Candace Ganger
Updated Aug 31, 2016 @ 6:03 pm
Credit: Candace Ganger

My husband works a hard second shift that sometimes bleeds into the midnight hour. Typically, he leaves just before noon — and if I’m lucky — I’ll see him for a quick dinner on his work days. Otherwise, I won’t see his face until the next morning. Because of his field of work (cable line tech), he’s pressed to continue working until things are fixed. This obviously compromises his sleep, mood, and our time together as a family and couple.

Lately, this schedule can make it feel as though we’re strangers in passing. He’s either gone and working, or home and tired — while I care for our two children, work a fixed writing schedule, and take care of other errands and household duties. Even though he only works four days of the week, it takes a toll.

For someone like me, it’s hard to stay connected if my partner is rarely here — and worse, not completely present and mindful when he is around. I’m sure this is a common problem among couples, but having been together for twelve years and married for nine, I wanted to improve our time together.

I vowed to find a way to re-connect in a realistic way that wouldn’t mean spending big bucks or getting a sitter every weekend. So, I sought out to see if going on a date with my husband seven days in a row, however possible, would help us rediscover those butterflies.

Here’s how it went:

Date #1: Dinner out (with one child in tow)

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The purpose of this experiment is to re-connect, and the fact is, we don’t always have sitters available to us — though, for this particular weekend, our eldest stayed at a grandparent’s house. So in turn, we didn’t technically stray from the plan — we just brought our little guy along. It’s not ideal to try to talk over a four-year-old’s continual conversation, but once we handed him a phone to play games on, we were able to look into each other’s eyes and genuinely ask about each other’s day. The best part? We were only interrupted a handful of times (a new record!) because we only had the one child with us! We ate a nice meal (that I didn’t have to cook), and in the end, it was nice to be together for the first time in that whole week.

Date #2: Coffee Speed-Date

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After my Sunday run, my husband picked up our two favorite coffee drinks. As our youngest child played with toys, we sat at the table, drank our coffees, and talked for ten solid minutes. It may not seem like a lot, but on these hectic days, it’s everything. There was no official timer, because that would be weird, but when our son tried to interrupt, we’d tell him “We’re still on a date for 3 more minutes,” and continue talking. It’s really not often that we hear each other’s voices outside of parenting, so this was an easy, inexpensive way to make couple time a priority before his work day begins.

Date #3: A walk around town (with the kids)

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Again, not ideal to drag the kids on our “dates” — but family time is good, too. The whole point is to get away from the phones, TVs, and other distractions, and just “be” with each other. This day, though, wasn’t the best date we’ve ever had. The kids were grumpy and arguing about everything, and my husband was visibly tired after having worked late the night before. I’d say the odds weren’t in our favor from the start, but we did give it a solid effort. Instead of connecting us more, this forced date and conversation only caused more stress.

Date #4: Trip to the doctor!

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Unfortunately, our date plans were postponed after realizing I completely forgot to schedule my son’s *required* check-up before school starts — oops! So, instead of canoodling or doing other date-like activities, we spent the entire morning in an exam room, holding my son after he received vaccinations we didn’t think he needed until next year. (Followed bya pit-stop at the store to buy him a toy for being “so brave.”) I’ll be honest — I was bummed out that we didn’t get any kind of one-on-one time. I’ve felt frazzled and really wanted to connect with my partner. Sometimes, though, life happens — and I guess you could call the 25-minute drive to the doctor ~alone time~ if you discount all the backseat arguing.

Date #5: Meal out

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There was a severe thunderstorm warning in our counties, and in the days before, tornadoes touched down a state over near my hometown of Indiana. Considering my severe anxiety disorder, I really didn’t want to stay home and wait it out. Instead, we headed out to eat (again), and had some good food while the storm passed over. Of course, it wasn’t my ideal date, or restaurant, but it did give us time to sit and talk for a while — which was very much needed at this point. All in all, I’m grateful for the weather, because otherwise, we might’ve fallen into our ordinary home routine of going through the motions.

Date #6: Pizza night at home

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As I said before, date night doesn’t always mean we’re kid-free! That’s rarely the case, because finding a sitter can sometimes be difficult. The trick is finding ways to keep our kids occupied for a short time and/or including them in something family-oriented. We were lucky that on this evening, our daughter played outside with friends, and the youngest much preferred his toys over our company. So, once we had our pizza, it felt like we were alone. We even got to turn the TV to a non-kids show which was a HUGE bonus! The pizza was good, too, but sitting next to my husband after a few weird days was the best part.

Date #7: Ice cream party in the car

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Dating can sometimes be improvisation. On our seventh and final date, as we lingered on our way home from errands, we spotted the holy grail — Dairy Queen — and had our own little party in the car. We took the long, winding backroads to give us more time together while enjoying the ice cream and contemplating life. It doesn’t really get better than that.

Overall, I’d say it’s not ideal to plan seven dates in seven days, especially when life is crammed with kid and work stuff. But I’m sure it’s easier when there’s more time and/or money to do so.

The point I wanted to make is that a “date” can be anything if you’re mindfully spending time together.

Connecting with no phones, no TV — that is what I wanted. With a little better planning, this experiment could have gone a lot better — but this a realistic portrait of how a relationship can find small chunks of time for “dating.” Twelve years into our relationship, it’s not only important, it’s necessary. Though, no matter how long you’ve been together, kids or no kids — as long as there’s a desire to be together, and an effort to know about your partner, anything can be a date (including doing the laundry, washing dishes, and even paying bills.)

Not as fun, maybe, but at least it’s time spent together, and that’s what this whole thing was about.