Early on in my relationship with Darlene I was attending a three-day personal growth seminar, and on the second day of the event the speaker’s message hit close to home. He talked about how many people, especially the entrepreneurial type like myself, keep their lives on a schedule—we have to in order to get everything done each day. However, we tend to put off calling our loved ones or going on a date with our significant other until we “have the time”. The problem is, our schedule keeps getting filled, and sure enough, there is never enough time for the people we care about.
At this point I thought about my own life…anyone who knows me well would attest to the fact that I keep a very tight schedule. Some would call it a little (or a lot) obsessive. As a professional photographer, when I shoot events like X Games or CrossFit Games I have a minute-by-minute schedule of the entire five-day competition week to keep myself on track. I’ve also rolled over the same method into my daily life and have a detailed schedule of every day that I keep as a text file on my computer desktop and linked to my phone through Dropbox that I refer to multiple times a day.
The speaker at the seminar said his solution to this common problem was a simple one that for some reason is overlooked all too often. The solution is to put your loved ones on the calendar just like you would any other appointment, meeting, or task on your to do list. I thought this was genius and exactly what I needed, so I implemented the strategy immediately.
In the past I struggled with staying in touch with my sister and niece, even though I had written “FaceTime with Madison once a month.” on my list of goals for two years in a row. Out of those 24 months I had probably only picked up the phone a handful of times. However, as soon as I put on my schedule to FaceTime Madison on the second Tuesday of every month at 4:00pm, I magically “found the time” (read: “made the time”) to make the call, and I haven’t missed a month since.
Hopefully you can already see how this ties into Date Night. At this point Darlene and I had only been together a little more than a month, but I already saw serious potential in our relationship, so I knew building a solid foundation was important. The next time I talked to Darlene after the seminar I told her I wanted to schedule a weekly Date Night so no matter how busy we got, we’d always have one night a week where we could spend quality time together enjoying each other’s company. Of course she loved the idea and was on board. Since then, every Saturday at 6pm we turn our phones off and turn our full attention to each other.
The important thing when scheduling these time slots with your loved ones, whether it is calling your niece or going on a date with your fiancé is to make it a priority, not an afterthought. If I’m going to be out of town for the weekend, our Date Night is moved up to Thursday, before the scheduled date, not after. If you push things back, there’s a chance you’ll keep pushing them back and the entire exercise will be wasted.
I’ll be honest, since Darlene and I live together and both work from our home office, sometimes I feel like we spend enough time together and don’t really need a Date Night. However, I quickly realize these thoughts stem from the desire to stay busy, keep working, or check other things off my to do list—which is precisely why we need Date Night in the first place—to bring our attention away from our busy lives and back towards each other.
The key ingredient in Date Night is quality time. There’s a big difference between time spent working in the same office, chatting about the gym, grocery shopping, or meal preparing, and quality time without a phone or computer where the attention is focused on each other and the intention is to grow your relationship stronger.
I will also say that a weekly Date Night is pretty ambitious. If you’re thinking about implementing this strategy, maybe you want to shoot for every other week to start off. Also, you shouldn’t feel like you have to spend money on each date. Sometimes our dates are just a bike ride to the harbor, a long talk while sitting by the lighthouse, or watercolor painting at home. We’ve also done a bunch of really inexpensive things like play a few games of pool at the bar around the corner. Trust me, we’d love to spend money trying a new vegan restaurant every week, but that’s just not in the budget for us! Even when money is tight, we still make Date Night work and get a lot out of it.
Have you made time for your loved ones lately? Do you have a scheduled Date Night? If you have good Date Night ideas, we’d love to hear from you! Maybe we’ll make a blog post with our favorite ones!