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A Year Of Dates


“Rekindling the romance,” as an idea (and phrase), has always left me feeling a little queasy. The concept just seems so contrived. I mean, hey, rekindling the romance is something we should be doing every day, right? Well, from experience, easier said than done. And while I still, on some level, think that it would be very nice if we could just retire the phrase altogether, I don’t think the idea has to go with it. There is certainly an argument to be made for making an honest, concerted effort to put more thought and energy into cultivating our relationships, whether the effort be contrived or spontaneous. Because at the end of the day contrived is a whole hell of a lot better than nothing. So here is our own Editorial Assistant Emily, with a nod to Pinterest, and her first attempt at a year of dates.

—Maddie 

A Year Of Dates | A Practical Wedding

When Ian and I started dating, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat around him. I still have a very clear memory of picking apart a sweet onion chicken sandwich with a fork—a fork—while sitting across from him at Subway. (Tiny college towns have limited dining options.) Later in our budding relationship he took me to Chili’s, half an hour away from our dorms, and sighed while I looked over the menu. “It’s not like you’re going to eat whatever you order anyway.”

Cut to last week, two and a half years into our marriage, me sitting at the coffee table inhaling a meatball sub as if I’d recently been released from a labor camp. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Ian looking at me. “What?” I said. Or at least that’s what I was trying to say around the French bread and marinara sauce. He just laughed. And I went back to my sandwich.

We’ve come a long way in our relationship. You couldn’t pay me enough money to be transported back to our unmarried days. For one, I like food too much. And for another, I was never very good at dating. (If Ian ever witnesses a Mob hit or decides to become a Catholic priest, I am in so much trouble.) So I thought I’d be excited to be done with dating when I became a wife. I thought dating had served its purpose. We met, we married, the end. After all, we spend most of our time together. We have our meals together, we go to the movies, we watch the same television shows, we have the same friends. Why would we need to go on dates?

Then the year of dates gift started making the rounds on Pinterest. The idea is that you give twelve preplanned, prepaid dates to your spouse, setting up an entire year of date nights in one fell swoop. Knowing how difficult it is to shop for my practical husband who doesn’t really believe in Christmas presents, I latched on to the idea. I spent a lot of time and energy coming up with the dates. I planned activities that took one or both of us out of our comfort zones. I even took into account the fact that we were probably going to move in the middle of the year. And then, shortly after we rang in 2013, we started methodically checking the dates off the list.

Ha! I’m totally kidding.

We spent January passing a horrible cold virus back and forth, and when we finally felt up to completing the month’s date—ice-skating downtown—it was too cold. March will be here soon, and it will probably arrive before we manage to go on February’s date. (Pottery painting, if you’re interested.) I guess you could argue that the dates are supposed to “rekindle” our relationship, a word that conjures up Victoria Secret bags and giant teddy bears. (And gags. From me.) So the fact that we’re zero for two at this point should probably alarm me. But it doesn’t, because something very nice has happened.

Even just putting the effort into planning dates has refocused our relationship energy. In January, we didn’t lace up ice skates, but we did go out for a lovely sushi dinner with friends. For Valentine’s Day this year, Ian gave me a time, a date, and a dress code, and surprised me with dinner at one of our favorite steakhouses. Just the simple act of dressing up, of thinking of creative ways to spend time together, of finding ways to surprise each other has made our relationship feel more exciting, and has made us feel closer to one another.

On Valentine’s Day, when our entrees arrived, there was a moment when we looked at each other across the table and I felt that same lovely nervous feeling I used to all those years ago. I thought about the year before, when we just hung out on the couch and watched things on the DVR, and how that was different but still romantic. And I thought about the year to come, and the dates we’ve got planned, and (whether we complete them or not) what they might add to the future of our relationship.

And then I cut into my steak before it got cold.

Photo of August’s stay-at-home-date from Emily’s personal collection.

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Dates are the best. Even if is just rushing to the local park after it snowed. Or going for milkshakes to the McDonald’s after a tiring day of visiting several pharmacies in a row, and then remembering high-school when you see kids on an actual date.
    Or walking in the city, going to an exposition….

    • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

      I’m sorry because this is a lovely comment, but I’m weird and read the last thing as “going to an explosion,” and simultaneously became VERY interested in what that date might be, but also lightly concerned.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        Going to an explosion would be interesting (if not slightly concerning also).
        We did manage to see a Dutch artist who manages to produce clouds in indoor environments by modifying the conditions of the room.

        • carrie

          AHHHH! That is so cool. I’m obsessed with those pictures.

      • Gigi59

        We went to an explosion…the city imploded some old grain elevators near our neighborhood. We stood with the crowd until the elevators fell down and then went out to dinner. It was cool.

        • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

          I love this!

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    When we moved in with each other, date nights initially fell by the wayside because we hung out with each other so often that going out to dinner didn’t really receive any extra attention from a regular day. Every now and then we’d do a fancy date night, but they were pretty spaced out. Since we’ve gotten married and moved in with my mother though date night has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s one of my favourite things right now, and even if we’re not doing anything fancy, even if we’re paying for everything by coupons and gift cards, it’s just so fun.

    Just taking time to focus on nothing but each other and do something fun together is extra special.

    • KATE

      Dates really are so much more exciting when you aren’t spending much alone time together, whether that is because you are living with parents, have a roommate, or are just working a lot. I’ve found it’s really helpful for us to schedule our own activities with friends (or by ourselves) so that we aren’t together 100% of the time…it makes the time we do spend together a lot more fun.

  • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

    The Year of Date Nights intrigued me too, but apparently I’m too lazy to even begin to put it together.

    Which is not to say that we don’t have date nights. We do. When our friend who gambles a lot at the local casino has free concert tickets, she gives them to us. About once a month, we get to see some live music and have a couple of drinks for free. Then we hit our favorite burger shop and head home. $20. Some months, we may have 2 of those date nights. Sometimes it’s a band we don’t know and we wind up leaving early because we just can’t get into it. Other times, one of us is surprised at how much we are enjoying ourselves.

    Sometimes we have Date Saturday Mornings…which is when my sweet husband takes me to Lowe’s and sets me free to rescue clearance plants.

    It’s really easy for us to get caught up in all the things that happen. The long hours I work, his grad school, the cats and the dogs and our friends. All of those programs stacking up in our DVR. Video games. Stuff. I think that reminding ourselves that we need to take a little time…regardless of what it’s for, even if it’s just the grocery shopping…with each other is important.

    • Kara

      Sometimes we have Date Saturday Mornings…which is when my sweet husband takes me to Lowe’s and sets me free to rescue clearance plants.

      Love it. That actually sounds like daddy-daughter time for me too.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        Also… Saturday morning dates sound like breakfast to me. And breakfast is my favorite food. Bagels, oatmeal, croissants, jam, chai tea, orange juice, pancakes…. so much goodness. Catching up on magazines / newspapers. And then going around town (or getting cleareance pants :) ). Perfect !

      • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

        It is a bit ridiculous how happy $20 worth of dying, scraggly, scruffy plants makes me. All the plants on the jungle of our front porch are clearance plants. All the plants in the front flower beds we’ve created are clearance plants. Occasionally he reminds me that this isn’t our house (we’re renting) and we’re spending a lot on something that isn’t ours. But when I remind him of how happy it makes me, he is happy to indulge me. Sometimes he even offers it to get me out of a bad mood (“You wanna go to Lowes? You want to get some plants?”) LOL

        He tells me all the time that he doesn’t care what we do, he just wants to spend time with me. And I feel the same way about him. It doesn’t matter where we’re going or what we’re doing. We have so little time together that anything is good.

        • KC

          It is so, so much nicer to have plants that look *better* after you’ve had them for a while rather than *worse* (and if they die anyway, well, they would have at the store, too). I love clearance plants.

  • Kara

    That’s a sweet idea. My husband and I have been on a fairly insane trajectory of very busy/intense jobs, and trying to move across country (and all that entails), all at the same time. However, our move has also meant that we’ve had a couple of very generous wedding present/gift certificates to use before we leave the state. 2 weeks ago, we used the first. I met him in the bar of the (rather fancy!) restaurant after work and we just talked over drinks and dinner: no cell phones attempting to find out what the realtor had to say, or looking up routes, or making to-do lists, just us. Wow, that was nice. I’m not sure about how he felt, but I felt….love(d). We’ve talked about needing to schedule them once our kiddo is born this summer, but I suspect it’s just as vital now.

  • Another Meg

    We’ve been doing “surprise dates” for a while, although not regularly like we tried in the beginning. Now we just do them when one of us finds something that would be great. For the last one, I took B to a showing of the Hobbit at a movie theater where they serve you dinner and drinks. It’s better that they’re sporadic, I think. They started out being really involved, taking all day and night and being kind of expensive, but now they’re a bit more low-key.
    Living together makes it even more important to keep having random adventures. I definitely plan on doing these when we’re married.

  • Stephanie

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have money to go on dates?

    Sorry, I’m having a bitter morning.

    • Another Meg

      One weekend we went out for all of Saturday afternoon and evening and our goal was to have fun without spending more than $10. It took some internetting to find fun, free things in our city, but it was really fun.

      • LMN

        Some of our favorite free dates: (1) Walking around downtown; sitting on a bench and people-watching. (2) Visiting any outdoor market we can find. (3) Going to a bookstore or library and browsing separately; finding the other person when we get really excited about a cool book cover or an interesting title. (4) Finding new places to take our dog (“Home Depot is dog friendly? Let’s GO!”), because her furry enthusiasm makes familiar places seem new all over again. (5) Connecting with friends we haven’t seen in a while on whatever terms work for all our busy schedules–chatting for an hour in their living room after their little one has fallen asleep? Lovely.

        • Em

          1. Go to the library together to browse books. Come home and make tea and each read our own snuggled under the same quilt
          2. Walk around the neighborhood taking photos together.

        • SJ

          We have a date every night when we go on our dog walk. No phones, no wallets, just chatting. We get a daily catch-up and a work out all at once.

    • CPM

      Money issues are so stressful! Sorry about your bitter morning :(

      My fiance and I have been trying to find free things to do. Lately, we’ve been doing normal stuff, but changing up the scenery. When the weather is nice, we’ll go for a walk in a neighborhood we’re not familiar with, or we’ll go to the local park and read together. When it’s gross out, we take the comforter off our bed and snuggle under it on the sofa while watching movies, or turn on some high-octane music and jump around the kitchen.

      These probably don’t sound like dates in the traditional sense, and I guess they’re not (especially because we live together), but they’re pretty low/no-cost. I hope there’s something here you can use!

    • Rebecca

      Dates we have gone on that cost little/ no money (although many are suited for non-winter weather):

      Kite flying at a local park
      Take a walk/hike somewhere pretty
      At home movie night
      Pack a picnic (inside or outside, depending on weather)
      Brunch at home- spend the early part of the morning snuggling in bed, then get up before anyone gets too hungry and make something “fancy” for breakfast.

      • Lauren

        You never know how much you live someone until you’ve flown kites with them, and all it entails (tangled string, heavy wind, stuck in a tree, too little wind.)

        I love flying kites and find they’re a lovely metaphor for life. And quite relaxing once you get them to stay up.

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      Yep. This. I work for an arts non-profit and my manfriend has gone back to school to study in a health sciences field that will actually make money in the long run (temporary inconvenience for a long term benefit, temporary inconvenience for a long term benefit, temporary inconvenience for a long term benefit…), so Netflix nights and chickpea based entrees are the norm nowadays. Also that whole thing where the manfriend has to study all the time, really puts a cramp on spontaneity.

      I’m not really bitter, this will improve both our lives, I’m just having to readjust my mindset some. There are plenty of free and fun things to do where we live, but we’ve done them all (sometimes multiple times!) and sometimes we just want to be like “We want to go to dinner tonight let us spend money and not worry about it!” or “We’d love to take a trip let us travel to this place that costs money and not worry about it.” That’ll have to wait until we’re making more money though, alas. I’m trying to look at this as a time where I can save lots and lots of money, since we have so little opportunity to spend it!

      • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

        Does restaurant.com have any participating restaurants in your area? We use them a lot. They run specials all the time where you get a $25 credit for like $4 (today’s code is HURRY, I believe). Our favorite places have a $35 minimum purchase, and we try to stick to that, which means we have a nice dinner (or a really nice lunch) out for like $20-25 (the initial $4 we paid for the certificate, the $10 for the $35 minimum and then some tip).

        Before my husband got his raise, that’s what we were doing, and we could afford that once a month or once every other month.

        • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

          Mostly just chains, which we don’t love since we live in an area that has a lot of farm-to-table, independent restaurants that we’d rather patronize…

          • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

            That’s too bad. Almost all of them in our area are local places.

    • Stephanie

      Thanks, guys, but we live in a bad area of town, so anything fun that’s free is a good drive away, and I paid $4.30/gallon for gas this morning. Eek! So we are really limiting our driving. Public transit is really expensive here, too, so that’s not a good option.

      And of course, there are always netflix nights/having friends over etc. That’s just everyday normal life.

      It will be so nice when we can just spend money to have fun!

      • Brittany

        Totally understand that! I always feel envious of people outside New York who can use those “cheap date” lists that are all over Pinterest. Yeah, ice skating might be cheap back in Minnesota (where I grew up) but you want to go ice skating here? $10 for the subway, $40 for tickets to get into the rink, $30 for skate rentals, $10 for hot chocolate, and there’s probably an hour time limit to the skating session. :( We went bowling with friends (another often cited “cheap” date) and ended up spending $140 on two games and our share of two pitchers of beer. Cheap dates in the winter, when it’s cold, rainy or slushy so often feel impossible. Pretty much all of the city-friendly suggestions include window shopping of some sort- book store, thrift shop, etc, which my husband would rather die than do. It’s easier when it’s warm and we can just walk to the park for a picnic. Otherwise, hanging out at home, Netflix, board games, etc is pretty much our standard.

        • Stephanie

          I totally get that! :) I’m in LA, and here, you have to pay for parking practically everywhere. For the grocery store, the book store, the beach, a park. It’s rediculous. And if you take public transit and need to take more than 1 line, you have to get a day pass, which is $5/person. So, even a free date will cost at least $10. That’s like, 1/4 of my grocery budget for the week. That will buy me a week’s worth of chicken. $10 is nothing to sneeze at.

          • Anon

            There are lots of things you can do at home! Even just cooking dinner can be a fun date.

          • Stephanie

            Well, we do that every.single.day.

            So it’s not really a date, at least not in the spirit of the original post. And certainly not like on Pinterest.

            Look, my husband and I do not need to go on dates to connect with each other. We do not need to go out and spend money to have fun together. We are poor poor poor, but we are the happiest we have ever been. And we’ve been married for almost three years, so the happiness probably won’t go away anytime soon.

            The original post is about creating extra special memories together, etc. And honestly, this is a middle-class problem. After working all day, the last thing I want to do is take the bus 2 hours to a museum for their one-night-a-month free admission. And then go two hours home.

            So we spend every morning and every night together, fixing meals, watching TV or movies. The weekends are spent grocery shopping, at the library, at church, and with friends. This is our everyday life, and I’m not going to call it a date because “married people still need to have dates.” That’s silly.

          • Kess

            Married people may not NEED to still have dates, but they still need to focus on each other and each other only for a while.

            It’s more just that dates are an automatic “ok, I’m here with you, and focused on you”.

        • tennymo

          When I lived in New York I commuted for work and so had an unlimited Metrocard. That does make date night cheaper, since there’s no extra transportation costs. But still, I gotta throw out some winter-time low-cost dates in New York! 1) Brooklyn high schools have some of the most exciting basketball going – head to a game and you can see future college and NBA stars before they make it big. 2) Same thing for arts high schools in New York – a night at the theater watching future stars of stage and screen, 3) A free lecture on virtually any topic that interests you at NYU or Columbia, 4) One of my favorite indoor picnic locations is the lobby of a large hotel. It looks all glamorous and no one will bother you. 5) Head to Queens and try a new kind of cheap eats featured in the Voice – they often highlight places you can get a great meal for $5-10. 6) Open galleries on Fridays in Chelsea (a bit of free wine to boot! 7) Raucous church style basement bingo can be found in Brooklyn with cards for a few dollars; 8) Volunteering together – FREE! 9) Bundle up, throw a couple beers in your bag, and get thee to the Staten Island Ferry! Boat ride for the price of a subway trip, with great views.

        • Kess

          Ugh. Just another bullet point to add to my “Why I am never, ever, ever living in a big city – EVER!” list.

          I swear people who live in big cities are a different breed – and I grew up 4 miles north of Detroit!

          ;)

      • http://youlovelucy.tumblr.com youlovelucy

        One of my better ideas when we were scraping by on nearly nothing was to build a fort out of blankets and christmas lights and spending the afternoon playing games and watching movies in our fort.

        So it’s like an indoor picnic with flair, if you will. :)

        • Cleo

          I LOVE this idea! I just might steal it :)

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          I made my comment just below about an indoor picnic before seeing your comment, but I was also thinking about this photo I saw somewhere where somebody made a fabric “tent” inside by draping fabric and then putting in all sorts of pillows. Looked fabulous and I wanna try it someday, but still haven’t figured out how to rig fabric on the ceiling (or somewhere) in a way where it will stay up to be tent for a while… Anyway, vive les forts, tents and indoor picnics. :)

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        Indoor candlelit picnic on a blanket on the floor?

    • http://authenticwhitt.wordpress.com Jen W

      J and I like to browse bookstores (for hours), so sometimes we have a bookstore date, where while browsing we have to find a book for the other person. Usually we don’t wind up buying anything (though things usually get added to the old amazon wishlist), but it’s nice spend time thinking about him and getting the little thrill of finding something totally perfect, and to see what he’s picked out for me.

    • Emily

      When Ian and I first got married, we used to do $5 date nights. It was really tough to come up with ideas, and there were some hilarious fails, but we made it work. In fact, the second half of my year of dates is designed to be as un-spendy as possible. (Board game night at home, a picnic, and an at-home spa night to name a few.)

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      We like to go to bookstores and read each other books we aren’t going to buy. Libraries work well for this too.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My bitter day was yesterday. I’ll throw this out there: We’re too easily distracted at home. We fall asleep, pick up a book, think about chores, etc. We really do need to be across a restaurant table from one another to connect, that is, have an extended conversation.

      I’m finding spending time in the car together is an OK substitute. We’re very much write-it-down people, so that part doesn’t transfer. And, it’s not open-ended the way you can “camp” at a table if the restaurant is half-empty.

    • Sam

      If you happen to live in the SF bay area then check out http://sf.funcheap.com/

      If not, maybe your area has a similar website? I’ve found lots of fun things to do on this site that I never would have known about otherwise. And they are all free or cheap!

  • http://www.mollyeverafter.com/ Molly Ever After

    Are you me? I also couldn’t eat around my husband when we first started dating because I was so nervous. That combined with me losing a significant amount of weight after a year abroad made him and all my friends think I had an eating disorder.

    • Emily

      Ha! I’m so glad to know I’m not alone in this!

  • kcaudad

    This past Christmas, we asked for ‘date night’ gift cards… now, we have several FREE date nights to look forward to throughout the year! We go things like: gift cards to restaurants, theater tickets, local AA baseball game tickets, movie theater gift cards, etc. Since we are low on funds, but didn’t want to ask for cash as presents, it was a fun way to get ‘personalized’ gifts and date nights! I also gave my sister ‘& brother-in-law, with kids, a similar thing: free night of babysitting and a gift card to a local restaurant. They are excited about planning and using it soon!

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      Those are excellent gifts! We always appreciate when people give us restaurant gift cards.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        Restaurant gift cards were some of my favourite wedding gifts. We were almost invariably given cash, which we’re saving and spending on closing costs when we get to buying a house so the few restaurant gift cards that snuck their way in were a lovely treat. Those first dates were magic.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Not date nights, but last year I made an unannounced goal to write my husband one love note a week. Some of them were more thank you notes, but that’s a type of love too. The fun part was hiding them and waiting for him to find them. I wrote a note about how I loved his smile and “hid” it with his tooth brush. That one he found pretty quickly. The one I put in a seldom used pocket of his lunch box took a little longer. And hiding them as bookmarks was good too. The simple act of finding something every week to tell him I loved about him was great for both of us. And the notes I got in return, on my car at work or next to me when I woke up from a nape, those were wonderful.

    • kyley

      oo, I love this idea!!

    • Emily

      This is so sweet!

  • Christina

    I like this game night idea! Most of our games are good for parties, apples to apples, catchphrase. Any suggestions that are good for 2 people? Besides Scrabble (… I don’t like Scrabble…. I know, I know, I’ve already been told I’m crazy).

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      For two people, I’m a fan of card games- gives you something to do, you can be really competitive, or just have something to do with your hands while you chat. Or indulge in kids games that you love, like CandyLand or Chutes and Ladders maybe?

    • Cleo

      My favorite is “Personality Trait Guess Who”

      You take a normal Guess Who board and set up as if you’re going to play a regular game. Then, instead of asking questions about the appearance of the person chosen by your partner, you ask yes/no questions about their personality/life. This can range from: “Has this person done time in prison?” to “Is their favorite color green?” to “Are they an archaeologist?” The only rule is not to ask a question where a physical trait would obviously help you (i.e. “Does this person regularly see an opthamologist?”).

      It makes for a lot of laughs and often, you don’t guess the right card, but the fun is in the process.

      • Christina

        OOOH this sounds fun!

      • Joy

        We do this, but replace the regular characters with celebrities (the more ridiculous ones) and ask questions about their perceived personas. Think Chuck Norris, Kanye, Jaws, Grimace of McDonalds fame, Taft, Vin Diesel, Wonder Woman, etc. One of my favorite questions ever was “who is most likely to eat a mayonnaise sandwich?” The best part is definitely asking the questions not figuring out which celebrity is the target.

    • Aubry

      Agricola and carcassonne (i like the hunters and gatherers version) are awesome for small and large groups! A but of a learning curve with agricola espessially, but so addicting :)

      • Melise

        Agricola is the best game ever. Last winter we had a stretch where we played it at least once a week, if not 2 or 3 times. I’ve never played with 2 people, but I assume it would still be fun!

      • Christina

        Awesome suggestions, thank you! My husband plays similar planning type games on his computer a lot and I think it would be fun to play one of these together, I’m gonna see which one he likes and make it an anniversary prize :)

      • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

        Carcassonne! <3

    • MDBethann

      My parents gave us “in a pickle” a couple of years ago for Christmas. It’s a card-based game that works with 2 or more people. It can be pretty funny.

      Board games like Life or Monopoly can be good too. Scattergories is another favorite that can work with 2 people.

      • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

        I’ve never known another person (outside my circle) who’s heard of In a Pickle.

        We, too, got it for Christmas a couple of years ago, and enjoyed playing it at first. Now? It’s been banned. My husband and his family (and me too, who am I kidding?) can be competitive. We are game-playing people, and we like to WIN. In a Pickle exploited all of our talents (creativity, charm, ability to persuade) and turned them against us in the fierce desire to win. We started table-talking like crazy, and arguing for the most absurd cases “What if it is a DOLL house and not a regular house? THEN it could fit in a wheelbarrow!” “But the card doesn’t say DOLL house, it just says HOUSE.” “Yes, but I think it’s open to interpretation!” (Not a great example, but you know what I’m saying). It got NASTY. The last time we played some of my cousins left the table in tears. Thus, we have banned it.

    • A-L

      We had a similar issue. We both like to play games, but so many are better for groups. For Christmas I did some research (I think there might even be an Amazon list with the title of games for two people, or something like that). We picked up Lost Cities and Pandemic. We’ve only played Lost Cities so far, but have really enjoyed it. (My husband wasn’t that interested in it at the beginning, but now he wants to play it quite frequently.)

      Quiddler is a card game that has some similarities to Scrabble, so that might not be the best for you, but it does work well for two people. Spicy Farkel also can work with two people (a dice game). And then there’s always games like Trivial Pursuit.

    • One More Sara

      We love games too, but word games always leave one of us with an advantage (we have different first languages, so one always has vocab advantage over the other. If we decide words from either language an play, he has an advantage bc he would have a really easy time playing some high-value letters). We like Qwirkle (its like dominoes, but with colors and shapes)and Sequence for fun 2 person games.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Sequence! :)

  • Sian

    Okay, I’m going to preface this by saying all your dates sound totally adorable and loads of fun – both the bigger romantic surprises, and the takeout nights and movies at home. It’s just – it might be because I’m not married (I’m in a long-term relationship of 8 months at the moment) and because I’m not American, and we don’t really have the exact same “dating culture” here. But I’m admittedly slightly confused. To me, and by the sounds of it, to everyone here too – a date is just a fun time together, a meal out, a picnic, an activity, whathaveyou. But (and this is where the not-married caveat comes into it) I don’t 100% understand this post and a lot of the comments. Wouldn’t most couples do a lot of these things – watch a movie together or eat at McDonalds or meet at Starbucks for coffee – just as a matter of course? Is it just the intention to do these things with an emphasis on romance that is the key, or do most couples not actually get takeout and watch movies on the couch, or go to the cinema every month or two, and have friends over for board games, or meet pals for sushi as a natural part of their relationship? Sure, romance dies out quick and you do have to remind yourselves to put more effort into things, no news here (Dear boyfriend: y u no make me porridge and bring it to me in bed anymore? Sadface!) but I just sort of assumed most couples did most of the things listed in the comments and stuff as a matter of course.

    In no way am I dissing the idea – I think gifting your partner things like movie vouchers or a night on the town is a totally awesome thing to do, and I’d absolutely love receiving these sort of things as gifts. I’m just not sure I understand the ethos of things like “going to the shops together” or “having dinner together’ as dates, even though they can of course be super fun and romantic adventures. But issn’t all that sort of stuff just…a relationship?

    • Other Katelyn

      This is my thought too. It does makes more sense when kids come into the picture, since they tend to gobble up downtime.

      ETA: Going out to interesting restaurants and museums and stuff is part of what we like to do together normally. We’re not dating anymore, we’re just together doing the things we like to do.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      This is definitely a cultural thing. And American dating culture is VERY different from dating culture in the rest of the world.

      When I was in Brasil I learned that you only say you are dating someone if you are seriously committed to them. To say you dated a lot of people in college is the equivalent to saying you were a huge hussy or player there.

      In the states a lot of people get take-out and watch movies or go out to whatever before getting married. But then the stereotype is that after marriage you don’t do those things because you “caught” the other person so you don’t have to try any more. And that’s where this post and comments are coming from.

    • Emily

      I agree 100%.

      Maybe the need for dates happens when you don’t spend anytime together after you are married?

      • Em

        I think it’s also about doing something out of the usual routine — and the point of the post is that you don’t have to go skydiving or bungee jumping to do something new.

        My husband and I are usually so exhausted when we get home from work that we scarf some dinner, walk the dog, and then spend what’s left of the evening vegging out to netflix or pbs. Weekends, we’re either working or catching up on sleep. So yea, for some couples, walking to Starbucks for a hot chocolate would be routine — but for us, doing that (especially on a weeknight) feels special. I think “dating” really just means setting aside time to focus on one another — the specific activity/excuse is definitely secondary.

        • MDBethann

          I am with EM on this one. Our routine is that I get home at night after an hour-long commute (he works from home), we eat dinner, and then relax with the cats while watching TV. Sometimes we do some chores as well, but we usually cook-in and I’m just so beat after my 2 hour round-trip commute plus 8 hours in the office that going out in the evenings just isn’t appealing (and we live in the suburbs, so we’d have to fight rush hour traffic to go anywhere).

          So for us, planning a “date” with friends or to the movies or whatever is out of the routine and it gets too easy to get caught up in chores or a book or cooking on the weekends that we don’t do something fun. We spend loads of time together, but it isn’t necessarily “fun” time together. Therefore making a conscious effort to do it, whether it’s getting take-out & having a game night in or getting dressed up and going to a restaurant or even going on a hike, would be a “date” of sorts for us.

    • Moe

      (I can only speak from my own humble experience of being married six months)

      When we were dating before marriage we did not live together. So it meant there was some planning and anticipation involved especially when he was finishing his degree and his spare time was scarce.

      Now, after a few months of marriage we are together a lot more, every night almost! But now our time together includes glamorous things like buying groceries, getting the car repaired, folding laundry and picking up dog poop.

      Gone is the motivation to plan and anticipate special time together because the mundane things of life have gotten in the way. We eloped spontaneously and a month later we had moved in together. All of this while he was under-employed. We made it work but for the first few weeks of marriage all I could do at the end of an exhausting day was hold his hand and fall asleep.

      I’m only a newlywed and I can only imagine how much more things will change if/when we have a baby. :/

    • Amanda

      For us, “date night” (be it fancy and requiring pre-planning/ticket purchase/etc. OR a night at home by the fire) implies no outside distractions. That is, no cell phones, laptops (unless we are specifically using it for a movie), land lines, etc. Basically it’s a commitment to just be together and “be”. Does that make sense? Lots of times we’ll be out and about (or at home), doing similar activities together, but calling it a “date” makes us more aware that we are doing it for US and allows us to easily remove the distractions.

      • Christina

        My answer to the initial question is this– after you have been together for awhile certain things are taken for granted, and you need to focus on your growth as people together in a way that harkens to the time when you were first getting to know eachother.

        Because after awhile, for me this was around the 2 year point, you start to feel like you know everything about this person already, conversations aren’t always as lengthy past the answers to “how was your day”. Its easier to feel like you don’t have to go out and do novel things anymore because all you need is eachother to have fun in your happy cocoon of coupledom, and you fall into patterns, a restaurant where you know everything on the menu, an unspoken understanding that on Sunday you have dinner at his parents house. It doesn’t mean you aren’t in love anymore, the routine itself is intimate and comforting in many ways– but not exciting.

        Ultimately my understanding of american dating culture is that it is the “getting to know you” stage. And you are right that most couples no matter how long its been are going to be hanging out with friends or eating at restaurants, but the point of dubbing it “date night” and planning for it is to focus on eachother and break up the routine, in a way that brings back the excitement of the stage when you were just getting to know eachother.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Sian, Americans watch more television and don’t have the out-and-about culture (without planning it) that other societies have. The archetype (not that we usually actually live this way, but it’s what we compare ourselves to) is go to work, go home, and sit on the sofa. So, sure, we might wind up getting fast food while rushing from place to place, but we don’t like to think of it as part of our normal lives. Same with sitting at a cafe.

      I don’t know how many newlywed households have 2 TVs, but now that any computer is a TV, I imagine there’s a trend towards couples watching TV separately. So, yeah, even movie night at home is something planned, not normal or spontaneous, for many couples.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Also, Americans work an average of 45 hours per week, not including a lunch break and commutes that average 30 minutes each way. So, a work day of up to 10 hours, and that’s if you’re in a non-exempt/non-professional position.

        And we generally only take 5 vacation days each year.

        If you look at the whole picture, the average American has much less leisure time than the average in other Western nations, particularly during the work week. Thus, evening plans = special.

    • Sian

      Thanks for replying, everyone! I understand this a lot better now :)

  • anonymous

    Dateline. Pizza. Tequila.

    • Moe

      Over here it’s:

      Thai
      Antiques Roadshow
      Beer

  • Moe

    Pinterest duped us both into date nights when I discovered a Food Passport.

    We make a list of 52 local eateries we have never been to and every week we go and try one. I thought it was a good idea to solve the dilemma of “I don’t know where I want to eat, where do you want to go?”

    The Mr. got so excited about the idea he’s been reminding me when will we make our lists. I realize now I just signed us up for date night once a week.

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      We’re huge foodies, and we’re doing something similar. However, we lowered it to 12–once a month–which is far more manageable (both financially and time-wise, since both my husband and I work full-time, and he’s earning his Masters degree in the evenings to boot!).

      • Moe

        The last few months of my husband earning his Masters was rough. I’m cheering for you guys over here!!

        There’s food trucks and taco stands on the list, almost everything is affordable because we both have student debt to manage. :)

        • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

          Yeah, we’re including food trucks in our list, too. There’s a handful of fancy splurge places, but anything and everything counts, as long as we haven’t eaten there before.

          Thanks for the encouragement!

          He only has nine weeks left before he’s finished, and it looks like these last nine weeks will be more difficult than the two years we’ve already been through.

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      I know here in Nebraska, the tourism board actually has a passport program developed around vineyards and a couple other types of activities (that I could look up right now, but eh). I like your idea of creating your own- we def have a running list of places we’d like to try. But if it goes swell, maybe check with the visitor’s center in your city/state and see if there’s something similar? I think if you complete all the “passport” locations, you get entered to win something nice.

      • Moe

        what a great idea, thanks!

    • theemilyann

      Ummm – freaking Boo. I just looked this up, as I had never heard of it, but again Texas is 5 – 10 years behind on everything. No restaurants avaialble in Texas at all.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    So, married 3.5 years here, and I just realized that my husband has been trying to get us to go on dates a fair amount recently, and I’ve been squashing it out of a frugal, “let’s not spend all our money on whims” mindset. Except, I somehow missed the fact that even when he says – hey, tonight let’s order in pizza and watch a movie – he’s trying to create special, out of the norm moments for us. So while it might be good to rein in the restaurant spendies that could cost us $50/week, I should probably appreciate the fact that he still wants to create those special spontaneous evenings… and stop raining on his (our!) damn parade. :) Thanks for the wise-up, APW!

  • Naomi

    I did something similar to this for my husband’s Christmas present this year. We spent last year buying a house; planning a wedding; paying for both; dealing with ill relatives and bereavement so I figured we needed some fun this year- and we have a little more money to play with now the wedding is over. I also kind if had an idea on my head that I wanted to start our marriage with a year of great memories and lots of fun. So… I gave him 52 homemade gift certificates- one for every week of the year. Lots of them are low or no cost- foot massage; Thai meal night at home; walk in the woods; night star gazing; homemade cake of his choice; roast dinner of his choice; fungi foray; foraged feast; hedgerow gathering and making jam etc. Some of them are activities that he loves doing- days coarse and sea fishing; some of them are things we try to do but fail- like going to the cinema, we hadn’t been for nearly a year, we used that gift certificate on new year’s day foe the hobbit- yay! Others are s bit bigger- visits to a new place, trip to a brewery, afternoon tea somewhere nice, weekend away in the new forest, case of ale by mail from local breweries. I’m saving up my treat money and getting these from groupon and other discount sites wherever I can. We’ve managed seven so far this year and have some others booked in. And definitely having fun. My favourite so far/ night on inventing our own cocktail. We dressed up, got in dome cheap mixers, and some cheap spirits too, lit candles, wrote down what went in the cocktails and marked them. Best of all we were relaxed, chatting and laughing all evening after a crappy week. The treats do just make us step back, turn off the tv, and be more present for each other. Although I do think we’ll still be completing the 52 things in 2014!

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      I am enchanted with your Dress Up and Invent Cocktails date!

      I am getting out the pearls and ransacking the bar and making that happen sometime soon!

  • C

    I didn’t have time to read all of the comments, so forgive me if I’m echoing someone else. But I love dates! Even when we do get to spend a lot of time together, it’s not always intentional time. It’s time that housework, electronic devices, etc. are competing for our attention. Declaring something a “date” (even if it’s just watching our favorite TV show together) lets us focus on each other. Sometimes we get to enjoy sharing a new experience together, or seeing each other in a new light. The energy from the activity energizes our relationship.

    My partner and I are busy, for sure. Lately I’ve found that Google calendars help us be more intentional about getting on dates. He can be a little forgetful, so it’s helpful that I can look ahead, see when we’re both free, and put it in “writing” on his calendar. And having it “written” somewhere makes it more likely that we’ll honor our plans, rather than saying, “Maybe we’ll see a movie sometime over the weekend” and then skipping out when we are tired. It also makes it easier for us to see the balance of together time versus other obligations, and makes it more fun to look forward to a special date.

  • S.

    I’m a little late to posting, but one date night activity we like is “no electricity” night. On a Saturday night, turn off all lights and appliances starting at ~8 pm (cook first, and then eat dinner/drink wine/play Scrabble/etc. by candlelight). It’s kind of a fun game, keeping the lights off while you brush your teeth, and watching the shadows bounce along the walls just seems to help make conversation easier and deeper. Plus, I mean, the romance factor gets kicked into high gear by candlelight ;-).

  • M

    Me and my fiance (woop!) never really went on dates – we met at college at a karate club, became friends and things sort of kicked off organically – we went out with friends, hung out at each other’s places, went to parties together… but never proper dates.
    Many years later we do “date-like” things – cinema, restaurants etc…. But, about a year ago we went on a what felt like a proper date for the first time – dinner at a restaurant we’d never been to (groupon voucher!). The reason it felt like a date is mostly because we met there as we both went straight from work. This meant we didn’t see each other get ready, we didn’t have the usual “I don’t know what to wear, we’re late, I’ve lost my keys” panics (me, not him), instead we met at the corner of the street, I was in new tight jeans and wearing make up (don’t always bother!) and he was all like “wow you’re beautiful” and I was all like “[blushing] why thanks, you’re pretty hot too” and it was magic. Butterflies-in-tummy magic. So, ladies and gents, to make your “dates” really pop, I recommend treating it like a real date: make the effort, ideally don’t get ready together and meet at the place, maybe even make the specifics a surprise, and enjoy!
    PS not saying we do this all the time – the last minute ‘date’ (dinner, cinema, walk) is still the default for us. As are the “I don’t know what to wear, we’re late, I’ve lost my keys” panics from me. But hey, he asked me to marry to him, so he it mustn’t annoy him that much, right? ;)

  • Jenn

    My partner and I have been living together for about 5 years and we still date I guess, according to the accepted definition above. I don’t really think about it as planning date nights, we just think of fun things to do together and do them. It is often spontaneous and quite organic, but I think it helps that we are in a city and it’s not a lot of effort to go out. Whether it’s deciding to go out for dinner on Friday night or drinks on the weekend, going to a game (he usually gets tickets) or a museum, or just going to our local and playing cribbage. When the weather is nice, we go play tennis together at the free courts in the park. I just count all of this as being in a relationship and doing things together though, like some people said above. I suppose what I do consider dates are when we book ahead to see a show or a gig.
    It is interesting to keep in mind though, I can imagine it being really relevant after kids.