All marriage experts will tell you of the importance of keeping your relationship ‘alive’ particularly during the child-rearing years. They will tell you that it’s all too easy to spend every second of your time meeting the demands of your children, and not the needs of each other. They will warn that you’ll drift apart if you don’t make a concerted effort to invest in your marriage regularly. With hushed tones, they’ll recount the story of a couple who, when their children had grown up and flown the nest, realised they had nothing in common anymore.
So, here’s an idea for keeping marriages fun and exciting, even in the child-rearing years! I can’t take any credit for the concept – it was something I saw on the internet before Christmas, and thought would be great to reproduce for Desert Dad’s Christmas present.
I took 50 coloured lollipop sticks, and wrote a different date idea on each one. It was challenging finding 50 different activities, but the Internet helped, and I did it over a few weeks. All the sticks went in a jar, and – voila! A gift to last the entire year, give or take a few weeks for holidays and dates that Desert Dad might want to plan himself, shock horror.
So what’s in the jar? The ‘predictable’ dates are in there – cinema, theatre, a live music event. But although they’re obvious, we rarely make time to actually do them. To be told by a lollipop stick that this week we need to go to the theatre – because you can’t say ‘no’ to a lollipop stick – will help get us out of the rut of staying in just because it’s been a long day and we can’t be bothered. There are a couple of twists in there too – like ‘Go to the restaurant which is top on TripAdvisor this week’.
Some of the dates are more like activities which we can enjoy doing together. More often than not, they’re things which one of us would usually do without the other – ‘make something together that the kids will enjoy’ was the first date which Desert Dad picked out. Usually I’m the crafty one, but being able to plan together a puppet theatre for the kids, and make a start on its creation, was a bonding experience. It reminded me that my husband can be creative, that he’s good to bounce ideas off, that he is interested in what our kids play with. We didn’t get very far with the project, but maybe it’ll be something we pick up on other nights, doing little bits gradually through the next couple of months. Other activities in this category are things like ‘Watch some live Blues’ and ‘Play an online pub quiz’ – my attempts to get involved in hubby’s passions.
Some of the date activities are more reflective: ‘plan a child-free weekend away’ will help us to work out what we most need to invest into our marriage, and ‘write a card/letter to someone who has blessed us recently’ will unite us in recognising a friend who has had an impact on our marriage. These things won’t necessarily last a whole evening, but are activities which will draw our often-independent lives together.
I’m struck by the amount of entertainment represented by the contents of our home – most of which we never touch. So some of the dates are about utilizing what we already have: ‘Watch a film we own but have never seen’, ‘Try a magazine cut-out recipe which we haven’t yet cooked’ and ‘Play a game we own but haven’t played for ages’.
We both enjoy cooking and baking, but usually do it on our own. ‘Bake something impressive’ or ‘Cook and eat an Indian feast’ will encourage us to plan, shop and be creative together!
Some of the dates are strokes of genius – if I do say so myself. Others, let’s be honest, are a bit of a barrel-scrape. But, despite this, here is a present which says “I love you and want to spend time with you”. It could be adapted for any special person in your life. Imagine the delight of a friend, receiving a booklet of treats you’d like to enjoy with her over the next few months? Or how excited your child would be, if you gave him a lucky dip bucket with a range of fun day trips and holiday activities?
Next time you’re stuck for a gift idea, why not try this?!