Why Wait For Date Night
The above picture is one of my favorites. It's not staged from some engagement shoot, or our wedding. It's actually from Greg's best friend's wedding. Greg was the best man and officiant, and I, of course,
his date. At the reception, we were on the dance floor for a slow dance when their photographer caught this moment, and I am so thankful to have the memory.
Our relationship has a lot going on, to say the least. We're from different faiths, different cultures, and most telling, we definitely hung out in different groups in high school.
We navigated all of that, plus long distance for about two years. We actually did long distance while wedding planning, which if you've planned a wedding and know how stressful it can be, just imagine doing that while trying to figure out two sets of traditions and your signif isn't even in the state.
This isn't meant to be a brag, or a sort of 'look at all we've been through.' I kind of just still can't believe that Greg wasn't even in the country for six of the eight weeks leading up to our wedding. And I'm not sure how I survived it.
So, I guess you could say we've had a few obstacles in the almost four years we've been together.
We were asked by the NYT Vows if they could cover our wedding, because they thought we were 'interesting.' They didn't even know yet we met online.
With so much nuance, I don't think anyone could ever really be an expert on relationships. There's no one right answer or best way of doing things. Even similar or compatible people could have different love languages, causing some tension in a relationship.
But here I am offering a mix of advice and suggestions. Because relationships are work, and if there's someone in your life that you care about, and you're looking for ways to improve or maintain your relationship, maybe some of the things that worked for us, will also work for you!
This post in particular, is about ways to be close, and to make time for each other. If your love language is quality time, this post might have been made just for you.
I know a lot of couples have a date night where they go out about once a month for a dinner, or a movie, and it's like clockwork. Sometimes it might even start to seem like another item on the to do list. Or, if you're really busy, you have the same old date night. You go through the repetitive motions, without really thinking about it, because maybe neither of you has time to plan.
But I truly believe that being close doesn't have to be a date where you get dressed up and go out. Having done long distance for so long, it might not even be an option sometimes. Throughout our relationship, we've mixed up the ways in which we spend time together. And not just the way, but the amount of time and the frequency. Because what is working now, might not work next month, next year, or in the summer when the kids are out of school.
So here are some of the ways Greg and I have made time to be close, that don't involved your traditional date night.
1. A Monster of the Day
This is a book I got forever ago, well before meeting Greg. It was a random and unnecessary buy, but I love history and I love learning little bits about things. Part of what attracted me to Greg is that he liked to learn things as well. I decided randomly one summer, that each day I would read about one of 'History's Monsters' and summarize it into my own hilarious words, and send to Greg. This way, I would be motivated to actually read one of the books on my shelf before buying more. We had started long distance, and sending a good morning text just didn't feel like enough.
I think I kept up with it for 20 days, but it was kind of time consuming and started to feel like doing a homework assignment on top of everything else. My summaries were pretty detailed, and the additional commentary was the key to making it feel like something from me. Not long after I stopped, I actually went to Europe for two weeks, and Greg found a way to keep the learning going. He decided that for the length of my trip he would send me a message everyday about a significant physics number. He was looking to get a refresh on some basic physics knowledge before starting his grad program and had recently gotten a book called 100 Physics Numbers. I love that he included me since I don't know much about physics. Science was not my strongest subject in high school, and I avoided it as much as I could in college, but his little additions in tying the number back to us, to help me remember were really sweet, and had me wanting to learn more.
About a year later, I decided it would be fun to go through some more profiles together. Each night in October, the spookiest time of year, we would get on FaceTime and I would read the profile of a real life monster while Greg listened. Each profile was about two pages, and there was usually another half page tidbit about some side fun fact, like where the word assassin originates from. It added a little purpose to our daily calls when we talked about it. When sometimes at the end of the day, you're just tired, work was work, and you had the same sandwich for lunch and the same food you meal prepped for dinner, it's nice to add something different to the mix.
We were learning a little something together every day, I was getting closer to finishing this book, and we both had a small piece of us time to look forward to every night. After our wedding, when we finally got to move in together, we read one a day together for the month of January. From time to time, we'll grab the book and learn a little something again. It's a nice, small way that we can come together and have a few moments.
2. Surprise Each Other
I know this is easier said than done, but remember, surprises don't have to be a weekend getaway or a proposal. They can be small treasures. Greg tries to get me flowers but we go grocery shopping together, so it's hard to surprise me when I see him put them in the cart. But many of us shop online, and maybe you come across something you know your signif will love. When we first started dating, Greg knew I was stressed from work, and he knew that I liked to color, so when he came over he brought a new coloring book he probably got from Walmart and a 24 pack of crayons.
It was thoughtful, and I could see how he was trying to add a little cheer to my world, and offering to do something that he knew I enjoyed together. We already planned on meeting, and at the time we would see each other every weekend, but his little way of adding to it one weekend is still something I remember and think about. My nieces and nephews have since enjoyed the Minions coloring book and stickers as well.
Maybe you already have something weekly planned. Maybe every weekend you and your signif get together to binge watch more of that one show. Surprise them with a new candle to set the mood while you cuddle on the couch and watch, or their favorite showtime snack. It shows you're paying attention to their likes and dislikes, and it shows that you're actively thinking about ways to be closer and strengthen your bond with acts of service. You're getting two love languages in one date!
3. Spill the Tea
You're probably wondering what Greg is so excited about in the previous picture. For our first Christmas together as husband and wife, I had surprised him with a tea advent calendar from David's Tea. I enjoy tea; Greg LOVES tea. I ordered the advent calendar on black Friday from the comfort of our home, and there was even an option to include one serving or two for each tea. I selected two, and imagined how Greg and I would try a new tea together every day.
Seriously, how gorgeous is this advent calendar? It even comes with a spoon to measure out the perfect cup of tea. We were so excited to try them all. We would get up in the morning and ask when we wanted to try the cup of tea together. We made note of the ones we really liked, and even some that we thought friends would really enjoy as a possible Christmas gift. It was exciting to try something new together every day; to open up each box, and find out which tea we would be trying that day. Before looking at the description on the back, we would try and smell the tea and guess what was in the blend.
Each box was beautiful, and the advent calendar was so well made, that we will definitely be re-using it by filling it ourselves and creating a new advent calendar.
Maybe next year I'll fill it with little notes and compliments for Greg. Maybe one year we'll fill it with different candies.
The possibilities are endless, but any way you do it, it's a daily dose of that feeling you get when you're excited about something, and someone.
4. Stroll Down Memory Lane
Getting close doesn't always need to mean something new. Sometimes you can just look back on some of the special moments you have and admire the memory of that feeling. Most of us spend time scrolling through some form of social media on our phones. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. Scroll through your own feed, or your own pictures and look at some of the fun things you did a year ago, two years ago, before you got engaged or married. Maybe look at some of the pins you've tried on Pinterest and plan on making that meal you both liked again. The picture above is from one of my visits to Greg. My sweet tooth was out of control and he picked a few local bakeries for us to stop at and try some different sweets. Now that I'm in Illinois, maybe we can stop by and pick them up again. I do love tres leches.
To the left is a picture of a little gift I sent Greg when we first started long distance. We had been dating a little over a year when we decided that we were going to go for it and give long distance a shot. When we originally met, Greg knew he would be moving out of state for grad school within the year, but we clicked and decided to continue spending time together. Just let things flow and see what happens.
Well we continued to enjoy each other's company. A month before his first semester of grad school, we found ourselves half way across the country and unable to have those weekly dates we had become so accustomed to.
I scrolled through my Youtube history, and put together a list of songs that throughout our first year together we introduced each other to. Songs Greg loved and introduced me to, songs from some memorable date, or even a few new songs that were stuck in my head and I wanted to share with him.
I wrote each song on a little post it, and included a little note. Folded them, mixed them up, and stuffed them into a little mason jar. Greg was instructed to pull one out every night and listen to the song. Each note let him know that he was missed, and that I was excited to see him again.
Maybe you aren't doing long distance and you like to workout together. Put together a new playlist with all of the songs that are special to you both.
5. Puzzles & Pizza
I know it can get kind of overwhelming, paying attention to all of the national days. National ice cream cone day, national star wars day, national carbonated beverage WITH caffeine day. I'm not making this up, they are actual days that I found online. I'm still not sure what day we're supposed to celebrate carbonated beverages without caffeine.
But strangeness aside, sometimes these weird days can help jog our creativity, and get us thinking outside of the box. This past January, we found out it was National Jigsaw Puzzle Month. Illinois was freezing, polar vortex freezing, we had no desire to leave the comfort of our apartment any more than necessary, and Barnes & Noble had a sale where you could buy one puzzle and get the second 50% off. Together we picked out the Harry Potter one above, and a box set that had five Thomas Kinkade paintings turned puzzles.
When we looked at the box, we thought the paintings were all so pretty and soothing. The five puzzles ranged from 350-700 pieces. We thought we would start with fewer pieces and work our way up to the 750 piece puzzle.
Each week we would grab a pizza from Aldi while grocery shopping, and then on Saturday we would clear off the kitchen table, grab a hot beverage, look at each other with an oddly serious 'we got this' nod, and start the timer.
I can't emphasize how surprised we were at the level of difficulty. We would look at the timer and an hour had already gone by; we wouldn't even be half way done. Pop the pizza in the oven for sustenance. We would need fuel if we were going to persevere, and finish the puzzle.
I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating. But look at those pieces. They're the weirdest shapes; some of them looked like they could be end pieces, but weren't. Some of them even had a point, instead of a side. HOW IN THE WORLD?!?!?!
This wasn't actually a war, but we were on a team, and we were working together towards something. And it felt nice to do that. That's what being in a relationship is anyways, being on a team.
Are there times where we're on different pages? Absolutely. Living together for the first time after getting married, being in a new state far away from my family, and not knowing anyone nearby, put a lot of strain on our relationship. It was a lot of new things for me, it was overwhelming, and I was far away from my usual support system. But I don't think we would have gotten past that emotional start if we hadn't put the time in to build a bond and be a more cohesive team.
I hope the ideas in the post help you figure out what works for you and your signif.
Our bonding for 2019 is the Year of the Pancake. Greg and I are trying out a different pancake each week together. You can see the recipes we come up with as we try to perfect pancakes here.