Intentional cultivation—the act of growing, raising, educating, or bettering something on purpose.
One skill I was most definitely not gifted with was that of a green thumb…everything I plant dies. Even a cactus has perished under my care. I really have no defense here…apparently, plants require watering, weeding, pruning, proper amounts of sunlight, etc. Thus far, my approach of “plant it and watch it grow” has remained ineffective.
You reap what you sow.
Just like plants, we can’t expect to have relationships grow when we don’t tend to them properly. My marriage has been in a tough season; I consider it “winter”…harsh, cold, elements not favorable to growing. And much like the current weather in Indiana…it has been a long, cold winter.
A lot of factors have contributed to making this season difficult. We don’t live near much family; most are around an hour away. Our current schedule has something scheduled every evening Monday through Thursday, and I work night shifts Fridays and Saturdays. Sundays usually consist of church in the morning and my passing out on the couch around 7pm. I’m not complaining about it. I enjoy our life; this is just the season we are in right now.
Recently, I was having a discussion with a girlfriend who is also in this season about being more intentional in our marriages and how we could improve our efforts. When she asked me what my and my husband’s go-to date night was…sadly, I searched my brain trying to think of the last date we had but couldn’t think of even one date within the past nine months.
As I lay in bed that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how long it had been since we had a date and how disappointed I was that we had allowed so many excuses to keep us from growing. I started to strategize…we definitely needed a date night. But, financially, we aren’t really in a position to hire a sitter once a week for dinner and a date away from home. Dinner and a movie would run us over $100 a week, including childcare. That’s like $500 a month!! And even if we could find a consistent sitter, our bedtime scene is not easily accomplished by one person—divide and conquer is a much more effective approach. If I wanted us to start dating again, I was going to have to get creative, and we were going to have to get intentional.
So, I went where you go when you need to get creative…Pinterest. I found some decent ideas but nothing that I thought we would actually be excited about. I decided to create a date jar with at-home dates we could do after the kids go to bed. I created a list of dates, and I decided it doesn’t matter so much what we do but that we both show up and that we are spending time together.
I was sure to include nights that I knew one or both of us may not be super excited about. I know my husband is not going to be excited to sit down and crochet with me, just as he knows that video games will not be my idea of the perfect date night. But that’s why I included them, so that we are doing something we know the other one enjoys. Neither of us knows a thing about astronomy, but when we draw out the stargazing date, we are going to do some research, make some hot chocolate and make it the best date we can. If we absolutely hated one of the dates we tried, we can either throw it out or try it again later and know we’d really better bring our A-game the next time around. The whole point is that we are intentionally spending time with one another and doing something other than scrolling through phones while sitting next to one another in a zombified state (which we have been found guilty of on way too many nights).
So, here’s how it works. We came up with a list of around 20 stay-at-home dates and wrote them on large craft sticks. Each week, we draw out a date from the jar that is for the next week. This gives us some time to prepare, gather any needed supplies, and figure out which night will work best based on how much time the date will take. Using 2 colors, I painted each ends of the stick. Once a date is completed, it may be flipped in the jar, and we know not to choose that stick again until all the sticks have been flipped and all the dates have been completed.
There are also four date-night-out sticks thrown in. They are color-coded differently because, with our schedule and locking down a sitter, we need a little more time to plan for those dates. Two of the date-night-out sticks are specified as “Sports Date Out” and “Arts Date Out” in an effort to get us a little creative and not always going with the typical dinner-and-a-movie date. A sport date out could be something like golfing, bowling, or going to a sporting event, while an arts date may include taking a painting class together, visiting an art gallery/museum, or seeing a play. The other two date-night-out sticks do not have a specific category.
If you do a date a week, there is over a year’s worth of dates in a jar. Each date will only repeat once, and at the end of the year, you will have spent around 100 hours of intentional time together. Considering that I couldn’t think of an actual date we had gone on in nine months, I’d say that’s a pretty significant improvement.
Look, I get that if you are in this season too, this all seems a bit corny at first. And I’ll be the first to admit that I had my doubts initially. We could just postpone date nights until the kids are a little older and it’s much easier to go out on an actual date instead of a stay-at-home date. But my fear is this…if we spend the next however many years it takes sitting next to one another on the couch for a few minutes each night, will we even know how to date one another when that time comes? If we aren’t intentional now, will we really be intentional then?
So for now, I’m okay with corny. I’m okay with dates in pj’s with homemade popcorn, and yes, even video games. Because I know if we can have fun together now in this hard “winter” season of our lives, we are going to have a blast together come “summertime.”
Check out the complete list of our Stay-at-Home Date Night Ideas, and be sure to check back next month when I share how we are being intentional with our family time as well.