Wanna create a big batch of date nights so you and your sweetheart have fun things to do that nourish your relationship?
In this blog:
- We’ll look at the three types of dates: for the Lover, the Friend, and the Partner
- You’ll learn to set the stage for your date night summit so you both come to the table full of ideas
- And you’ll improve your invitation game by learning how to back up and be patient when you invite your sweetheart on a date.
Date night & your relationship: no plan = same date over and over
Let’s say you’re ahead of the relationship curve and you actually set aside a dedicated time to spend with your sweetheart doing something special that grows your relationship.
You and your sweetheart arrive at the appointed time for the date to begin and you look at your sweetheart, “Whatcha wanna do?” And your sweetheart looks at you, “I dunno. Whatta you wanna do?”
Watch this clip from The Jungle Book that makes fun of this moment everyone has.
And the conversation goes back and forth, “Wanna go get dinner?”
“Nah,” says your sweetheart. “Too expensive. Wanna take a walk around the lake?”
“It’s almost dark already.”
So you settle on seeing what Netflix has to offer and you order a pizza.
Nothing wrong with Netflix and pizza. I’m all about the casual comfy hang out. But if this is your only date—the only thing you do with your sweetheart for recreation–, your relationship will feel stale pretty quickly. Because in order to nurture the three roles inside your relationship—Partner, Friend, and Lover—you need a variety of ways to interact.
Unless you or your sweetheart are a party planner, it’s probably hard to come up with ideas for a fun and bonding date night at your house. Especially if you’re tired from having just worked all week.
What does it look like to invite your spouse to plan a bunch of date nights?
This week’s habit for your happily ever after is to invite your sweetheart to create a batch of dates that will nurture all the complicated roles inside your relationship: Partner, Friend, & Lover. And all their various interactions.
But before we get to the habit, let’s talk about why it’s important to have a variety of date-night ideas, and HOW to get those three varied roles to sit down at the same table and agree.
A couple weeks ago I looked my husband in the eye and said, “I’d like to have some time to plan a few great dates for 2023. Can you be mulling that idea over and let me know when is a good time for you to have a date creation summit with me?”
“What? Why are you laughing?” I said as my voice got higher and my shoulders caved inward as I tried to hide my heart.
“You. Just you.” He said.
Now ages ago, this comment would rack me with insecurity. Me: I’m TOO MUCH. Too precise. Too plannery. Me: Too idealist. Too too …. Weird.
But over the years I’ve realized that all my idiosyncratic habits—like wanting to call a conversation about planning dates a summit just because it sounds fancier—all my oddities are part of what makes me me.
Reminder to myself: Rebecca, David PICKED you.
And your sweetheart, Dear Reader, picked you.
Why it’s hard
The reason I’m telling you about this vulnerable feeling is that when you take time to truly care enough about your relationship to batch a bunch of date ideas, you’re gonna feel vulnerable. And you may meet with a bit of resistance both from inside your own heart, and resistance from your sweetheart.
My coach friend, Allison Evans, wrote a recent piece called, If You Hate Resolutions, (But Still Desire Change). Allison talks about how strong emotion—like my vulnerable, caved in shoulders and my voice raising an octave—almost always hides a desire for the thing you’re resisting.
Allison’s point is to notice that resistance because it’s helping you to identify what you truly desire.
I’m here to urge you to lean into that resistance. A deeper, more intense, more compassionate relationship lives on the other side of your resistance to drop into intimacy with your sweetheart.
So, invite your sweetheart to gather together some date night ideas.
Then back up.
Inviting for dates also means inviting resistance in your relationship
Give your sweetheart some space for this resistance. Let the idea roll around in their brain. We’re trying to invite in ideas, and ideas are skittish. They scare easily. So, part of setting the stage for this summit is to do the background preparation work that is truly the hallmark of a great INVITATION.
If you’re pushy about the planning of anything—including your batching of date nights—you’ll get a partner who grudgingly goes along, or even worse, an outright saboteur.
So, take a tip from me: invite your sweetheart to map out some date nights with you, and then let the ball linger in their court for a bit.
A relationship date night invitation is gentle and takes time
Back to my house and my invitation to my husband:
A couple days later I tore up some scraps of paper. I put them at the end of the dining room table with a pen and on one of the scraps of paper I wrote, “Day hike in The San Juan Mountains.”
I showed the scrap of paper to David. “I really wanna go some place new in the San Juans this summer.”
My husband, who was making his coffee, asked, “Cool. Where in the San Juans did you have in mind?
See what I did there? If you’ve been reading my blog, you all know that I am a strong Partner in my relationship. I’ve told you plenty of stories about that.
(And when I say Partner, I’m referring to my relationship framework of Partner, Lover, and Friend. Partners are good at achieving together. Lover’s keep life exciting by creating adventure. And Friends are good companions and help you feel like you belong inside this relationship.)
Because I’m a strong Partner, I’m often in a hurry to get a plan made, to have the details settled and to get everything onto the calendar. But did you see how I reigned in my Partner energy by planting a seed early in the week: I asked David to mull over the IDEA of sitting down to batch some date nights for 2023.
Then I didn’t say anything else. For three WHOLE DAYS! This is monumental self-control on my part. And, when I did say something, I chose carefully to wake up my husband’s adventure-seeking Lover by saying I wanna go to the San Juans to hike.
My husband’s strongest tendency isn’t Partner. He doesn’t like to plan. He doesn’t like to be told what to do. He doesn’t like to be pinned down. If you listen to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, my husband is a rebel. (Are you familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies, and her four types?)
But he’s softened. And I’ve softened.
A date night invitation is where the seduction begins
I now know that, in order to seduce the Partner that’s buried deep inside my husband, I need to first appeal to the Lover who wants to do something fun and exciting. Then, once the Adventure-Seeking-Lover is on board, David will be eager to make a plan with me.
I showed him my scraps of paper and where I’d written “Hike in the San Juans.” Then I asked him, “Do you know of a time this week we can sit down to have our summit about dates for 2023?”
He wasn’t sure and said, “Lemme drink my coffee first.” I’m a morning person. I’m ready to leap into the day. This is not my husband.
But, People, I’m so proud of myself because I was patient.
Because how you handle the conversation about a batch of date nights is gonna flavor the dates. I didn’t want David feeling like I was tying him down. I KNOW—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that I’m his favorite person on planet earth. And I also know he’s a rebel. So I can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do.
I wanted to circle back when he hadn’t answered me by the end of the afternoon. I wanted to say, “The summit. When do you want to have it?” But more than I wanted a plan, I wanted to plan with my husband: the guy I wanted on all my fun dates.
Keep yourself calm
I had to have a little chat with my inner Partner. “I know you want a plan,” I said to myself, “David wants to do this. He just needs to choose his moment.”
The next day I scooped up another piece of paper and wrote, “Clean the garage.” Now this might not sound like a fabulous weekend date to you, but to me it’s heaven. I love the feeling of working together on a project and I adore the feeling of shared accomplishment at the end of the project.
Now here’s evidence that my husband has changed over the course of our marriage.
Years and years ago, I would invite my husband to clean the garage with me. “I think we need to clean the garage.” But it didn’t feel like a high priority thing to him and he’d procrastinate and I’d take his procrastination personally and think, “He doesn’t value what I want. He doesn’t value me. He doesn’t value our house.”
I told myself these stories and then, because I didn’t feel valued, I’d get blamey: “David you never help.”
So one year, when David asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday I said, “I want to clean the garage.”
He didn’t believe me. “That’s not special enough. That feels like work. Not play.”
And I told him, “Work IS play to me. I’m the most relaxed when cleaning out a closet!”
Choose a date night YOU love
A light when on inside him. Because he DOES know how much I love to clean out a drawer.
And so for my birthday, we took the whole weekend and truly overhauled the garage which had been bugging me but it was also overwhelming to me.
I was having a great time. I had fizzy drinks—my favorite—and ham sandwiches—another favorite. And I relaxed because I wasn’t worried that I was trying to manipulate David into doing something he didn’t value. I had confidence he wanted to do this weird thing because he wanted to do something special for my birthday.
I kept saying, “Isn’t this fun?” and my husband smiled.
It wasn’t his choice for fun. But he was lit up because I was lit up. In the months after that cleanup weekend, David kept coming up with other solutions to make the garage even more organized. He hung our bikes from the ceiling. He added a light fixture.
Each time he made the garage better it was like a party for me because I loved the organizing but mostly because I saw him caring about what mattered to me: the date I had always wanted to INVITE him to share with me.
I learned to lean in to the resistance he had: he thought cleaning the garage couldn’t be fun enough to be a date. I learned to lean in to my inner resistance which was the vulnerability I felt INVITING David to join me in a date that was all about me and what I think is fun.
Then, instead of blaming or shaming him about the garage, I also learned to be unabashed about how happy the garage date made me.
When I resisted that vulnerability I checked in constantly, “Is this OK? Do you mind doing this?” or I said “Thank you so much,” as if I was the only one who was gonna benefit from a clean garage.
Your sweetheart will care about the things you find fun if you give them a chance
In the years—and decades—before the garage festivities I badgered David about helping me. I blamed him because he didn’t help me.
But I never INVITED him by telling him that—to me—his help feels like play.
You’ll wake up parts of your relationship that are sleeping. What is that thing you love, love, love to do, but your sweetheart doesn’t yet get it? How can you INVITE your sweetheart to turn that something you long to do into a date with you?
Let’s go back to my dining room table and the scraps of paper for 2023. It was when I wrote “Clean the garage,” on one of those tiny slips of scrap paper that my husband woke up and got it, “Oh! My wife likes to make a plan.” He’d forgotten, because that’s not his natural go to. Then I also felt David realize, “And I love being around my happy wife when she is happy because we have a plan.”
He gave me a time right then. “Let’s sit down this afternoon,” said my husband.
My patience paid off. If I’d rushed my invitation or pressured him, our afternoon of brainstorming date nights for the year would have felt completely different
But it was fun. Relaxed. Easy. We were both full of ideas for 2023.
Invite your sweetheart to plan some dates for the coming year or the coming couple months.
An invitation to create a bunch of date nights requires finesse.
You saw how I asked David if he wanted to plan some dates with me. Then I sat back.
It’s critical that you INVITE instead of telling your sweetheart THIS IS WHAT WE’RE GONNA DO. That’s not an invitation and it doesn’t hone the mindset you’re trying to create.
Give your sweetheart room to mull and ponder and maybe only half hear you.
What makes for a great brainstorming session for you and your sweetheart? What time of day would be ideal? Is there anything—like maybe a snack—that makes the invitation more enticing?
Then repeat your invitation. But remember: it’s an invitation not a shove. Not “we should do this.” You want a sweetheart who genuinely accepts your invitation.
Three types of dates nights to keep your whole relationship strong
Spend some time thinking of the date you’d most like in each category: the lover who wants to take an adventure; the partner who wants to achieve something together, and the friend who wants to know and be known.
Use one of your date ideas to sweeten the invitation you offer.
Patience and staying in your own lane will pay off. Do you know what my favorite moment was in this year’s brainstorming session with my husband?
It was the moment, between listing out hikes and local rivers to kayak and dinner with friends when David suggested the daytime date of washing the windows. “Washing the windows?!” I said, “Why do you want to do that?”
“Because I know that you love to do projects with me. And I like clean windows, so this seemed like something we’d have fun doing together.”
Imagine how you’ll feel when you practice having these kinds of conversations with your sweetheart. And then your sweetheart—because you’ve invited instead of nagging or shoving, and you’ve been patient while they got up to speed with your invitation—and then your sweetheart will choose one of “your” dates because they love to make you happy.
Want to listen to my podcast and get some discussion ideas for your date night invitation? Click here.
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