I was at work recently, and daydreaming* a bit.Feeling low energy.
Hardly even there.
It was a Thursday where it seemed like every minute of every hour of the week so far had already become basically forgettable.Please don’t judge but… I was bored.
Then it struck me: I was missing “fun time” with my wife.
In between some things I had to get done, I asked myself why I was bored (after all, I’d been taught by my mother from a very young age that people who get bored often are boring people…and I didn’t want to think I was a boring person).
Allow me to make a personal confession, dear reader?
It had been WAAAAAAYYY too many weeks since my wife and I were last out of the house…alone, together, without kids, having zero errands to run, no tasks to complete and with no agenda except enjoying one another’s company.In short: there was a serious recent lack of quality time in the Mr. & Mrs. Cubic Zirconia household.
I opened up a notebook I always keep saved on my desk with ideas for date restaurants to try and activities to do that we can enjoy just the two of us-- and started looking at the calendar the next few days to see when we might do something fun.
Almost immediately, I started having a bunch of contrary impulses:
- ‘Hey, you need to check your email.’
- ‘I dunno…what if she’s still frosty I knocked her sunglasses off kayaking?’
- ‘Did you really EARN a fun date this week?’
- ‘You should really finish some work on new products for the jewelry business.’
- ‘Can’t make time: you’ve gotta finish that project by Friday’.
- ‘Too busy…the kids’ schedules are super-packed for the next few days.’
- ‘Isn’t it time to get a haircut?'
Huh? A haircut? Haircuts aren’t really that important when compared to quality time with my wife.
What? Lost sunglasses kayaking? That was a long time ago.
I know it’s been too long since we’ve had a great date when I start making a plan for the next one and get worried about something that happened so long ago she forgave, forgot and would probably laugh to hear that I still think about.When? I need a “calendar” to date my wife? WTF happened?
Look, we all have busy lives.
Gotta make a living.
Plus we want (and need)-- plus deserve-- time with ourselves.
And the urgent stuff is always clamoring for our attention:
- The lawn that ain’t gonna mow itself.
- A friend’s need to talk over a personal crisis.
- Pulling back the shower curtain to make sure no serial killers are hiding.
- Unexpected text messages.
- That medical appointment we’ve been putting off.
- Eating a family-size bag of chips all by your lonesome.
- Co-workers asking for work-related help.
- Writing an angry, 293-word message and never hitting ‘send’.
And our loved ones' "emotional tank" doesn't stay full forever (and it doesn't refill itself, either).
Sometimes you’ve got to MAKE TIME
to MAKE MEMORABLE MOMENTS.Claiming you have plans to get out of an invite you no longer want to attend isn’t a fib if you actually have plans. Kids really can be kept alive by someone that doesn’t have your last name. And no one will die** if you ignore that email for a few weeks, then write back and say: "Sorry for the delay, do you still need this? Are people saying your emails end up in their spam folder?".
If we don’t make time, for too many of us that urgent stuff ends up ruling our lives every single day-- so we procrastinate making time for that quality time and those memorable moments that build and sustain a marriage.And that can’t be allowed.
We must fight back against the urgency addiction that’ll vacuum up every minute of every day in modern life if we let it. It’s unhealthy, non-sustainable and boring.
Hello, boooooorrrrrriiiinnnngggg…thy name is modern routine.
Think I’m being dramatic?
And it’s killing marriages, too.
Marriages live and die by quality time together.
I don’t think so: boring busyness can be the kiss of death for relationships-- and is among the top reasons for marriages to end prematurely (you know, before death).
But one thing is for sure: no one sets out to live a life where every hour, day, week and month ends up being basically forgettable, either.
I’m not saying you’re a boring person.
I don’t think I’m boring, either.
Say it together: we’re not too boring to be fun (anymore)!
At some point, we’ve gotta stare down that quality time procrastination impulse and conquer it.
Yet, still it happens.
At some point, we’ve gotta say “not my problem, not today” and prioritize what’s important over who needs our help.
At some point, we’ve gotta say “enough is enough” for the urgency addiction and slay that busyness dragon.
It's really pretty simple - you just make the plan, suggest the day and time to your partner, and once you’ve agreed it’s gonna happen, you DO IT.
At some point, we’ve gotta drop the reasons why we supposedly can’t plan a date with our significant other THIS WEEK-- or TODAY-- and just do it.
Speaking for myself, most dates my wife and I do happen NOW rather than planned for later. Whether it’s a spontaneous thing in the moment, or a day-time thing planned the night before or a night-time thing we could look forward to since that morning…there’s not much waiting involved, and that’s intentional (much harder to procrastinate).
Sure you may need to coordinate together to manage any logistics that need to happen before the date (plan any activities, buy what’s needed, arrange childcare, mark a shared family calendar, plan to leave work early, whatever).
I’ll be honest, as busy as we are, it can seem a bit overwhelming without some of the plan already worked out beforehand.
We try to make it so we can just get up and go.
Here’s one idea I had that day at work to make things much easier from then forwards:
“Pull a date out of a hat”
Luckily, my wife agreed and we adopted this as kind of our “date ritual”.
What you do is:
- Take a sheet of lined notebook paper.
- Scissor it in half.
- Write a date idea on each line.
- Flip each idea over and jot on the back an hour number (e.g. 1, 2, 4 etc) and a cost signifier (we use the hour number only for free date ideas, $ for cheap up to $$$$ for more expensive)
- Cut each line out so there’s one idea per slip
- Fold each slip so only the number and cost can be seen
- Toss the ideas in a hat for later
Here’s what our date-ideas ‘hat’ looks like…
(yeah, it was easier to use a plastic container than an actual “hat”)
Say you wanted to take a couple hours and prepare something like this…what kind of date ideas might you put in there?
- How ‘bout a mix of things that are quickie dates (as little as an hour), with some 2-6 hour plans in there, plus a smaller number of overnights or adults-only weekend trips.
- Some things that cost money, and others that are free.
- Activities that can be done in your home city and others that require travel.
- Ideas that require getting out of the house, and some that can be fit in at home after the kids are in bed or while they’re with childcare out of the house.
- One-time “Bucket list” stuff versus things you do regularly as a couple.
(the number after each idea is just our time estimate in hours, and any $ dollar signs is a sliding scale from $ one dollar sign cheap to $$$$ four dollar signs more expensive):
- Bake brownies together 1
- Intimate shower together 1
- Hand-holding 'walk n' talk' 1 (one of our most common quality time ideas together: exercise, quality-time plus a good regular date to facilitate talking about things privately)
- Write down 3 gift ideas you may want the other to get you in the next year 1
- Bake pineapple upside down cake 1
- Clothes-on makeout session 1
- Play Scrabble slam card game 1
- Verbalize a held grudge against him/her and commit to forgive 1
- Play text twist word game 1
- Oral pleasure for her 1
- Cooking together while the kids are with a caregiver out of house 1
- Back, shoulder and neck massage for him 1
- Throw frisbee together 1
- Feather play 1
- Premium coffee date out of house 1 $
- Silly couple’s selfies Fiverr photoshop order 1 $
- Tennis 2
- Watch an action flick together at home 2
- Porn karaoke 2
- Vision planning the custom house we plan to build together 2
- Take the pet(s) to an enclosed play area + picnic lunch 2
- Watch a romantic comedy movie together at home 2
- Play zonk 2 (dice game my grandmother taught us)
- Choose pictures together for family digital photo album upload 2
- Organize the kids' play room together 2
- Sexual Roleplaying: Oops! No money for dinner delivery 2
- Make and eat alcohol popsicles 2 $$
- Walk/drive around, give $100 USD to a stranger having a bad day 2 $$
- "Perfect Day" journal entry by future 5-years-from-now self; swap and read 2
- Basketball one-on-one 2
- Champagne and orange juice mimosas in the middle of the day 2 $$
- Drink wine and make holiday craft decorations together 3 $
- Driving range golf 3 $$
- Brazilian steakhouse dinner for two 3 $$
- Fun shopping in an adult store 3 $$
- Grocery shop sans kids 3 $$$
- No limit Hold’em with poker chips, winner chooses next two dates 4
- Volunteer randomly 4 (find the first cause you see on social media asking for volunteers and go together)
- Organize his/her office together 4 $
- Baseball game with beer and hotdogs 4 $$
- Dinner out and next vacation conversation/planning 4 $$
- Wings, beer and sports night 4 $$
- Casino blackjack with $100 per player budget 4 $$$
- Mall shopping: buy each other a new outfit and shoes 4 $$$
- Dinner and window shop upscale mall 6 $$
- Create ad bury 10 year family time capsule 6 $$
- Dance class(es) together 6 $$$
- Cooking class(es) together 6 $$$
- Buy a new book and read aloud together 1 hr / day til finished 12 $ (We like Stephen king and John Grisham a lot for this)
- Motel overnight (with hot tub) 12 $$
- Rent a houseboat for the day 12 $$$
- 3 night couples-only trip 72 $$$$
Just jotting those down was a lot of fun for me.
Some are things we do a lot. Others are things we just added recently to our “pull a date out of a hat” and we haven’t experienced doing that thing together.
It’s my opinion that for the best dating life with your partner, over time most happily still-dating couples develop a ritual. EVERY couple could benefit from creating a ritual for how you do dating with him or her. Something simple to make it easy with some basic pre-planning of what to do, where and how-- so when you’re wanting that quality time, you can do it without too much thinking.
Your date ritual could be different from ours: something we hope continues to help keep us together and happy as a couple.But if you do like the idea of our date ritual maybe for yourself/yourselves, then your next date together as a couple should be pretty easy. Just get out your paper, scissors and pens and make your own ‘date ideas in a hat’.
You should be able to get a few hundred ideas in 2-3 hours. Turn off the electronics, add some nice music and maybe a bottle of wine or cocktails and you’ve got the fixings for a memorable date just coming up with more date ideas. :)
Here’s some “rules” we adopted that fit our relationship (yours will likely be different):
- Either of us has the power to pick a date idea from the hat when he/she feels it’s been too long since we had quality time alone together.
- We alternate choosing an activity from the date ideas.
- Date idea selected must be something we can do or start within 12 hours (if not, pick a replacement (you may want to do differently, and use a calendar to plan future dates…but we’ve found this quick-action works better for us).
- Each date idea is picked mostly blind (the date idea text is folded up inside a slip of paper, and from the outside one can only see the estimated time and money needed for that date).
- Whoever didn’t write that date idea (handwriting difference is easy to see) gets to unfold and read it first-- and veto the idea for now by tossing it back in the hat.
- Max 2 vetoes; the third date idea picked is the date!
- Whoever wrote that date idea is responsible for planning any logistics*** to make the date happen.
- There’s no expectation of physical intimacy or sex for a date idea unless stated.
- If after the date we both enjoyed it, we can toss the idea paper slip back in the hat to do again in the future. If not, it gets tossed in the recycling bin..
Hammering, drilling out concrete, re-tiling and grouting-- and that's REAL, physical, sweaty, HARD work.
Look, I'm spending quality time with my wife right this minute while 2 guys are remodeling our kitchen.
Sure, carving out time to really cherish and enjoy time with the one person with whom we chose to spend our life can require some work, sure, but it’s probably the least unpleasant ‘hard work’*** I can think of.
Maybe it IS ‘hard work’ to prioritize, plan and prepare for a kick-ass ongoing dating life even after marriage (and especially after a long week actually doing the work you get paid for)…but IMHO it’s a lot more pleasant than divorce. And frankly, that’s where someone is headed if he or she’s married too long and not still dating.
Of course, some couples think ‘logistics’ are unsexy.
I won’t belabor this point any more: marriages live and die by quality time together.
Whatever is required to get that quality time…financial sacrifice, activities planning, leaving work early, being a bit embarrassed, using a couples’s shared calendar…we think it’s worth it.
Personally, I was the same way before kids.
For some, spontaneity alone is the way to go.
Whether it’s planned and agreed-upon, spontaneously together or a night-of surprise planned by one partner for another….it’s all good.
EVERYBODY'S HOW TO IS DIFFERENT
But the decision and follow through is what matters.How you do it is up to you.
Once our kids were in the picture for a few years, though, we realized that spontaneity just didn’t work very well given the limitations for parenting.
For Mr. and Mrs. Cubic Zirconia, we kept things pretty informal for a long time.
And for timing, we just kind of wing that (and the primary thing we need to plan after choosing a date time together is making sure there’s childcare).
So we took the thinking out of date ideas with this “pull a date out of a hat” idea.
And the price qualifier $, $$, $$$, or $$$$ written on the folded date-idea note gives us an idea before we open that date idea if it’s going to add more spending to that week’s budget or not (and if so how much). Sometimes you want to splurge, and sometimes you want to save, you know?
But being able to see the hours of time expected for the date before opening up the folded slip of paper with the date idea written on it-- that helps us pick things to do which we know we’ll have enough time for doing that day.
Or create something entirely independent if you want.
You may take some or all of our ritual for your own.
Maybe you don’t need to write it down.
Just please don’t do nothing-- because in my experience, most couples who are married…severely slow down their quality time together (especially activities out of the house). And boring lack of quality time is the kiss of death for marriages.
Whatever you pick as your date ritual just ought to make things simpler to pick up and go-- and ensure that it’s super easy to actually do it (because we’re all super busy).
Your ritual may include a calendar or pre-written date ideas or none of those things.
As I explained to a friend not long ago who has a big job with many employees reporting to him-- isn’t your relationship more important than feeling a little awkward if your assistant sees a date with your wife on the online calendar? Or what your nosy relative may think when seeing your date plan written on the fridge calendar in your kitchen?
While we don’t personally use a couple’s calendar, we don’t judge those men and women who do. Put it on your calendar if you must-- even if it may seem "unromantic" or weird.
* Don’t even pretend you’ve never been “at work” and actually day-dreaming, judgy-judgerton.
** This isn’t exactly true. I could imagine a few instances where someone indeed could die because you ignore an email for a few weeks. But it’s not likely. Worth the risk? After all, a marriage with no couples’ quality time IS going to disintegrate.*** A lot of the date planning and prep can even be outsourced to a remote virtual assistant in a country where cost-of-living is cheaper than where you live…working part-time a few hours per month for less than $10 USD per hour. That means you can be at work actually doing your work, while someone else’s ‘work’ is planning some of the logistics of any of your more complicated dates (one good service for this is called "Ask Sunday" you can find and hire online).