explorations of mindful fatherhood

The Curse of Date Night


My mother once said that in order for the family to be happy, parents have to make time for themselves as a couple.  She was divorced a year later.  Regardless, her statement still rings true.

There aren’t a lot of things my mom and I agree on, but I guess this is one of them.  And yet this has been one of the most difficult things for my wife and I to do: make time for dates.

As first time parents, my wife and I refused to leave our infant son with a babysitter.  We were both working, my wife Tuesday-Friday and me Monday-Thursday, each cramming 40 hours of work into 4 days. That meant our son was in daycare 3 days a week from a very early age.  It was perhaps the most difficult thing we’ve had to do as parents.  So, with him being ripped away from us 3 days a week, it was unthinkable that we’d go on a date.  We did what we could, taking him to restaurants or the park, taking advantage of the down time together while he slept, but that was the extent of it.

As a toddler, the pattern simply continued.  There were no good candidates for babysitters.  Our closest relatives are 3 hours away, and all of our friends worked or had children of their own.  We just couldn’t bite the bullet and use a website or a neighborhood teenager.  For many years, dates consisted of putting our son to bed and watching TV.  If that qualifies as dating, we have a hell of a dating record.

It really wasn’t until he was 3 years old that we started dating again.  But even now, our dates are very infrequent.  We have a lovely high-school aged babysitter from a good family whom our son loves (and likely has a crush on), but we almost never text her to set up a time.  Some of it’s the cost, some of it’s laziness, but there’s also (dun dun dun!) the Curse of Date Night.

The Curse of Date Night is what I call the fear that surrounds infrequent dates.  I was recently having coffee with a friend, and was  relieved when he shared a similar taboo/anxiety about dating.  I described to him that when my wife and I do set aside time for a date, two fears are prevalent: that we’ll get into some argument and/or we won’t have anything to say to one another.

The first fear has been realized a few times.  Driving to the new restaurant we get lost, and there’s a spat about how to get to the place.  Or, we can’t find a parking spot and get flustered with one another.  The arguments aren’t about the directions or the parking space, but about the fact that we can’t “just have a nice time together”.  There are so many anxieties around leaving our son for a date, that we as a couple put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to “have a good time”.  At the first sign of any conflict or difficult, we slam ourselves for not being able to have fun.  Inevitably, we’re able to come back to our senses and recognize the incredible strain we put on ourselves.  Only then can we brush off the difficulty and have fun.

The second fear is something that arose more recently: the fear of not having anything to talk about.  My wife was afraid that we’d make time for a date, sit down at a restaurant, and stare at each other blankly.  I was surprised to hear her describe things this way, but it made sense.  Sometimes when we sit down for dinner as a family, we’re lively and joking, but other times the energy is low, because we’re (I’m) worn out. My wife was concerned that on a date, I’d let my guard down and practically fall asleep at the table.

In spite of these fears, we set out on a date a few weeks back. We used a gift certificate from Christmas and headed to a fancy restaurant.  And….it was a success.  Not a single argument, and great conversation for two straight hours.  We did it.

I believe that with these infrequent date nights, my wife and I put an inordinate amount of pressure on ourselves to make them a perfect success. Dates are so few and far in between that we wonder if we can even do it at all.  But, we’re making some strides and getting out there, in spite of the curse.


Author: CJ Nigh

I am an East Coast writer with a Midwestern soul. Undead Dad is a blog about mindful fatherhood in the deadening age of hyper-technology and over-work. I also write science fiction for young adults.

26 thoughts on “The Curse of Date Night

  1. Date nights are infrequent at my house too. So infrequent that we strive for day dates while they are in school.

    I will say I truly enjoy a meal that doesn’t require me to clean, cut, or serve.

    Good luck!

  2. Our dates happen during breakfast hours on Friday after the kids have gone to school. We go to a local breakfast place and feel like two little kids skipping school or, rather, work. After breakfast, we hug in the parking lot and go our separate ways to work. This ritual has become timeless and more meaningful than a traditional date for us.

    • OB…that sounds wonderful ritual! I’d love a breakfast date as well. Perhaps I’ll play hookey from work one of these days and grab some waffles. Thanks for the idea.

  3. We get thumped over the head about this date night thing in advice articles, but we have more like date “moments” throughout our day. Frankly, we’re too damned tired to do much else. We’ve had some date nights and they were enjoyable, but I dread all the work leading up to it – arranging the babysitter, figuring out what to do or where to go. We joked that we’d like to get a hotel room for a few hours, so we could take an uninterrupted nap.

    • Agreed Michelle! In fact, our son was home sick from school today. He spent our dinner hour asleep under his make-shift fort on the couch while my wife and I enjoyed a blissful dinner. Quite the dating “moment”.

  4. Date night is difficult. My wife and I rarely go out. When we do, we spend our time talking about the kids. We don’t go out long enough to see a movie or anything. It’s usually just enough to have coffee and maybe something sweet. I suppose at some point that will change but it is a dilemma all the same.

    • Yes, MM, we usually spend most of the time talking about our son anyways. We used to LOVE going to see movies when we were childless, but now when we go on dates, we might as well find something else to do so that we can actually talk. I can’t wait for the day when movie-going is more routine again!

  5. I can relate, as nights out away from the child have been infrequent. But if you relax and try to act like two adults having a good time, eventually good times do come.

  6. Super post. I have had a sneaking suspicion recently that mine and my wife’s pathetic efforts to try and get out together have had less to do with a concern that our kids will adapt to a baby sitter and more to do with something else. Maybe you have nailed it. Maybe we are both petrified we will go out and realise that after 3 years we will have nothing left in common, beyond our children. I doubt it, but the fear looms large!

    • Yes, we went through the same attempts at getting our son acclimated to the babysitter. I even remember going out to lunch on a Saturday, just so he could get used to her. Not a “real date”, just killing time for our son’s sake. That was when he was smaller. Now, dates are so infrequent, that he never quite gets used to the babysitter.

  7. Yep. Sent home postcards. We juat had a (very rare) date night and it was awful.

  8. Definitely a rarity for us. I suppose there’s something to the fear factor…but here’s another way to look at it: Who else in the world should you be more comfortable sitting with and not talking than your spouse? What a gift…

  9. You’re not alone, my friend. My wife and I don’t get out very often, and when we do, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the very kids that we’re trying to escape for an evening! I worry about what we’ll talk about once they leave the house!

    It’s must be tough not having family close, we’re lucky int hat regard. Good luck!

    • Thanks for the comment Donofalltrades! We too, spend most of our time talking about him, or his friends, or other things about him that we can’t discuss in his presence.

  10. Yes. yes. yes. Honestly, the only dates that I find satisfying are ones where our kids spend the night at the grandparents house. That is the length required to unwind, do the obligatory kid talk, and finally get around to smiling at and enjoying each other.

    • Yes, it’s never enough time. When we first started going on dates, we’d set up really short ones, because we didn’t know how he’d take to the babysitter. Definitely wasn’t enough time to settle in. We’re a bit more realistic with ourselves now and give it more time.

  11. date night, it’s more like date moment. I read your post and smiled, we’ve been married twenty one and half years and i can’t remember the last ‘date’ mainly because it’s so darned difficult to find sitters and like you we live far from family. and then of course, how long are we gone? So dating is while we are watching our kids at sports – wrestling, softball, basketball, football, in between cheering and clapping – sometimes in the car on the way.

    • Clay, I agree, it’s those little moments. And you’re right, we live damn far away from family, so it’s quite a production finding someone. I look forward to him paying sports so we can be with him and without him at the same time, if that makes any sense!

  12. Pingback: Making the Days Count » Blog Archive » Being thankful, the Liebster Award

  13. Pingback: I would date more and fear less. | Reflections of a Divorced Mom

  14. All of our family live in different states, so I completely understand the drama of finding a good sitter. Plus – by the time you pay the sitter, there isn’t much left to spend on the date! When our kids were really little, we did a few date night “swaps” with a close friend. Once a month we would take their kids so they could spend time together and once a month they would take ours for date night. It was a win win since our kids were about the same age. Now, my girls are 15 and 11, so there are little pockets of time we find for a quick date – an early dinner while they are at practice, take-out and a movie rental while we are waiting to pick someone up from their friend’s house, etc. And, after 12 + years of marriage, we still don’t’ have those “cricket” moments…probably because my husband lets me do all the talking and pick the restaurant : )

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