By Brad Hambrick -April 10, 2020
So, how do you go on a date when you aren’t allowed to leave your house? A month ago, this question would have been a lame set of jumper cables to start a conversation when there wasn’t anything to talk about. Now, it’s beginning to feel like an essential marital survival skill.
Many of us are learning how to work from home. If both spouses are doing this, it can feel like “we are spending more time together than ever before” (in corresponding news, many couples are also second guessing whether they ever want their spouse to retire). We’re realizing that “time together” and “dating” are not the same thing.
In this article, we’ll consider five actions to help you meaningfully date your spouse during a time period where you can’t leave your home.
Action 1 – State: “I want to spend meaningful time with you.”
After spending weeks sequestered together, it might be worth reminding your spouse, “I like you, and I enjoy time with you.” Minor irritants uninterrupted by work can make us begin to doubt this.
It reminds us the base-level message of a date is, “I like time when its just you and me.” This is what makes a date romantic. When daily annoyances increase, this message can get lost.
When movement is freer, we can get distracted from the message of dating (i.e., “I like time with you”) by the activity of a date (i.e., “This is fun”). During COVID restrictions, when activity is limited, we get the opportunity to make sure the focus is on the message.
Action 2 – Ask: What makes a traditional date most meaningful to you?
COVID-dating (oh, don’t we wish that wasn’t a term) is a time to learn more about your spouse. As you figure out how to meaningfully pursue one another during this time of restriction, ask, “What do you enjoy about dating?” This will force you to think a bit more candidly and deeply about the activity of dating. Answers might include:
- Getting dressed up
- Not doing the dishes
- Lack of distractions
- New conversation prompts from being in a different place
- Trying new foods (or, at least, old foods we don’t know how to cook)
- The freedom to choose what we want to do
- We laugh more
- We make more eye contact
- You give me a simple kiss that doesn’t lead anywhere
- We have sex afterwards
All of these are legitimate answers. Add to the list. Take things off the list that don’t fit your marriage. Everything that winds up on your list prompt at least two types of thinking: (1) creativity for how to COVID-date, and (2) ideas for how to meaningfully pursue your spouse when you’re not on a date.
The current riddle for you to solve is, “How do I make the things that my spouse enjoys about a date possible while we can’t go out to dinner, shopping, or to a movie?” But focusing on meaningful engagement more than the activity will make us more romantically engaged spouses. Getting out of the “it’s Friday night, where do you want to go” rut is good for your marriage.
Action 3 – Identify: What time of day works best for a quarantine date?
COVID is lethal to schedules. We can’t assume anything is going to be done at the same time or in the same order as it occurred pre-Coronavirus. Things will return to normal, but in the meantime, we shouldn’t put our marriage on pause.Read Next on Thriving Marriages These Are the Words Your Spouse Desperately Needs to Hear
For couples with young children, nap time may become the new prime dating real estate (because you can’t get a babysitter). If that’s you, how many of the things that make a date meaningful fit well in the 1-3pm time slot? Maybe you get a fancy coffee and pastry to go instead of dinner as takeout.
The main point is, dating during quarantine may not occur at traditional times. If our thinking goes on lockdown and we only think of dating as something that happens on Friday or Saturday evening between 6-9pm, we are likely missing many of the dating opportunities that exist.
Bonus: If COVID-dating forces you to think this way, then you will identify a dozen sneak-a-dates you can do when our full roaming freedoms return. [Note: Sneak-a-date is a bad maneuver for a single man, but a highly admirable moment for a married man to create.]
Action 4 – Think: What are non-functional questions I can ask?
What is one of the side effects of being under house arrest? Constricted thinking. We just ask functional questions and give functional answers.
We don’t see as many people. We can’t go many places. We’re around each other all day, so there’s nothing I experienced that you don’t already know. “Why don’t we switch roles and you tell me what I did today?”
This reduces mealtime to a mere hunger-aversion exercise. Going for a walk together [yes, at a safe social distance from any other non-familial pedestrians] becomes mere exercise. When constricted thinking sets in, activities that were once bonding become mundane.
If you need help coming up with good questions, visit bradhambrick.com/dailytalk for over 200 conversation prompts divided into 10 categories of meaningful conversation. If nothing else, you can talk about how absurd some of the prompts are and how excessive somebody must be to come up with that many conversations. As long as you’re talking to each other, the article served its purpose.
Action 5 – Do: Put effort into getting ready and redeem the time.
Part of the impact of “going on a date” is that the time is set apart from the rest of your weekly rhythm. It may feel silly but get dressed up. Put on cologne or perfume. Complement each other like it’s a special occasion. Put takeout on your nicer dishes instead of paper plates. Light a candle to put on the table.
If you can drive together to get takeout, treat that time like part of the date and not just an errand. Don’t talk about things that need to be done around the house or the part of being at home that is most annoying. Set the time apart to engage with and enjoy your spouse. Treat the time you designate to date your spouse like a date.
I’m under no delusion that COVID-dating will become a fad that lasts any longer than is absolutely necessary. When we get our “traveling mercies” back (never have I wanted to pray for those so earnestly… I think I know what they are, finally!), you have my full permission to print a hard copy of this article and make it a burnt offering in celebration.
But, if we redeem the time in these ways, I do believe we will find that we will grow in contentment and the ability to enjoy simple things. These qualities will result in a more stable, intentional, and lasting enjoyment of one another. That would be very good.