By far one of the most popular "categories" of goals we see in the Cultivate community is marriage. (That's why we wrote our Couples Goal Guide - it's a great companion to your PowerSheets if you have a goal to strengthen your relationship this year!)
It's not surprising - our relationships with our significant others are often the foundation for everything else in our lives. A solid connection at home can give you the courage and energy to go out into the world and conquer all your other goals!
Tending to our closest relationships little by little is one of the best ways to see big, lasting change. A perfect example of that little by little? Regular date nights! Today, we're sharing our favorite ideas for cheap, easy, and FUN ways to spend time together, and we'd love to hear from you in the comments!
Redefine "date night." Important to say right off the bat: date night is a simple term to use, but dates can happen at any time of the day, and they don't have to involve dinner out! We count it as a date if you've 1) given each other your time and attention, 2) minimized or eliminated distractions, and 3) had fun!
Get outside. Some of my very favorite memories with John involve walking around our neighborhood and talking. YES! A date can be that simple! :) If you want to step it up a notch, head to a local park for your walk, or drive an hour or so to a more dramatic trail and memorable view (I guarantee there's something beautiful near you, no matter where you live!).
For us, it’s not so much about the exercise, though that is a great bonus. I love walking with John because it’s when we have our best conversations. I think there’s something about being on the move and having uninterrupted, distraction-free time together that just lets the words flow!
Go for a drive. Not into hiking? I see you. Make the drive the destination! Pick up a road trip beverage, pick a winding country road, and spend an hour or two chatting and listening to music while watching the world roll by. (Bonus points for something sentimental - John and I have a specific playlist of bands we listened to in college that brings back all the feels!)
Play a game together. If you both have a competitive streak a mile wide (or maybe better yet, if you don't - ha!), break out a board game for two. The regular rotation at our house includes Sagrada, Monopoly Deal, and Rock Me Archimedes. (More favorites here!)
Head to the driving range. Even if you’ve never picked up a club, hitting a few balls is decidedly low-pressure, and can be downright hilarious. Plus, you get to stand next to each other, mostly in one place, so there’s more chance for conversation than with most physical activities!
Go on a "mystery ride." I have to laugh at this one, because this is actually something my parents used to do when we were kids! Last summer, John announced that we were going on an adventure, and I willingly hopped in the car. We took a beautiful country drive to the rural town of Saxapahaw, walked along the Haw River exploring old dams, split a BLT at the Saxapahaw General Store, and finished our afternoon with ice cream at Maple View Farm. It was so fun, and even more exciting because I didn’t know what was coming!
Catch an outdoor movie. There are several spots near us that show recently released movies in the summer for $3-$5. We love packing a picnic (Chipotle, anyone?), our special movie chairs (seriously, they save your back when watching a feature length movie!), and a blanket and making a night of it. Bonus: no one frowns at you for bringing in your own snacks!
Recreate a special memory. Did you explore Italy on your honeymoon? Have your first date at a Chinese restaurant? Cut into cheesecake at your wedding reception? Resurrect a special memory from your history together and spend some time reminiscing while you recreate an aspect of it. Whether you go out or stay in, remembering all of the fun you've had is a great way to grow closer together.
Lead your own food tour. Want to go out but stick to a smaller budget? Pick a cuisine and design your own crawl! Compare tacos at three different spots, or split three different desserts over the course of an hour or two. Stretch out the experience and get nerdy by comparing notes and ranking your favorites!
Brand your own adventure. Sometimes, all it takes is a little marketing magic to take a simple date to the next adventure. My friend Sam and her husband love to explore tiny, tucked away BBQ shacks - they make it a point to seek them out as they criss-cross North Carolina on road trips. It's become such a "thing" for them that they even have a hashtag! Something as simple as stopping for slaw and hush puppies has cemented their identity as a couple and the fun they have together.
Finally, a note for my parents with little ones. Many of these ideas would work for you with just a little modification, but here are a few tips to make at-home date nights a success when getting out of the house is just not an option:
1) Put it on the calendar. Just like you would when you're making a reservation at a restaurant, agree ahead of time on a day for your at-home date. You'll be much more likely to stick to it, and it gives you something to look forward to!
2) Tidy up. Do the dishes, clean up any stray toys, light a candle - without going crazy, give yourself some visual signals that the kiddos are asleep and this is your time to focus on each other!
3) Put your phones away. Enough said.
Whether you're grabbing pizza from your favorite takeout place, or cooking a gourmet meal together after the kiddos are in bed, or snuggling up to watch a movie on Netflix, calling it a date (and turning off those phones) turns it into one!
Friends, we'd love to hear: what's your favorite low- or no-cost date night? Tell us below!