Remember those days when you first met your partner and everything in the world was seen through rose-colored glasses? That person could do no wrong. All you wanted was to spend every last minute with them.
Then you got married.
Then you had kids.
Then you realized being an adult requires more work, patience, and determination that you ever thought possible.
Where did all the romance go? With the doctors’ visits, the football practices, the late-night homework sessions…oh, yeah, and the cooking, and cleaning, and the working two full-time jobs that sometimes take even more time.
This is particularly difficult for those who have children with special needs. It takes longer to trust other people watching your kids. If you are lucky to find someone qualified, they usually charge an arm and a leg for their services. As one of our daycare providers in Maryland once said, “We charge more because we know we are the only ones in the area who does this.”
In the special needs’ world, it is extortion at its best sometimes. According to MarketWatch, in America, 29% of people aged 18 to 34 are more than $500.00 in debt from overspending on dates spending an average of $1,596.00 a year on dates! Just dates. For those math folks, that is $133.00 a month and $33.25 a week.
Watching my parents, who married at age 16, had their first kid at 18, lost a child, had 7 more, and have gone to college (earning JD and PhDs) while raising us, I learned a successful marriage requires date night. My parents did it at least once a week – leave the kids and spend time with your spouse. So, when I married my husband, we agreed this is a requirement for our marriage too. Thank God, he agreed!
How do you find time for romance in the chaos without breaking the budget? First – make a budget. When you have a good budget, you can really enjoy things more.
Also, for those who qualify, look into your local Respite Care providers. Respite care is short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. We use this to help with grocery shopping, errands, prepping for holidays and so much more.
Before You Get Started
Before you get started, make sure you are scheduling this and putting it on the calendar. This is a priority. Then take turns planning them – surprise each other. Use this time to talk to each other (not about work, kids, or household). No excuses – date night is a priority. Never make excuses outside date night. I promise you date nights in your marriage will help you in parenting, relationships, and life in general.
Here are 12 creative no cost dates that helped our marriage cultivate instead of breaking our budget:
Without a sitter
1. Movie and Wine: When we first married, this was a great one! We would move the couch out of the way, lay down some pillows and blankets, and start a fire. The lights low, the cozy setting was perfectly matched with our favorite wine and a good movie. It is important the movie is something you both can enjoy. Some of our favorites are The Princess Bride, The Greatest Showman, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future series, and Indiana Jones series. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
2. Craft night: This is one of my favorites! My husband got me a subscription craft kit for Christmas. Instead of doing the craft alone, he does them with me. We like Adults and Crafts. For $33.00 a month, we get everything we need for a great date night. Once the kids are in bed, we enjoy time creating together. The nice thing about this date night is it can happen over multiple days sometimes. Certain crafts require setting/drying time, so date night becomes date weekend.
3. Themed movie marathons: This is a fun one that can also extend beyond the single night. We like to do movie marathons. Movies with sequels are great, but you are not limited to just this. We did a marathon of watching all Disney Animated movies in order. Our next one will be to watch all their live-action movies in order. This is also a great time to binge your favorite shows! This is great because it lets link back to our childhood, and often springs great conversation. ***This is great because you get to talk to each other during the movie without bothering anyone else. Talking is essential.
4. Play video games: So many times, I hear wives complain their husband spends his time playing video games instead of investing in them. Use this. Before I met my husband, I did not know video games had stories…like movies! Apparently, they do – and some are really interesting. Husbands, play the stories. Wives, watch the story (and your beau) conqueror all cheering him on. Not interested in the story, I paint or do a craft while listening sometimes. I am with my spouse, participating with him, and learning more about him.
5. Game night: This sounds like a cliché, but there is truth in this. Games have the power of sparking great conversation, building trust, and bringing the gift of laughter. We particularly like this night when we find new or unusual games (but the classic Sorry, Boggle, Scrabble, and Chess is just as good). Some of our favorite games are Shut the Box, Liars Dice, Vertell’s, and Qiddler.
6. Read books: I am an avid reader as it is, but it is so much more fun reading with my hubby. I like things like novels where he likes ghost stories. We have both really enjoyed historical pieces as well. This often has given us ideas for travel, routines, and date nights. We often switch between the two. Or, my favorite is when we start with his ghost stories and finish with my devotional or scripture reading.
7. Karaoke: There is something special about getting crazy in front of a mic with your special someone. No matter your skill level, this is a great date. Not ready to show off in public, show off in the safety of your living room with those you trust the most. Laughter is guaranteed no matter what on this date.
With a sitter
Movies and dinner are great. But search out happy hours, Taco Tuesdays, and specials first. The occasional, movie, fancy restaurant and trampoline park are great. But do not make these the go-to.
8. Coffee/Brew dates: These are so much fun and cost as little as $5.00 a person. We like to find a local brew company or coffee shop and enjoy the local fare. This is great for nights that have trivia or open mic. If nothing else, it is cheap entertainment supporting the local small businesses in the community to reminisce about for years to come.
9. Painting with a Twist: This is a great night out as a couple. Creating art (with someone to help if needed) and some wine/beer of your choice. You both get to be a little goofy and come home with a souvenir at the end. This is usually a splurge night for us as a couples event can range from $15.00 per person to $50.00. It is best to look in advance to ensure you like what is being taught to make in advance. We especially like to do this on fundraising nights as we know the proceeds help a local non-profit.
10. Dinner at a bar: This can also be a splurge night. But we like to go during happy hours and specials. With the right happy hour and special, we can spend less than $50.00 in total. This is a great way to sample new places. It is also fun to re-enact the first date or enjoy the simple pleasure of trying something new on the menu together.
11. Fishing/hiking: We love the adventure of the outdoors. A great hike (even in the winter with some hot chocolate) or sitting on the side of the bank with a book while he fishes are perfection. This FREE activity lends itself to experiencing nature, getting much-needed vitamin D, and feeling like you accomplished something together. Fish at the end of the day is also a great FREE meal.
12. Beach day: There is something about the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand that brings a peace in the sole. The sun, surf, and sand are a great way to get out and be silly. We like to pitch a tent and then enjoy playing in the water, watching dolphins, and building sandcastles.
13. Bonus Sex: I debated putting this here, but I think it is vital to all marriages. All marriages. Going too long without sex is detrimental to the foundation of the marriage. Many marriage counselors, pastors, and your parents (who are still together after decades of marriage) will all say sex is essential to the relationship. Sex reinforces the foundation, reconnects intimacy, rebuilds, and strengthens relationships and so much more! For more on this, check out this great article on healthy sex in marriage, and this article on why married sex is the best sex.