This post was first published on June 27, 2011, and it’s every bit as true as it was then. In fact, it’s been good for me to reread it.

I admit: It was a glorious, beautiful thing we had going on in Austin. We lived near grandparents for the first time in years, and they knew as well as we did that it wouldn’t last forever. Because of this, they were willing to watch the kids regularly so that Kyle and I could have Date Nights.

Oh, so sacrificial were they as they spent time spraying the kids with the backyard water hose, making more cupcakes than any one family could possibly eat, sewing purses and doll dresses, and watching Saturday morning cartoons. Woe to them that they got to feed our kids things they never get to eat with Boring Ol’ Parents, and that they ate up story time, funny one-liners, and slobbery kisses.

It was rough for the grandparents.

Yep, they watched our three kids every other Friday night for more than a year. Well, it was two kids at first, but then Finn came along. And once he started sleeping through the night, he joined his big brother and sister and got to spend the night at Hot Rod and Nana’s.

That’s right. We picked up the kids by lunchtime Saturday. Glorious, indeed.

But we’re no strangers to Date Nights. We enjoyed them years ago, when it was just Tate and my parents watched her, and then later when we lived in the Middle East, we tag-teamed with neighbors as we watched each other’s kids. Every Thursday, we’d switch off — one family would watch all the kids while the other couple went on a date; the roles would switch the following week.

Date Nights are essential to our marriage and our sanity.

We get to complete sentences.

Two weeks eke by, believe it or not. By the time they roll around, we are desperate to talk to each other. Sure, we’ve got the evenings after the kids are in bed, but those conversations aren’t as fun. We’re tired.

When we go on a date, we enjoy getting into real conversations, ones that aren’t interrupted every ten seconds by, “Guess what I saw today?” or “Help me tie shoes, please.”

Typically, we say goodbye to the kids, climb into the car, drive out, and enjoy the silence for about a minute. Then, when we’re ready, one of us looks at the other and says, “Hi. How have you been?”

One of our first outings after Tate was born, more than six years ago now. Man, we look tired.

We get to be people other than parents.

We like movies that don’t involve finding that incessant Map. We like to play cards, drink wine and beer, and not cut up each other’s food. We also like to stay up later than 8 p.m.

We purposely narrow down our restaurant choice by its difficulty in taking children. The more difficult, the higher it is on our Date Night list.

We get to talk about important stuff.

There are many times when we goof off, laugh, and talk about shallow things. But Date Nights are some of the best times to ask each other the tough things we’ve been meaning to bring up, or to plan future stuff uninterruptedly.

This is our best time to bring up issues that aren’t emergencies, but have been on our minds and need a good talking through.

We remember that we like each other.

It’s all too easy to go day after day and only talk about the basics. Did you sign Tate’s field trip permission slip? We need to get butter at the grocery store. Would you please wash some towels when you get a chance? We’re out.

And this all too easily escalates into living like roommates. We’ve forgotten how to talk to each other romantically, even as friends sometimes.

Regular dates rekindle our relationship long before the spark goes out.

Our 8th anniversary

How to go on dates:

Have you forgotten how to date your spouse? Do whatever you can to get back in the routine — they’re terribly important. Really.

If you can’t afford a babysitter (we can’t), find a couple to tag team. We’re hoping to find this in Bend as soon as possible. I’ve even heard of a whole group of families that do this, so that yes, it’s utter chaos for a few hours with ten or so kids under one roof, but you get to go on a date for five out of six weeks. A good trade-off, I say.

Avoid movies, if you don’t go out often. Do things that allow you to talk and reconnect, not stare at a screen together.

Have fun. Remember what it was like to do things just for fun, because you like each other’s company. Go bowling or miniature golfing with the other college students on dates.

Go cheap. Dates don’t have to break the bank. Kyle and I would often use a Groupon or our Entertainment Passbook to have dinner, then get coffee at a local coffee shop and play a game. We kept our go-to games in the car at all times.

Get dressed up, just for fun. Every now and then, break out the dress shoes and skirt, for no real reason other than feeling date-ish. It’s fun to look nice for your spouse.

What’s your favorite Date Night with your spouse?

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