October 21, 2004 was my half birthday, and it also happened to be the day that was supposed to be my first date with my future husband. He was going to take me to the NC State Fair to eat cotton candy, nibble ham biscuits and visit the farm animals. Unfortunately, I woke up on that fateful Thursday morning with a dreadful 102 degree fever and a throat that felt as if I had swallowed a bucket of nails. One trip to student health later and a diagnosis of strep throat in hand, we spent our first “date” on my sofa, watching the state fair coverage on the news. He did bring me cotton candy and diet coke to make me “feel better,” and we managed a first date redo a few days later. The rest, as we now know, is history.
I am convinced that this next hint for a happy marriage is one of the most important, potentially the most fun, and likely the one that’s most easily pushed aside. Hint #4: Keep Dating. As in, continue to carve out dedicated, uninterrupted time to invest in one another; forever and ever, amen.
Y’all, dating is so important. You really got to know your sig-o by going on dates, having adventures and spending quality time together, right? It’s where you learned about his favorite foods, he learned about your love of all things monogrammed and the two of you started to form a bond stronger than pecans and sweeter than honey. Unfortunately, after marriage (and even while planning a wedding), life gets busy, and suddenly there doesn’t seem to be time to dedicate to uninterrupted quality togetherness. The pressure of life starts to overwhelm the calendar and that sweet regular date night is the first thing to go.
I would argue that you must make dating a priority because it’s a simple way to remind yourself why you started this whole marriage journey in the first place: a way to connect to your spouse and continue to get to know him and fall in love. Continuing to date, on purpose, gives you a chance to break away from the busy and focus on what really matters.
Dates don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be all-day affairs. They just need to involve you, your other half and limited unnecessary distractions (insert cellphones here). Certain dates and adventures become lifelong favorite memories just because they are with the one that has your heart, and the accumulation of those memories and experiences is what enriches a relationship over a lifetime.
Kyle and I both have busy careers and other important commitments, and we haven’t added the complication of littles to the mix quite yet. I can imagine this hint will only get trickier to execute with time, but continuing to date is something I am fiercely passionate about, and plan to fight tooth and nail to maintain no matter what life throws our way.
For us, date night is occasionally getting dressed up and trekking to our favorite Southern eatery tucked up a windy road from our house. They have great live music on the weekends, to-die-for grits of the day and provide a sweetly Southern atmosphere for an intimate and cozy dinner conversation. Other times it’s strolling downtown to grab frozen yogurt and snag a bench outside to sit and chat. No matter what we do, if we are doing it together, in an effort invest in each other and our relationship, it makes more difference that we can quantify. After all, why on earth would we stop doing something we LOVED doing before we got married?
I asked the SW gals about their favorite date memories (big or small). Lara loves visiting Fearrington Village and the beltie cows with Ari! Nicole’s most favorite date with her beau was an spontaneous Fourth of July adventure to the coast for a picnic and a day of catching rays. Marissa reminisced about a day spent playing hooky from school, riding roller coasters and giggling her way through Universal Studios with BDK. Lisa has the sweetest memories of her first camping adventure with her cute beau and his family. And Emily loves going to outdoor movies with John — they’re usually less than $5 per ticket (or free!), and they can bring along a picnic supper. From once-and-a-lifetime visits to amusement parks to regularly visiting the Fearrington cow, regardless of the details, the most important part is that memories are made and quality time invested.
So I am extending a challenge to each one of you. Join the Keep Dating movement. Take turns planning dates. Get creative and see what you can dream up. Make a date jar full of ideas and keep it on your counter. Be committed and block off your calendars. I promise that the time invested in planning and participating in the Keep Dating movement is so worth it!
Have a creative date idea to share? Spill the beans! Have a fun date memory? We want to hear about it!
P.S. Catch up on past hints here: #1, #2, #3!
P.P.S. Lovely session by Jo Photo, one of our Blue Ribbon Vendors! See more from this session in our Facebook Friday series!