To Stay Married, Keep Dating

One of my favorite memories from last year was not watching my young daughters rip into their Christmas presents, or seeing them perform in the school talent show. No, my happiest recollection was the date my husband and I went out on one stormy Tuesday night in November.

A few days before, we'd had our fill of running the girls to swimming lessons and fighting with them to do their homework. We could not endure the sight of one more PTA notice requesting money for this fundraiser or attendance at that meeting. We broke. We called a sitter and reserved a table at the most elegant restaurant in town.

And what a night it was. The sitter was late, of course, and the wind snapped off tree branches and hurled them at our car, but we made it. The food, the wine, and the service were fine. We put the children firmly out of our minds. By the time the salad came, we were sufficiently unwound.

We started having fun. We were laughing. The subjects of the weird charge on our cell phone bill or our dire need for a new refrigerator never entered the discussion. We were transformed into the couple we used to be before children, two cars, and a mortgage. We were footloose, fancy free, and out for a good time.

The happiness of that evening stayed with us for many days. We were attentive to one another. We remembered why we'd gotten married and were glad for it, proving my mother's advice that happy couples continue to date each other forever.

"It's important," she'd say.

But, in the early years of our marriage, I'd make excuses. Diaper and formula bills left little money for nights out on the town. It was impossible to find a good babysitter. It was selfish of us to take time away from the children.

"Make it a priority," my mother would respond. "Children are the result of the marriage, not the reason for it."

Like a lot of couples, my husband and I had forgotten that. We'd completely wrapped ourselves up in our children and their needs. We started losing sight of each other, but we knew that if we didn't make time for our relationship, our children would grow up and we'd be left behind, looking at each other and wondering, "Who the heck is this person?"

So we decided to make it a goal to go out on a date once a month (once a week is better, according to my mother), and I heartily recommend you do the same. If you're a woman and your husband is reluctant, don't guilt trip him into "taking" you out. You're not luggage. Instead, remind him that you love him, and tell him that you miss having him to yourself. That should convince him.

I'm not going to pretend it's ever easy to squeeze a date onto a calendar of never-ending responsibilities. It isn't. My husband and I had dinner plans tonight, but we had to cancel due to an event at our daughters' school. It's disappointing, but it won't deter us. We'll just reschedule our night out for next week.

We've made it a priority because, as my mother counseled, our happy marriage depends on it.

Terry Hernon MacDonald is the author of "How to Attract and Marry the Man of Your Dreams." Visit her website at http://www.marrysmart.com .

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