Ask any marriage counselor, therapist or physician about what couples can do to keep their marriages intact during the whirlwind years of raising children and building careers, and they’ll tell you flat out: make some time for each other, and make that time a priority. Date night, in other words. So simple sounding, right? “Sure. As soon as the taxes are filed, laundry is folded and teenagers are grounded. I have so much time and energy, I can’t wait,” she says sarcastically.

Loved this movie. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must. Perfect at-home date night rental with your favorite wine and favorite guy.

But there’s a lot of wisdom in that simple advice, actually. Ultimately, date night is about connecting with your spouse, enjoying some time together, one on one. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. In fact, some of the best dates can happen with very little planning and with minimal expense.

Having recently been in the date night doldrums myself, I asked a few friends what their strategies were to solve this couple conundrum and was bowled over by their responses. Some of my friends fessed up, saying that they’ve also experienced a lull in this department. As one gal wrote, “Date night? Ours have become more “benefits with friends” rather than the other way around. Hardly a recipe for romance.”

And after reading all the great suggestions for fun dates, I realized a couple of things… First, date night is not that difficult to manage. It’s all in the attitude, in other words. Go do something together. Have some fun, just the two of you. Secondly, date night, in married-with-children parlance, is really just code for S.E.X. Duh. I guess mentioning The Nooner as an option in my request for information opened the door for lots of innuendo, given the clever euphemisms returned in many of the replies. (More on that, shortly.)

Bottom line? Regardless of whether your Love Shack is over-run with the diapered set, sass-mouthing aliens (aka teenagers) or furry, non-verbal pets, date night, however your translate it, is super important to keep the home fires burning.

Hmmm. Guess even the French need a date night once in a while, too.

So, thanks to numerous friends, all of whom shall remain anonymous, here are some ideas for you and yours the next time you’re looking for a new way to solve an old problem:

The Great Outdoors

Hiking: Several ladies wrote back to say that one of their favorite daytime dates involves hiking the trails in one of the Warner Parks. Says Mrs. C., “My hubby and I love to hike the 2 1/2 mile loop and grab a late breakfast or early lunch after. Fridays work for us with our schedules, and we feel like we’ve connected and have energy for the kids’ weekend activities before the 3:00 bell rings.” Another friends writes that she and her spouse will even, on occasion, drive to Monteagle for the day, hike and have lunch at Shenanigans before heading home.

Golf: Several of my friends who golf said they enjoy taking an afternoon to play a round with their husbands and enjoy dinner afterwards. Tennis, too.

Jogging: This is how my friend, Mrs. K., rolls. “We’ve always had babysitters arrive around 4:00 or so for an evening gig so we can hike or run together before cleaning up and going out. We prefer to Vertical Jog before we Horizontal Jog, and the night (with or without other friends) is already off to a strong start before we leave the house. And actually, what happens during the rest of ‘the date’ is irrelevant.” She goes on to say that this is one of the most important parts of her happy marriage.

Walking: Several friends say they love to take the family pet, grab a beverage and walk around the block with their husbands. When time is an issue, sometimes thirty minutes at dusk in the summer is a great way to check in and connect. Another friend wrote that when Saturday morning sports aren’t an issue, she and her hubby love to walk from their neighborhood to a coffee shop a couple of miles from their house. “We live near the Greenway, which is gorgeous. And walking to Starbucks gives us a nice way to talk and regroup before the business of the weekend is in full swing. Sometimes I even grab a pedicure, as well, and wear good walking flip flops to get me home.”

Afternoon Delight

Movies: A number of friends wrote to say that they love to play hooky from work, take the afternoon off and go see a movie. (This works when your kids are home studying for exams, too.) When there’s time, they’ll start with lunch, (or maybe dessert?? Just sayin’…) or grab a bucket of movie popcorn to share. Mrs. B. says, “We sneak candy, and sometimes beers, into the movie in my pocketbook. A small thing, but we feel like we’re getting away with something. Although, the last time, I took a bottle of beer and knocked it over and it went rolling down the aisle. Thank heavens the lights were out. Not doing that again.”

Yoga (And I know what you’re thinking, but I actually mean yoga in a studio. Not the tantric, 7 hour Sting variety): “My husband and I have a lot of fun going to a yoga class together then grabbing a salad at J. Alexander’s afterward,” says Mrs. Y.

The Nooner (aka Weekday Lunch): This is a good one. Meet for lunch. Try a new hot spot that’s too crowded for dinner. Get out of The Bubble – whatever bubble that confines you. Go to the Gulch, East Nashville, Leiper’s Fork if you have time, anywhere but the usual and expected. Try something different. One friend with a new baby says she and her spouse will meet spur of the moment someplace between their offices for lunch.”We don’t plan it in advance, so that it actually feels like the old days when we could be spontaneous.” Another friend who has school-aged children likes this approach, too: “After a great lunch and conversation, we don’t mind a ten minute calendar check-in. This works so much better than trying to communicate at night. Plus, with all the business out of the way, provided he abides by the carefully laid plans of the mother hen, things could get jazzy…”

Fun at Night

At Home: As soon as the weather turns cool, one friend and her spouse build a fire outside in their fire pit, open a bottle of red and chat about the day. I think this would be divine with mulled wine. Here’s a recipe:

Date Night: Doctor's Orders

Ina Garten/Food Network
A cocktail to enjoy by the fire now that the weather's cool.
5 from 1 vote
Course Cocktail
Cuisine American
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 750-ml bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange zested and juiced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 star anise
  • 4 oranges peeled, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve. (Recipe from Ina Garten and the Food Network.)
Tried this recipe?Rate it above to let us know how it was!

And another friend writes that instead of renting a movie, she and her hubby recently watched old home movies of their kids and had a nice walk down memory lane with a bottle of wine and a great antipasto platter – olives, cheese, hummus and whatnot. So fun!

A Moveable Feast: Mrs. A. says she and her spouse love to go to The Patterson House for drinks and appetizers, then head to PM for sushi. Tootsie’s for some music is their nightcap.

Weeknight ideas: Take advantage of a having a sitter on a week night for school-related events and grab dinner afterwards. One friend’s favorite is an out-of-the-way, but close to home spot: Anatolia, in Lion’s Head Village.

Game night: Mrs. E. writes that she and her husband will turn off the television, open a favorite bottle of wine and play backgammon or gin instead. Or, for a different spin with teenagers who go to Friday night football games, Mrs. W. likes to drop the kids and then go with her mister to Local Taco and have a margarita, some good Mexican food and a chat about the week.

Overnight: Ship the kids off to the grandparents’ or to a friend’s house for a sleep over. Mrs. G. says on nights like these, she likes to cook a fancy, French dinner – the kind that makes kids gag – and enjoy an evening in. Or, for a big treat, book a room at the Hutton Hotel. One friend writes that she and her husband did just that this summer when U2 was playing and they had the time of their lives.

What’s your favorite date night? Let us know. We love hearing from you!