On approximately the 106th day of the quarantine, I was starting to feel a sense of normalcy. Both of my children were napping, my husband was working, and I was catching up on my extensive todo list. My husband and I had worked as a unit to tag-team the household chores and parenting responsibilities. Having a newborn and a very active toddler at home left us feeling exhausted but we had fallen into a routine.
I didn’t realize what we had left out of our list of priorities until I came to the next item on my todo list: Figure out anniversary gift. My husband and I were quickly approaching our fifth wedding anniversary. In past years, we had always made time for some kind of big date together or a weekend away. In the midst of a pandemic, neither of these things seemed possible, but also made me realize that our marriage had taken a backseat to things that seemed more pressing. Somewhere along the way, we had stopped prioritizing our relationship.
Looking Back to Easier Times
While I would never claim to have the perfect marriage, prior to Covid-19, we had hit a good stride of carving out time for our relationship. We would do rotating date nights with a friend of ours. Each week one couple would watch the kids and the other would get to have a night out on the town. This arrangement made it so no matter how busy our lives seemed we had time to be a couple together. We took date nights seriously and would look forward to spending a few kid-free hours together every other week.
Since lockdown, we have spent all our time together in proximity but were left feeling more distant as a couple. My husband would work all day and try to help out with the kids the best he could. When he had any “free time”, he wanted to tackle home improvement projects or just relax. I would spend my days trying to entertain a toddler and meet the constant needs of an infant. I also tried my best to keep up with managing the house. These tasks left me feeling exhausted and any time I had I would sleep.
Together, we found ourselves stuck in a cycle of survival. With all the curveballs life had thrown, who even had time to think about our relationship as something that needed our attention. As parents, we default to making sure our children are the center of our lives. While this isn’t going to change, I find myself needing a reminder that my relationships are also worth investing in.
Where do we go from here?
I had gotten so used to the ease of going out on dates and having access to sitters. When that wasn’t an option, I didn’t take the time to reassess how to date in these unprecedented times. After discussing this with other parents, I realized my husband and I weren’t alone. Life had drastically changed for everyone. I had been waiting for our day-to-day to go back to normal but didn’t stop to think maybe it’s time to make a new normal.
The world was starting to adapt around the pandemic. Our idea of dating had to adapt to our new reality as well. It was time to get creative and schedule some time for us. I had to stop thinking about making time for my husband as just another task and remind myself, we are worth the investment.
Tips for Dating Your Spouse During the Pandemic
Find the Time
While this sounds like a simple task, it turns out there is no one busier than a mom trying to keep it all together during a pandemic. I know for me making time for something else in my life seemed impossible. My husband and I decided to set aside at least one day a week to do early bedtime and do something together. Having a set time makes it real and sets you up for success.
Make a List of Ideas
When we committed to setting aside time, I made a list of things that my husband and I could do within the confines of our current situation. When rattling off ideas I had to think, not just what I would like, but also what things my husband would enjoy (it may be a little counterintuitive to plan a date with only yourself in mind). Honestly, this on its own could be an activity to do together.
This one is a challenge right now. For most finding a sitter is out of the questions. So, how? Make yourself a night out in your own backyard, living room, or whatever space you have. Make a kids-free pillow fort. Pack a picnic. Set up a tent and camp inside. Find a fancy recipe and cook together. Set up a projector or a laptop outside and do your own movie under the stars. I found the most important part of this is to set aside time and escape from the usual night routine.
Fun and Games
Playing games is a great way to strengthen bonds and have fun. I suggest you skip over this section completely if you are overly competitive and are lacking sportsmanship. Not many good dates end with the flipping of a game board, but that’s just my two cents on the matter. My personal favorites have been puzzles, Rummikub, and Scrabble. Anything that makes you think a little while leaving enough brainpower to have a conversation is the way to go.
I can feel my husband’s eyes roll with the insinuation that a great date is a deep intense conversation of feelings. I’m a talker (this would shock no one that knows me), while my husband has never been much of a talker – or its possible no one heard him over me. That’s why the idea of conversation starters as a date night was such an interesting idea to me.
One night when I was sitting in bed scrolling through Facebook, I came across a picture that had four different options; a lake house, mountain house, beachfront, or city getaway. It posed the question: where would you live? I texted my husband (from upstairs, mind you) and asked him what his answer would be. Sparking a long conversation between us. Both of us were surprised by the other’s answers and reasoning. This seemed like such a menial thing but I enjoyed hearing his thoughts and after ten years together being surprised by his answer.
I think it’s easy to get in a pattern of thinking you know the other person completely. It’s nice to stop and ask each other questions you normally wouldn’t and take the time to listen and answer thoughtfully.
Personalize your date to your relationship. It turns out there are plenty of options out there. We used to love going to an event like paint night or plant night, but now going to one of these isn’t an option. Why not pop open a bottle of wine and do a virtual how-to class (arts, crafts, cooking, etc.)?
Recently my husband and I both read the same book together and talked about it as we read. My husband was never much of a reader but committed to it and we had our own little book club. This was a big deal to me because it was him showing an interest in something I was passionate about.
Keep it up
I’d like to think that soon enough we will be in a place where this global pandemic will be a thing of the past. While we wait for that to happen, I am trying to learn how to appreciate the now. Instead of waiting for your circumstances to work themselves out, make your experiences tailored to your circumstances. Relationships are investments; you truly do get out what you put into it. I am lucky. I have a husband that I enjoy spending time with and I try my best not to take our relationship for granted. For me, the key to happiness, COVID or not, was being able to enjoy being together. Laughing together and enjoying each other’s company is important in any setting and will always be worth the time spent.