For the first four years that Taylor and I dated (as in, up until this summer!), he worked in sports videography–working seven days a week and attending every football and basketball game, whether at home or away. Since my fall was mostly dedicated to getting our annual print edition out, there would be many days where we would both get home late at night and hangrily grumble at each other until we went to bed (okay, maybe that was just me…).
Making time for date nights and quality time was a challenge for us. We both believe that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice the time we spend on personal hobbies and passion projects for each other. After all, those things are what made us who we are, and they’re a huge part of why we love each other! So with time so scarce, how could we find ways to continue to grow closer? After our first year of experiencing this particular season of crazy together, we had to get creative about how we approached date nights. I know we’re not the only ones who are in this position, so here are some of our tips and ideas for making dates happen at any time.
Images by Ais Portraits.
1. Plan in advance. Take a look at your calendar and spot any overlapping days or nights off that you can. Block them off so you can spend them together! It doesn’t matter if you use that time to finally make that road trip you’ve been talking about, or if you just binge watch your favorite TV shows and go out to dinner. If you’re able to, give yourselves a date that you can look forward to, whether you plan something big or nothing at all, you’ll know the weekend didn’t escape you and you used the time well!
2. Make it any time. Maybe you only found one or two days that you were able to block off in advance. That means you’ll need to use whatever time is left in the best way possible. Date nights aren’t always an option, so why not date mornings? One of my favorite dates I’ve had with Taylor is when we decided to get up early to get breakfast and then explore a museum downtown before he headed off to work. Date mornings practically guarantee an equally great day (and usually inspire a string of text messages throughout the day, too!).
3. Make it anywhere. I think this is half the fun of dating! Any place can be romantic or fun enough for a date, whether you’re meeting for a Chick-fil-A lunch at the exit between your two offices, meeting in the grocery store parking lot to split an ice cream, or meeting over the phone before bed. Get as creative as possible–those are some of the best dates to look back on!
4. Make it anything. Let me tell you a story. When Taylor and I moved in together and experienced our first busy season under the same roof, dinners were tense. I would get home a little earlier than he did and start cooking right away. Mostly, I did it out of hunger, but I also did it because that’s how I wanted to show Taylor I supported him and his late nights–by taking one more thing off his plate. Eventually, though, I became upset that I was the only one doing this. As it turns out, cooking together is one of Taylor’s favorite ways to spend time with me, so instead of prepping dinner on nights that I worked late, he waited, wanting to unwind over wine and chat about our days while we concocted something delicious. Discovering this made our busy season so much more enjoyable because it took a burden off both our shoulders and turned it into something fun instead. I had to pack extra snacks for work so I wasn’t starving by the time I got home, but it gave us many nights of happy conversation and quality time doing something we both love to do. The moral of the story: identify the things that bring you the most joy in your relationship and make those a priority. Dates can be anything you want them to be as long as you approach them with a bit of romance and whimsy :)
5. Make it pizza. Or whatever you use as your fallback. There is no shame in ditching fancy, creative dates. Or homemade meals. Or forks. Or the dinner table. We’ve instituted “pizza picnics,” which give us an out on the few days when cooking is the last the thing we want to do, and our brains are spent. We order our favorite pizza from a nearby restaurant, lay a blanket on the floor, and call it a date. It’s nothing fancy and nothing new, but the fact that we’ve given it a name and made it a tradition makes it so much fun. When we say “pizza picnic” at home, both our eyes light up and we pull out our favorite blankets, splurge on a Mexican Coke, and chat happily until the doorbell rings. Plus, you can make this a date anywhere. We’ve been known to crave pizza picnics on vacation when we’re spent from sight-seeing and new-experience-having.
6. Take an interest. This isn’t a date idea, per se, but one of the tips Taylor and I implemented early on in our relationship that have made our untraditional date nights easier to embrace. We’ve been told a number of times to leave work at work, but quite frankly, that just doesn’t work for us. We’re emotionally invested in what we do, or we just can’t turn our brains off when we get home, so our vote is to talk it out. Trying to compartmentalize didn’t work for us–instead, it left us distracted when we were together. So, we’ve decided to talk through our days thoroughly–both the wins we had at work and the struggles we face. There are so many benefits to this! We get to be fully present with each other since we lay all our cards on the table. We’ve built up a lot of trust in each other because we share our problems and we seek advice and comfort in each other. And lastly, because we’re both fully aware of what’s going on in the office, it makes it much easier to be understanding when you get that text at 9 P.M. that says “I’m still at the office–eat without me tonight. Xo.”
I’m always searching for more fun date ideas — what are some of the best or most creative dates you been on?