Although having a weekly date may seem like a no-brainer, many couples’ good intentions quickly get put off to some future time, when life is not so busy or there’s more money. Pretty soon the kids are grown and couples find they’ve grown apart. Make a commitment to a weekly date. It doesn’t have to always be on the same night, but it’s helpful to pencil in one night each week on your calendars; you can always change the night if a conflict comes up.
Below are some ideas that go beyond the usual dinner and a movie. Many involve little or no cost. Not all dates have to involve going out, but if you have young children, getting a break from the kids is a stress release in itself. Getting a babysitter, however, can be a burden. Alternate who gets the sitter and develop a pool of sitters.
If you’re the responsible, conscientious type, do something together that’s whacky but legal. If you’re already the risk-taking type, do something responsible, for example, pick up litter around a park or volunteer at a soup kitchen together.
Try star gazing in your own back yard or out in the country. Just bring a blanket and gaze upwards together. If you’re the scientific type, you might get a star map and try to identify constellations.
Go to a public place (a train station, airport lobby, downtown gathering place) and people watch. Make up stories about the people who pass you, as if you’re writing a novel. If you see someone who looks sad or distressed say a prayer or lend a hand.
Each spouse privately creates a funny costume from what you have around the house. (No need to buy anything, just use pots, paraphernalia, jewelry, and even root through your spouse’s clothes to put items together in weird or scary ways.) Then come together and reveal.
Rake leaves together. Make a big pile and jump in them. Let go of any inhibitions about being neat and tidy. Don’t have any fallen leaves? Find someone who does and volunteer to rake theirs.
Find an empty, open church. Sit, kneel, explore, pray. Let peace and reverence seep into your being. Quietly pray for each other. If you like, discuss your deepest spiritual beliefs afterwards.
Waiter’s Night. Pick a night to “wait” on your spouse. You get the drinks, the snacks, his/her slippers, favorite game, etc. You can even dramatize your role as servant. Just make sure that you alternate the favor sometime soon.
Traditionally, parents fill their children’s shoes with treats on St. Nick’s eve. Try walking in your spouse’s shoes for an evening – perhaps more of a challenge for the husband. Try to understand life from your spouse’s perspective. Even if you don’t exchange shoes, at least change roles for the evening.
Commit to a “tech free” night. Turn off your cell phones, computer, the TV, and the lights. Use your imagination to see what’s left to do without electricity.
Go to an amusement park or arcade. It doesn’t have to be one of those fancy, expensive parks. Go without the kids and BE kids again. Do those silly arcade games like skee ball or whack-a-mole. Impress your spouse with your strength or cunning…or laugh at your ineptitude.
Play a game from your childhood – croquet, badminton, hide and seek, miniature golf. Reminisce and be playful together.
Pretend-You’re-a-Tourist date. Look around your city and do the things a tourist might do – go to an overlook, a quaint neighborhood, the botanical gardens, a museum, whatever is special about your hometown. Gawk if you like, after all you’re a tourist. (Inspired by Co-op America).
Build something together – ice cream sundaes, a pizza with your favorite toppings, a tower of blocks. Perhaps you will find a chuckle over the odd or weird combinations that reflect your different approaches to food, building, and life.
Plan a “Favorites Night” around your favorite food, clothes, games, sports, etc. Each spouse could choose a favorite activity which you then combine into one evening, or the wife could propose her favorite activities for one date and the husband plans the next date with his favorites.
Ride a city bus for the whole route. Reflect on the sights you see and the lives of the people who are your fellow passengers. Debrief your insights afterwards.
Wait for snow and give yourself permission to make snow angels or make a snowman. Don’t live in a snowy climate? Go roller blading or revisit your childhood by visiting a roller skating rink.
Visit a pet store together. This is usually good for stirring up warm fuzzy feelings. Restrain yourself from buying, however, unless you’re really ready for a new family member. Talk about any pets you had as a child.
Ever gone midnight bowling? It’s more than just bowling. Some places have special music, lighting, and gimmicks. Even without these, it can be a ball of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.
Look through old photo albums and tell each other stories of your childhood and families. If you feel really energetic, make it a time to put all those loose photos in albums or on a disc. It’s a big job but your children will appreciate it one day.
During Lent, go to a fish fry. The fish is not the point. Seeing a community work together to feed the multitudes is a miracle in itself. Are you a member of a faith community? You don’t have to like fish to check it out.
Hang out at a bookstore. Browse through your favorite sections. Many bookstores have cozy reading spots or a café connected with them. Assume an erudite persona for an evening.
Do something to nurture your spiritual life. Go to a church service, spend an hour in silence, pray the Way of the Cross in a church or walk in a poor neighborhood to seek Christ’s presence there.
Visit your local zoo. Spring is often an especially engaging time since your likely to see some endearing zoo babies and glorious flowers.
Try a theme date like one around “quarters.” Think of all the things you can do that use quarters like play a juke box, wash the car, take your picture together at a photo booth, play video games at an arcade. (Inspired by Co-op America)
Thrift Store Date. Pick a spending limit (like $5 each) and see what crazy gift(s) you can put together for your sweetheart. Try creating a crazy or luxurious outfit for each other and wear it home. It may be the only time you wear it (other than Halloween) before you donate it back to the store. (Inspired by Co-op America)
Volunteer somewhere together – a nursing home, a soup kitchen, clean up litter from a park or along your street. Pray a simple litany of thanks together, i.e. For our family, we thank you Lord. For a safe home, we thank you Lord. For our health, we thank you Lord…
Water and moonlight can be romantic. Is there a lake, a river, a fountain near your home? Take a walk along a body of water at night. Pause and gaze at the light shimmering on the water. Dream and imagine together.
Do something silly that reminds you of your childhood. Climb a tree together, catch lightning bugs, or feed some ducks.
Try an old fashioned picnic in a secluded spot. Lay out a table cloth, some snacks or a meal. Some wine might be a nice touch. Perhaps read some romantic poetry to each other. It need not be original, just something you took the effort to find.
Take an early morning or evening bike ride together. Explore your neighborhood or the countryside. Stop at a quaint café for breakfast or get an ice cream cone or other treat along the way. In fact stop whenever you feel the urge. It’s not a race, just a time to discover together.
If tent camping is a new experience for you, try it, you might like it. Borrow a tent, sleeping bags, and some advice from a veteran camper and spend a night in the woods – or at least a backyard. Snuggle, tell ghost stories, and roast marshmallows.
During the Fall, find a corn maze and wander through it. Night time is the most fun. Getting lost is part of the adventure. Ponder how your experience may mimic times in your life together when you felt lost, found each other, or found your way through a difficulty together. No corn mazes in your area? Search out a labyrinth. Many retreat centers have them.
At home dates
Curl up for an evening of reading. Find a book you both enjoy and take turns reading to each other, or each of you can read your own book in each other’s company. For fun you might want to randomly read a sentence from each of your respective books and see what bizarre combinations this makes.
The Bible may not seem like a date book but try sharing your favorite passage with each other. Don’t have a favorite passage? Explore the Song of Songs together. Share what you find physically attractive about your spouse.
During the dark of winter, make some light together. Build a fire in the fireplace. Don’t have a fireplace? Light a whole bunch of candles in a grouping. Lay out a blanket and have an indoor picnic – or at least some popcorn.
Rent a classic romantic move like Casablanca, Sense and Sensibility, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, etc.