Date Night: A Moving Target
As a teenager, I used to babysit for a couple who went on regular “date nights”. I imagined, as I got older, that I would also carve out that special weekly Saturday night with my future husband.
And then I married a submariner. Where the only schedule is that there is no schedule.
Ok. I had to seriously re-think my expectations if I wanted time with my man. As a newlywed, I was not above tagging along on TDY’s to hang in some ramshackle Navy Lodge while he was in school all day. But now with 3 kids and a life, date nights have become increasingly difficult to come by.
Deployments get the most buzz because it’s the most obvious chunk of time when your spouse is not available to be your date at the school auction, your nephew’s wedding or on the couch for Netflix.
But, we all know that even when they’re “home”, we are fighting with duty sections, TDY’s, field training, sea trials, night shifts, weekend duty and so on and so forth and what have you.
Nailing down a couple of hours for a respectable night on the town with your military man is not impossible, but can take some creativity and a whole lot of flexibility and patience:
- Non-Traditional Dates: Listen, we have to ignore the cultural norm of a Friday or Saturday evening date. Who says that just because that’s when everyone else goes out, you have to join them? Some of our favorite dates have been playing tennis and then out to breakfast after dropping the kids off at school. We are both pretty terrible on the courts but it’s the laughter at each other’s lob shots that really make it fun. Like us, after a weekend of duty, Monday morning might be your time.
- Weekend? What Weekend? Is your spouse working traditional weekends? Is he home during the week with you? Guess what? That’s your new weekend. The Taco Tuesday special is your new date night. Not getting hung up on the actual day of the week is vitally important here. I hear you can binge-watch an entire season of Parenthood in a few days while the kids are at school. That’s just rumor, though.
- Extended Time Away: Sometimes, between kids, daily responsibilities and your career, the only way to guarantee some time to connect is by taking a few days of leave and going away. Farm your kids out to friends’ houses, book a hotel (maybe through ITT?) and get out of town (or book a hotel 10 minutes from home). Just make sure whatever you plan is refundable because, you know, the military.
- Spur of the Moment: Here’s where that all-important military spouse characteristic, FLEXIBILITY, comes into play. Perhaps you’ve had too many missed dinner reservations and plans scribbled out on your calendar. You’ve been burned too many times by the military’s need for your spouse to work when you want to play. Use this to your advantage by embracing spontaneous time together. Your husband surprisingly shows up at your house in the afternoon when he’s supposed to work until evening? Drop what you’re doing and go grab a burger together.
Dating in bits and pieces, while not ideal, can be exciting and more successful than trying to plan out a traditional date night.
The most important thing to remember while married to a military man is perspective:
“Home but not home” is better than deployment any day.
And while weekly date nights probably won’t be in the cards for most couples, effort in planning and routing leave chits will pay off in your relationship. And being open to spontaneity can go far in feeling connected to your spouse.
Just try not to play the comparison game when your neighbors are heading out for their routine Saturday night date and your spouse is on 24-hour duty. Your calendar may not be on autopilot, but date night is always an exciting adventure when you have a moving target!