Ask AOW: Date Night

Who does it? Does it work? How do you make it work? Is it necessary?

I sort of want to leave the post like that, and let the magic that is the sisterhood of AOW fill the comments with their wisdom and experience, but I feel that I should probably write a post consisting of more than 15 words,  and which includes sentences that aren’t questions explain, so I guess I’ll continue.

So, here’s the thing. I’d never really understood ‘date night’. Andy and I have never had to schedule in a date night. Time was on our side. For most of our relationship, we lived right in the centre of a cosmopolitan city with restaurants, bars and all manner of culture, quite literally, on our doorstep. You could guarantee that in any given week, we’d have spent several nights enjoying ourselves and spending real quality time together. On the other nights, when we decided to stay in, we’d still spend time cooking together, eating together, chatting, discussing, and debating, and often wouldn’t leave the table until it was time to go to bed. We had a few friends who we saw regularly, but most of our friends were still in the UK, so we never really had to prioritise our relationship over anything else.

Things are a bit different now. Mainly because we are just starting to get our lives back on track again, after we accidentally crossed the bridge into the scary world of parenthood. For a long time we didn’t have the time, the energy, or  the babysitters to allow us to go out. When we stayed in, it was all too easy to spend time doing things we needed to do (ie write blog posts, respond to all of your wonderful emails, shower, sleep), or even just sit and stare into space looking dazed and smelling of vomit, and relish in the fact that she was finally, blissfully, asleep.

She’s older now though, and we have a babysitter we trust, so we now have the ability, and sometimes, even the energy, to consider making an effort and actually Going Out. To a place where grown-ups eat food that isn’t mushy, and where the cutlery isn’t made of plastic. This is exciting.

The trouble is, we often end up not Going Out on our own, because we have loads of friends that we want to catch up with, and only a limited amount of nights we can get babysitters for. It’s still a fairly major thing for us to go out, what with having to find the time to shower, and find clothes that aren’t covered in dubious stains, so we don’t actually do it unless it’s an Occasion. Which means, as it occurred to me the other day, that we’ve not actually been out on our own, without friends, since Emilia emerged into the world.

We’re lucky. So far, our relationship hasn’t seem to have been hit too hard by parenthood, apart from this one thing. But it’s got me wondering. Should we be scheduling in time for ourselves? Should we be putting it in our diary that once a week (fortnight? month?) we specifically make an effort to go out just the two of us? Does that not take the romance out of it? Does ‘forcing’ it to happen, somehow take away the joy of it?

I know most of you don’t have children yet, but I’m pretty sure most of you have careers, and friends, and various other time-pressures on your relationships – how do you make it work? Have you tried date night? Does it work for you? Does it not work for you?  AOWers, impart your knowledge….

What our life used to look like…

What it looks like now. Not bad…just….different…

Categories: Ask Anna, Ant and AOW, Family, Friends and Relationships, Marriage
18 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted July 19, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    We try to do this, and so often fail! For us, it’s the financial constraints that are the problem. We do spend evenings together, but we’re always in the house, so it’s a challenge to make it special or different from any other night flopped in front of the sofa. The teensy bit of cash we have for entertainment is (more than) spent on going out for other people’s birthdays, hens, stags etc, so we’re never together. We go out for dinner together maybe two or three times a year (birthdays, anniversary). If we’re not working at the weekend, we do make an effort to go out to places, but the weather’s been so awful this summer we’ve stayed in even more than usual. This is a timely reminder that we should get back on it, thanks Clare! Love that you’re finally getting some time to yourself at last (we’ve missed you!)


    • Kate S
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      Penny this is exactly us. Financial constraints means we don’t often get to actually ‘go out’ of an evening and, as you say, it’s difficult to differentiate one evening in the house from another.

      He says I’m always on the laptop or ‘faffing’ with cake toppers. I say he’s always watching some random war film or, grrrr, playing Fifa.

      He’s a police officer so works shifts meaning the evenings we’re actually in the house together are quite minimal. I do think we need to make more of an effort to actually make something of those evenings.

      I mentioned at the beginning of the week that we should have a date night tomorrow. All this really means is that I make steak for dinner and we watch a film we’ll both enjoy but it’s better than nothing! :)

      • Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Ha, snap! Our special nights involve nice tea and a film, always! If we ever end up in the pub or a bar just the two of us it feels so odd. We always sit there saying “this is what other people do! Normal people!”


  2. Emily
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    We have a slightly different problem – we are apart during the week, and we are tied to Dorset at the weekend because of Keith’s job. One of the things I long for is for us to see friends together – I’ve been to two weddings since ours on my own, and unless people come to stay with us we just don’t see people together. I’d love to just meet friends for supper, or a Saturday picnic, or really do anything spontaneously! We do make a real effort to make weekends fun, but sometimes I feel a sort of pressure to make them as fantastic as possible because on Tuesday morning I’ll be back on the train – a bit like Valentine’s Day every weekend! And the guilt when work gets in the way like it has done recently… For us, I think it is better to just take small things and try to make them romantic rather than plan too much – if we force it it always turns into a disaster somehow. We had candlelit scrambled eggs and prosecco in the garden the other day after a work do, and it was one of the most lovely evenings I can remember. xxx

    • Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Emily, this is so true, when we were doing long-distance I found the pressure to make weekends ‘special’ and ‘worth the wait’ really stressful, it took us ages to actually spend time together doing nothing. It’s like your relationship compressed into 2 days, and everyone is very intense so it’s a gift to get time that is more relaxed!

      K x

  3. Kate
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    My husband hates the term “date night” but we definitely have them. We have kind of allocated Friday night to just spending time together, although usually we have a special dinner at home rather than going out. It started when T was working very very long hours and wouldn’t come home from work until the early hours of the morning 7 days a week for months on end. It was horrible not seeing each other so we agreed that no matter what he would leave work early on a Friday, even if this meant he was home at 9:30 we got to spend a bit of time together. His work isn’t as bad now but the tradtion has kind of stuck and it is very rare that either of us will arrange to see friends etc on a Friday night. I like having that certainty of at least one night a week and as it’s a bit of an unwritten rule it never feels too arranged.

    I’m not sure how things will change once the baby arrives but I’m hoping we still get to keep a little bit of our Friday nights together. We’ve recently bought a small flat nearby as an investment and to let but I’m thinking we’ll keep it tennant free for a little while if possible to have somewhere to escape to when we leave the grandparents home with the baby – I think this might be us both being in denial and clinging onto the remains of our carefree lives and maybe our view will change once he/she arrives!

    • Vivienne
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Mine hates them too, although we do make the effort to have our version of them. We like going for a ‘posh tea’ at our engagement hotel, or even just taking the time one night to switch off the tv and laptop and actually talk to each other with no other distractions

  4. Leeanne
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    We have a 3 month old and haven’t really had the time or money for date night plus we haven’t felt ready to leave her overnight yet. The few times we have been out have been for our anniversary – back home at 11 and sober. And for a friends wedding reception – again home for 11 and sober.

    Instead of date night we have had a few date afternoons, we drop Chloe off at a set of grandparents then either go a walk, go for lunch or have some time in bed :)

    It’s my birthday in September and we plan to stay overnight and have a lively romantic night out which will be great but I would like to make sure we have a few spontaneous nights out now and again, even just a trip to the cinema.

    Although we haven’t been out much ourselves I do t think our relationship has suffered, we have a gorgeous baby girl and sometimes prefer just staying in with her cuddled up on the couch watching a DVD and munching my latest baking attempts.

    • Jo S
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      When my husband emigrated here we used to go out every week on the night my son went to stay with his father and every other weekend. Eventually we realised we weren’t going out because we really wanted to but we felt we had to make the most of the freedom which somehow took away the enjoyment and we would spend our whole free precious hours sat in a bar or restaurant. We decided to stay in more on our free nights and have nice food, wine and a relaxing evening making the most of having our home to ourselves with no bath and bed routine and a lovely lie in in the morning. The best bit was me having an un-interrupted soak in a bubble bath with hubby bringing me a glass of wine up and leaving me in peace for an hour.
      I also enjoy my solo date night with no child or husband, just me!

      • Clare
        Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        Date night for just you – oh yes. As much as I need time with Andy, I also need some time for just me.

  5. Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    We get to see each other quite a lot so don’t really need to schedule in date nights that often, mostly they just happen. My sister and brother in law have a baby though, and every so often he rings her at lunchtime to say that he’s booked a table and a babysitter for that evening and they go out on a date. Personally I think that is super cute! :)

    • Clare
      Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      I am totally forwarding that comment to Andy!

  6. Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    We are awful for this, over the last 9 months we’ve barely seen each other, first Gareth was working all the hours, and now I am instead. On top of that our friends are scattered all over the country so we spend most weekends away, or with people visiting us. And we spend evenings exercising, or seeing friends or my family, or tidying the flat because we’re both naturally shit-tip messy. We love seeing so many people but we’re horribly bad at forcing time for us to just be alone together.

    We’re getting better though, last night in fact we implemented a plan to have a weekend away together, once every 3-4 months (by booking them into the diary now so they’re immovable). And we are trying to keep one evening free every 2-3 weeks to spend time doing something together, even if i turns out to be a picnic in the rain, where we get very wet because I refuse to rush my strawberry tart for the weather.

    I think ‘date night’ can be an annoying term, and as you say, perhaps feels forced but making time for the two of you as a couple is vital, and if it takes rigid scheduling to get it right now, then it’s too valuable not to try. Sometimes it might feel forced, but other times you might find that you laugh together, and remember why the two of you are so awesome, together.

    K x

  7. Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Another one here who hates the term, it makes my teeth itch.

    We’re pretty good for making time for each other, both scheduled and impromptu. Both physically and mentally, I feel it’s important for us to spend time together, away from technology and interaction with others (save for asking the bar staff for another drink!), just to reset our batteries. We talk, we cuddle, sometimes we don’t say anything at all – just being together is enough.

    As much as I love meals out or excursions, there’s something wonderful about going for a long walk and coming home and collapsing on the sofa together. For us, it’s just about making the time count.

    On that note, I’m off to make Mr M a cuppa and steal a cheeky cuddle on the sofa whilst he’s on a conference call.

  8. Esme
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    We spend quite a lot of time together as neither of us work particularly long hours and we don’t have many friends nearby. But we don’t spend enough ‘quality time’ together and I think that’s really important. Partly it’s financial and partly laziness, but there are very few nights where we specifically say ‘no TV, no mobiles, no computer, just you, me and a bottle of wine’.

    However, if we specifically put these nights in the diary as ‘date nights’ I’m not sure they would be so special or fun. Isn’t it more fun to say ‘meet me from the train station and we’re going to Pizza Express’? I’m not very spontaneous, but I love those nights.

    Saying that (I’m feeling very contradictory today!) we’ve always said that when we have children we will make sure we go out just the two of us as often as possible.

  9. Vivienne
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    We are making more of an effort at the moment to spend proper time together before baby comes – so meals out, shopping and cinema, as well as technology free nights where we properly talk. I think everyone needs to make time for their relationship – even if it is just a shared bottle of wine at home, as it is too easy to get swept away for weeks on end by work and life

  10. Frances
    Posted July 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    We don’t spend a lot of time together during the week due to both getting home late but where possible we do try to commute home together – having half an hour to do the Evening Standard crossword together doesn’t sound romantic but it is a lot of fun and lets us ease into the evening together. We tend to do a lot together at the weekend but don’t actually go out a lot on ‘dates’ per se – this is partly because wedding planning is taking up a lot of weekend and also because we mostly enjoy cooking food and dancing round the kitchen all by ourselves.

    Sometimes I wonder if we should be ‘going out on dates’ more but I think it has to be about just making sure you spend time together. When I was working abroad that time was more scheduled, but now it’s a lot more flexible and it suits us the way it is.

  11. Posted July 23, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Pete and I are just like you and Andy Clare, just without the baby! What I mean is that we prioritise time with friends above being by ourselves, partly because we’re social people and like seeing friends, but it does mean we rarely go out together alone.

    This weekend we didnt have much planned and ended up going out on Friday by ourselves, dipping a toe into house hunting, having some very useful conversations and having take-away alone on Saturday. It was much needed.

    Throughout our realtionship we have always tried to keep certan times free, it used to be Sunday when we were at Uni, but now it’s Friday night and involves collapsing with Pizza and wine, but even that has gone astray lately. I love date night, it’s just giving prioritising your partner or marriage a name.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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