When you're married with kids, it's easy to forget about romance but Sophie White has resolved to start dating her husband in 2018
The Man and I got together before dating was really a thing in Ireland. It was just something for the Americans, a thing they did on Friends, not for the likes of us. In my nineties teens, dating basically amounted to little more than group outings to the cinema or a nearby Esso station for some awkward flirting usually escalating to a bit of shifting engineered by the friends of the shiftees (surely we all still fondly remember the old 'will you be with my mate' pick up line).
My first 'date' with my husband was a fairly unpremeditated rambling adventure the beginning of which, I spent wearing a bin-liner (long story), the latter part I spent wearing face with the dude who would eventually be the father of my children. It was not romantic.
Romance has always eluded us. To date, the most romantic thing The Man ever did in our 12 years together was make me a birthday playlist for me to listen to while doing the one thing I wanted on my 31st birthday... to spend the day completely, utterly, gloriously alone, away from him.
Familiarity can breed complacency and complacency can be the death knell of a relationship. It's a wonderful thing when you find someone with whom you are completely comfortable, but being comfortable can, all too often, tip too far in the direction of complacency. For example, my husband constantly uses my towel (AS IN THE WET ONE I'VE JUST USED, GUYS) if that is not the definition of too comfortable, I don't know what is.
There can also come a time in a relationship (usually after having children) when you quite literally forget to make eye contact with the other person.
"It may sound small, but eye contact is intimate. Intimacy in the bedroom starts with intimate contact throughout the day," writes life coach and best-selling author, Tamara Star.
Intimacy is definitely a hard thing to maintain, especially between two people who barely even talk anymore. The main mode of communication between my husband and I is a sprawling email thread that, in its lifetime, has covered everything from bank stuff and tax stuff, to kid stuff and house stuff. The marriage is extremely transactional, we are basically like platonic business partners who have little in common beyond our key shared assets, the house and the humans we made. I'd say we're probably only a few weeks away from setting up a Google alert to remind us to have sex. It's sad because, we're arguably in our prime, we should be making the most of our last few years before middle age, mid-life crises and illness sap us of our vital energy (or we trade for younger, better models).
The problem with the contemporary trend for waiting on the 'settling down' part is that everything in regards to career, family and life advancement in general collides in your 30s. Previous generations mostly had children much younger – the current average age for a first time mother in Ireland is 32.5 according to findings by the Central Statistics Office. Most people can now expect to be trying to be having babies at the exact same time that they are trying to get ahead in work, reach some semblance of financial security and often care for ageing parents.
It can easily start to feel as though you and your partner spend the majority of your time as a couple reminding each other of forms that need to be filled out, when the NCT test is and passing small humans you made yourselves back and forth between you. It's all a bit of a fun-suck. That is why this year, I learned just how invaluable it is to 'date' my husband.
Since having our second child, 'dating' was pushed even further down the list of priorities and even just getting out individually to meet our friends was becoming trickier, a new baby is a wonderful thing but often the arrival of this sweet-smelling bomb into a relationship can be difficult to adjust to. In the murky haze of the early days of maternity leave, I realised that The Man hadn't seen me dressed in actual clothes for a record eight weeks. I began to make the effort to get dressed more and would usually have made my way into a pair of jeans by the time he returned from work at 6pm, this was not any 50s throwbackery, but actually a way for me to claw my way back to myself after the baby.
We went on our first parent date when the baby was starting to take a bottle at about six-months. Our first efforts of dating were tentative. We asked my mother to take the kiddos. I revelled in getting glammed up, we lit candles on the dining room table, bought slightly pricier than usual wine and had a date in our own house. It was unexpectedly brilliant. We talked to each other about actual things, we made the effort to entertain each other, we made prolonged eye contact! We got a taste for it.
Dating your spouse is not exactly a brand new idea but couples can find it hard to put the suggestion into action. Even if you have managed to secure the babysitter and gotten yourselves to a restaurant, there can be initial awkwardness. Relationships expert, Dr. Jamie Williamson even recommends writing out conversation starters which sounds a bit depressing but then so does living with someone with whom you rarely make eye contact and who uses your towel regularly.
"If you want to avoid slipping into a night of talk about the kid’s antics, the household chores, and other logistics, you must have conversational starters at the ready. You also need to be adept at gently changing the subject when your spouse starts taking about laundry, carpooling, home maintenance, or grocery lists. So, make a list. And, yes, write it down. Write it down and then either commit it to memory or have a cheat-sheet in your pocket."
Now that the babies have grown up a bit, we've gotten so good at dating each other that we've even been able to indulge in what we refer to as the 24-hour date. This is a revolutionary approach to reconnecting with the other half. we farm the kids out for virtually the full 24 hours, even going so far as to pay for childcare while we mooch around vaguely hungover the next day. It is the height of indulgence and not something we could afford to do regularly but it is economical insofar as it allows us to take a brief holiday from our lives, while being infinitely cheaper and less of a logistical nightmare than a city break.
I highly recommend dating the other half in 2018, to remind you of why you liked them back in 2007 (or whenever you met!).