Marriage advice should be taken with a grain block of salt…especially from strangers or people with less than stellar marriages.
For some reason, it’s always the miserably married that want to tell you what to do or not to do. They assume (often mistakenly) that because something didn’t work for them that it won’t work for you either.
For example, my husband and I got married young (by our culture’s standards – I was 19; he was 21). We were still in college at the time, a semester shy of graduation.
When we announced our engagement, there were many well-meaning types that warned us that marriage was hard and that being a married college student was harder still. We smiled gracefully and promptly discarded their advice into the nearest depository.
The truth was that our lives got much EASIER from the day we walked down that altar. We were together. We were close. We were our biggest champions and friends (and still are, by the way). And our college life improved too. We graduated with flying colors (I think we both got 4.0’s that semester in case you’re wondering) and we both went on to get our masters degrees as well.
All that to say this: People will sometimes tell you crazy things about marriage – and about marriage post-baby.
For example, they may tell you that it is imperative for you to get out and have regular date nights without your baby as soon as possible.
When our firstborn was a few months old, I remember feeling a little sheepish when people would ask us about date nights. “Um, we haven’t really left our baby yet,” I’d say shyly, somewhat apologetically. They’d tsk-tsk and reassure us in soothing tones that the baby would be fine and we could leave a bottle and it would be good for all of us, etc.
The truth? It WASN’T better for us. Or easier for us. Leaving our exclusively breastfed baby made us both miserable. Both my husband and I genuinely didn’t want to leave her with anyone. We felt more peaceful, relaxed, energized, intimate…when she was WITH us.
So, we discarded that whole date night bit of advice too. And we came up with our own game plan – regular, daily connections. Fun nights in our house after baby’s bedtime. Outings with a sleeping or smiley baby in tow.
Author Nicholas Sparks wrote, “But love, I’ve come to understand, is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.”
You see. Love isn’t a once-a-week date night. Love is in the every day, the mundane. Love is when my husband fills up my car with gas every single time the gauge gets low. It’s when he clips our girls’ toenails and fingernails because he knows that I am a little bit nervous about it. It’s when he brings me a tall glass of water when I’m breastfeeding, when he mops the whole house tip-to-top, when he makes me say “I Am Da Bomb” when I get discouraged just to make me laugh. It’s the little things.
If you like going on date nights sans baby, then do. Date nights can be important, fun, and invigorating times of connection and closeness. But if you’d rather not, that’s okay too. You can still pull out the cheese and wine after baby is tucked in or order in pizza and eat it by candlelight or watch your favorite TV show or have long conversations about just about anything.
The important thing is to connect, to laugh, to romance each other, to nurture your friendship. In whatever context works for you. So if you don’t want to leave your baby, brush that pressure off your sleeve and do your own thing. Dance in the kitchen with your baby watching. Go for a hike together with your baby on your back. Kiss your spouse passionately…unexpectedly.
Date Night – Schmate Night. We don’t need “dinner and a movie” to make our marriage sparkle. It’s shining from day-to-day, deliberate service to each other.
P.S. We do expect that we will go on more “solo” outings as our kids get older. We just prefer to keep them close for the first year(s).