I've never been a fan of the terms "date night" and "quality time." I was even a bit smug about it, thinking "I don't need to set aside time for dates. We have fun together all the time. We get out and adventure around LA and the surrounding areas regularly. We hold hands and make fluttery eyes at each other all the time. Date night is for people who find themselves in a rut. Date night is for people who rarely have the privilege of getting to spend so much fun time with such a compatible partner. Date night is for people who have to schedule in reminders for fun and romance. In other words, date night is for other people (the poor saps)."
Can you tell there's a comeuppance coming?
It took a while to realize just how little quality romantic time we've been spending together, because we spend so much quality other time together too. Usually, our calendar is booked up months in advance, but we're spending most of those booked weekends together. Unfortunately, those booked weekends together don't mean that we're truly making time for each other over the scheduled activity. And suddenly, during our vacation in Oregon, it hit me just how much I've been missing Jason, even though we see each other all the time.
We've fallen into the patterns that are easy for most couples who are living together: much of our shared time is spent is spent engrossed in our various projects, getting things done around the house, or planning out to-do lists and coordinating schedules. Yes, there are concert nights at the Hollywood Bowl, dinner parties with friends, stories about our week over Thursday night dinner, and hikes in the nearby mountains, but somehow we've been losing sight of the romance.
Despite all the hand-holding and schmoop woven throughout all that weekend and evening time together, we haven't really set aside real chunks of savor-the-relationship time. We haven't had date nights that end the way date nights should. We've had date afternoons that rushed into dinner obligations. We've had dinner obligations that run until midnight and leave us exhausted when we get home. We've shortened our dinner conversations to rush back into side projects, equally worn out by our hectic lives and long workdays. We've allowed ourselves to drink too much wine during at-home Friday night TGIF dinners that lead to collapse in front of our favorite TV shows instead of collapsing elsewhere.
That calendar full of do-it-together activities distracted us from what's really important about setting aside time. We were reminded that an uninterrupted stretch of nothing whatsoever can feel divine as we held hands while exploring the Alberta District in Portland, trying to decide on a restaurant for dinner. We shared something more important than a must-see concert while drinking wine and eating cheese at Kings Estate winery outside Eugene. We reconnected during a wordless afternoon as we sat on a seaside cliff in Yachtas, taking in the view of the beach below, reading books under the late summer sun. We promised ourselves that we need to remember what our vacation felt like, and that we're going to take a little bit of our vacation home.
So we're scheduling in a once-a-month date night/afternoon. It's like a mini-vacation from our everyday. It's a time to remember and reconnect and savor. We're not really picky about whether it's a dinner, a street fair, or a simple walk through a park, so long as we give ourselves a real stretch of uninterrupted time and - this is key - we have to promise not to schedule anything afterwards. Our time can't be bookended by work, projects, wedding talk, family talk, or stress and to-do list obligations. Because date night is about "quality time" and I finally get it now.