last date night we had was when we celebrated our anniversary a month ago. “That’s not so bad right?” I consoled myself while making a mental note to plan the next one soon.

Over those few years, I learnt that it’s not so much about going to a fancy restaurant as it is about cultivating a safe emotional space for our hearts to be laid bare.

The many hurdles to a great date night

Date nights – we all want them.

Alexandra Frost in The Washington Post article, How Pandemic-weary Parents Can Bring Back Date Night, And Why It Matters, even calls it an “antidote to parenting stress.”

But sometimes it’s hard to get to a place where our hearts can truly meet.

I remember the first time my husband and I managed to sneak out for a dinner date the first year we became parents. I was so anxious as I only had a two-to-three-hour window before the baby’s next feed. Although I tried hard to be present and to relax, it took a while for my brain to obey.

We had a few precious years when my mother was available to help, and things looked up for a while. My husband and I could take walks or go for a jog at the nearby park. We didn’t go out for long dates often, but those mini-getaways (for exercise, a quick meal, or a grocery run) – short but regular – did help to keep our connection alive.

Over those few years, I learnt that it’s not so much about going to a fancy restaurant, or a romantic location, as it is about cultivating a safe emotional space for our hearts to be laid bare.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all gone on date nights where we came away feeling full, but also empty. Yes, it may have been a great Michelin-starred meal, but somehow one or both of us couldn’t quite make a full and robust conversation happen; like a Wi-Fi connection gone wonky.

We fell back to discussing mundane matters and problems that needed to be fixed.

We skirted around the edges of our hearts instead of diving into the things that truly matter to us, or our spouse.

Our worries and fears, hopes and aspirations, stayed below the surface, unaired at the end of the date.

It’s not about blaming, but it’s worth getting curious and asking ourselves how we felt, and what didn’t go so well, so we know how to do dates better.

Our worries and fears, hopes and aspirations, stayed below the surface, unaired at the end of the date.

What makes a great date?

For some couples, good food is a must; for others, date nights must feature a fun activity that both enjoy.

Though it’s definitely worth putting some thought into the date, sometimes even simple dates can do wonders. After all, we don’t need to place unnecessary pressure on ourselves to put together the perfect date every single time.

Even the 10 minutes you spend together in the car wash counts for something – so long as there is some meaningful conversation and phones are stored away.

These short bursts of together-time can help remind us that we are on the same team, and that we are striving towards the same goals.

Make space for listening, often

One of our more memorable dates happened recently when my husband packed some wine, cheese and crackers and found us a shady spot on the beach.

To my surprise, he even came prepared with a few questions for both of us to talk about and share. So while munching on crackers, we chatted about our worries and observations, and did a mini-review of what we thought was going well in our marriage, as well as the areas that needed some attention.

As I was sitting there soaking in the views of the setting sun over the water, I found myself feeling grateful for my husband of 14 years.

More than the effort he had put into making this picnic date special for the both of us, I was marvelling at how he has been consistently practising the art of listening intently whenever I’m sharing something close to my heart.

In The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols wrote: “The feeling of not being understood is one of the most painful in human experience…When we’re with someone who’s interested and responsive – a good listener – we perk up and come alive. Being listened to is as vital to our enthusiasm for life as love and work.”

Perhaps the key to great life-long dates with your spouse isn’t in splashing out on a meal, but just getting down to each other’s eye level, creating a space to speak (and listen) from the heart, and letting judgment or resentment fall by the wayside as you do.

Reciprocity counts too. So, it’s probably time for me to plan that cycling date my spouse has been asking me about.


© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

June is editor at Focus on the Family Singapore, and Lead of Insights.

Regular dates are essential for couples to stay connected, and a good date is not about how often couples head out but rather, giving committed time to draw in to each other - to communicate and connect. Join us for your Best Date Ever!

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