My husband likes to say that marriage is like a tree. If you want it to grow, you have to water it. If you were to plant a garden and go to all the work of tilling the soil, buying little plants, digging holes and planting them, you wouldn’t just forget about your garden and hope that it gets enough rain, would you? So why do we do this with our marriages? We go to so much effort to be our best selves when we’re dating and engaged, to plan dates every week, to serve each other and do little romantic things to make each other happy. Why should this stop when we’re married? If you are married, and want to stay happily married, it shouldn’t! Obviously things change when we’re married. We become more comfortable and relaxed with each other, we see each other at our best and worst, and our love grows and deepens.
But then kids come along, and we get so caught up in caring for them that it’s easy to let our marriages be put on the back burner. There are so many excuses we could make. We’re too busy. Too tired. Can’t find or afford a babysitter to go on dates. Can’t afford to pay for date activities anyway. And we’re already married anyway, so we don’t need to keep trying to keep our spark alive or impress each other. It’s game over, right? No way!
I believe that having a strong, happy marriage is one of the most important things we can do to be good parents. Kids thrive when they are raised in a loving, safe home with a mother and father. When we have a strong and happy marriage we can teach our kids so much through our example. We show them how to have healthy relationships with friends and future romantic interests. We show them how to be kind, respectful, loving and thoughtful. We show them how to handle disagreements in a positive, mature way. And when we are in a happy, strong marriage, we can have the strength to handle trials in life, and the hard days of parenting (or just the stress of life). When we have a hard day with our kids, it’s so good to know that we can turn to our spouse to vent and cry and they’ll be there to support us.
We can’t let our marriages slide. We have to work hard to keep loving each other, and to keep our relationship strong and happy. How can we do this? There are so many things we can work on, but the most fun way to keep our spark alive is by dating! Dating isn’t just for single people. It shouldn’t end the day you get married. Dates don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. You don’t even have to leave your house. What matters is that you are doing something together with no distractions. No kids, work, Facebook, etc. Just you and your spouse doing something fun together. Here are a few of our favorite at home dates (for after the kids are in bed), and cheap/free dates (for when we can swap babysitting with friends).
– Make, or just eat ethnic food and watch a movie of that ethnicity (for example, make Indian curry or crepes and watch “The Hundred Foot Journey”)
– Buy a few different kinds of fancy chocolate or cheese, and have a chocolate or cheese tasting. Sparkling cider and candles wouldn’t hurt either
– Go bowling with a coupon
– Paint or do some kind of art together
– Carve pumpkins and eat caramel apples
– Walk around downtown and go window shopping. Buy a dessert or snack to share at a bakery or cafe
– Go on a hike or nature walk
– Go to a free museum
– Make cookies and play a board game or work on a puzzle together
– Make butterbeer or pumpkin pasties and watch Harry Potter
What have been some of your favorite dates? I’m always looking for new ideas!