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In a few days, Nate and I will celebrate our eighth anniversary. Eight years is quite an accomplishment! We survived the first (fight-filled, crazy, amazing) year, and we made it through the seven-year itch. I’m proud that we’ve been married eight years, but we still have a long way to go until we hit the truly amazing milestones of 25, 50, and 75 years of marriage. (75? We got married young; it’s possible.)
Will we make it? As long as we’re both alive, yes. And why am I so confident of this? Because we both believe marriage is a commitment, not a 24/7 joyride. There will be days filled with laughter and tenderness. There will be a lot of days when life sucks. But we’re not going to jump out just because we’re not happy.1
But, here’s the best part, we are (generally) happy. We (usually) feel like we love and like each other. Even when the laundry is piled high on the bed, a dirty diaper was left on the changing table, leftovers are on the menu again, our toddler is crying because she has to take a bath and can’t have cookies for dinner, the baby wanted to eat eleven times last night, and the dog won’t stop barking…..we’re still best friends.2
What’s our secret? Well, for starters, our “secret” is not much of a secret. We’re kind of famous for our date nights. Not because our dates are particularly out of the ordinary (Nate the Pilot has only taken me for a flight to watch fireworks once). We’re famous because we actually have date nights. Every single week. In the eight years we’ve been married, we’ve only missed eight or ten weeks. We took a month off after the birth of each of our two girls. I’m sure there was a week in there where we were sick or something, too (although I can’t remember ever missing date night!), so I throw those extra two weeks in there for a margin of error.3
Which means, we’ve been on over 400 dates (with each other) since we’ve been married.
Okay, so now for the real reason you’re here. You don’t want to hear about me! You want to get new date ideas for you. The following are all things we’ve tried in the past eight years. Our normal date is dinner, because we usually just need to sit face-to-face and talk. But when we need to switch things up, these are some of the things we try. (Amazon affiliate links to our favorite books provided for your convenience!)
Date Ideas from Our 400 Married Dates
Bicycle built for two. Let’s start with my favorite date idea–ride a tandem bike! Ours was given to us by a friend and is super cool. (It has a bicycle license from the 1979. Bikes needed licenses? What!) We ride it to all of our fair-weather dates, and people LOVE It. Strangers smile, cheer, and ask where they can find a super-cool bike like ours. If you need to work on your patience, teamwork, and trust…a tandem bike is a fun challenge.
Read a book. We’ve read hundreds of books out loud together–Harry Potter, the entire Bible (it took a few years), The Hunger Games, Twilight. (Yep, Nate’s read all the Twilight books.) There’s a special kind of romance involved in snuggling up on the couch with a good (decent?) book.
Hunt for your dinner. At the grocery store, each person gets $5 and a list of what to find (main dish, side, dessert, drink.) The person whose items are closest to the $5 total wins. Bonus points if you find/try something new.
Get to the roof of a tall building and watch the sunset. In our town, our sunset spot is the top of a parking garage.
Babysit. For Valentine’s Day one year, we volunteered to watch our pastor’s kids. Now that we have kids of our own, I understand the true value of free babysitting. If you appreciate your own date nights, help someone else enjoy theirs.
If babysitting’s not your thing, find some other way to serve. There’s a special kind of bond that forms through shared service and sacrifice. Make and take a meal to a family with a new baby. Pick up trash in your neighborhood. Pick two other couples and drop $5 Starbucks cards in their mailboxes.
Play video games. I have a VERY low tolerance for the time suck that is video games. But Nate likes them, so every once in a while we’ll bust out the Wii and play a game or two. This works out better when we’re on the same team with tennis. I hate losing, and I always lose to Nate.
Have a murder mystery party with friends. We did this for Nate’s 25th and 30th birthday, and they were the most memorable and fun parties we’ve ever hosted. You can read all about how to host your own killer murder mystery party here.
Dance. If you’re into going out to dance, cool. But we haven’t been out to dance since high school prom. HOWEVER (although Nate claims to not remember this), there was a time when we liked to shake it while listening to and watching Hairspray in our living room. There was always a lot more laughter than real dancing.
Take a class. Learn a skill. Share a hobby. Zumba. (Yep, Nate’s tried it.) Tango. Pottery. Photography. Scuba diving.
Progressive dinner. A fast food smorgasbord complete with Rally fries and a Wendy’s frosty? My husband’s dream come true!
Take a boat ride. I wish I could say we do exotic things like watch the sunset from a sail boat, but there’s not much sailing going on where we live. However, there are lots of other man-powered boating options–canoe, kayak, peddle boat.
While you’re on the water, go fishing. Kudos to you if you (legally) kill and eat what you catch!
Camp in your living room. Unless it’s in a cabin, we’re not really into real camping. We prefer to put the futon mattress on the floor of the living room and “camp” inside. Microwave s’mores, wine, air conditioning. It’s beautiful.
Live theater. If you have the time, be in the show. Nate and I started dating thanks to high school musical theater. Now we’re lucky to take on the role of audience member.
Go golfing or to the driving range.
Get lost. Back when the price for a tank of gas was less than the cost of a few weeks of groceries, we’d drive around just to get lost. Usually we’d end up outside of town where we could sit and watch the stars.
Counseling. It’s time for couple’s counseling to lose its shameful stigma. Why wait until you’re on the brink of divorce? A good counselor can help you work through your fights and issues without you feeling judged or embarrassed. Do it now.
Find a new place for a picnic. We like college campuses. We know of another couple who prefers graveyards. Yep, true story. (Hey, they are quiet and peaceful!)
Fly a kite. Bring the kids. Leave the kids. The choice is yours.
Water gun war. Bring it on!
Paintball. The welts were way cooler and way less painful than I expected.
Write a poem. We’ve done this a few times over dinner. It’s super cheesy, but forces you to think about and verbalize your loved one’s best qualities.
Feed the ducks.
Skate. Bust out those old roller blades and skateboard! Hit the ice skating rink. Or at least watch the real skaters at a skate park.
Take a hike. Or a walk. In the woods or by the water if possible.
Watch your favorite TV series–Lost, Downton Abbey, Revolution. These are a few of our favorites.
Share your withholds. What’s a withhold? According to Drs. Les and Leslie Parrot, withholds are those things that you “forgot” to tell your spouse. You’re allowed to share one negative withhold sandwiched between two positives. Negative: “It really bugged me when you came home late on my birthday.” Side note: I may be writing this on my birthday, and Nate may be late. But you can bet I won’t be “withholding” this feeling for long once he finally gets home. Positive: “Thank you for getting up with the baby last night. I feel like a new woman after that little stretch of uninterrupted sleep!”
Talk about your feelings. (Resist the urge to roll your eyes at the cliché.) Based on the advice of the amazing Dr. Gary Chapman (Five Love Languages), we tell each other three things about our day and how we felt about them.
Attend a marriage conference. Those two gems of wisdom shared above from the Parrots and Dr. Chapman? Yep, they came from marriage conferences.
Go to a museum. We purchased our children’s museum pass (we love the ASTC passport program!) when our oldest daughter was one month old. Do you really think it was for her? 😉 We’ve also popped into an art museum a time or two.
Retreat. For our anniversary last year, we spent a night at a retreat center that is aptly named “Rest Ministries.” The year before, we stayed in a hotel in downtown Chicago. While our girls are very, very young, we’ll probably only spend one night away at a time. When they’re older, we may make this retreat a week-long event.
Go to a winery or take a brewery tour.
Watch your wedding video or look through your wedding pictures.
Bake. Nate and I like messing with marshmallow fondant. The finished product won’t qualify us for any cake decorating shows, but it’s a pretty fun shared activity.
Coffee shop concert. Coffee shops are a great place hear new, local musicians.
Rock climb. Don’t live by the mountains? Find a rock climbing wall! There’s one for us on the campus of a local college.
Turn up the music and sing. Who cares how it sounds?
Sky diving. Okay, so this probably isn’t something you’ll do weekly, but do it once in your life. Preferably in New Zealand. What a rush!
And now for the footnotes. Footnotes?! Yep. Don’t worry– they’ll hopefully make sense even out of context.
1) What if God designed marriage to make us holy not happy? Read more about this counter-cultural idea in Sacred Marriage.
2) Okay, so now that I’ve told you how much we like each other and how we’re still best friends, I’ve pretty much guaranteed that a big fight is coming soon. Pray for us.
3) The fact that we live in our hometown and have access to free babysitting makes a huge difference. Thanks, grandparents, for watching your (sweet, messy, full-of-energy) granddaughters!
Now you know my favorite date ideas. What are yours?
Thanks for sticking with me to the end! We have lots of fun family dates, too. Click on the picture or link to read my favorite travel post (I love to write about travel!) for ideas for your next family vacation: 35 FREE things to do with young kids at the beach!