When a couple meets and agrees to begin a relationship, they usually conduct the relationship meetings through dating. This is a form of relationship building that is common throughout most of the modern world. Scheduling a pickup time or a meeting location and then share a meal, watch a movie, have a cup of coffee, or any number of activities and events. The point of the dating relationship is to get to know each other better. There is usually a lot of talking that takes place as each person seeks to know and understand the other better and how they operate.
It is common advice from marriage counselors and authors that couples should continue the dating ritual throughout their married life. We thought that we would offer up some low-cost ideas on dating for after you've been married a while.
1) Long Walk
Perhaps the cheapest things that most any couple can do together. A walk around the neighborhood, a stroll in a local park, or along a beach front. Holding her hand and dreaming about your life's adventure together can engage both of you on an emotional level while strengthening your relationship. We get so busy trying to deal with the daily challenges of life that we can forget to connect with our mate. Men, she needs you to hear what she has to say. She has deep feelings and emotions that may even be difficult for you to comprehend. You may not understand at all and that's okay. She's usually not looking for you to solve problems for her. She really just wants to be heard. We, as men, want to swoop in with the solution and fix it for her. That is a perfect way to get her to stop talking to you about what she is feeling inside. This casual time of walking, talking, and holding hands can allow you both the opportunity to relax and share your thoughts and ideas about life. Go ahead and get out there. Give it a shot and see if you can find a rhythm in walking together. You will probably find it is more gratifying than a more elaborate date night. You could have a daily date night with this one or several times a week free of charge.
2) Couch Cuddling and a Movie
Put the kiddos to bed early, pop some of your favorite popcorn, put in her favorite movie, and cuddle away. You read that right, I said "her" favorite movie. Sorry guys, unless she is wanting to do this especially for you, let her choose. My wife would hate just about any movie that I consider great and the time would not result in building our relationship. If by chance your movie favorites overlap then feel very blessed.
3) Candlelight Dinner at Home
Perhaps one of the nicest meals that I have ever prepared for Heather was a simple chicken salad, a glass of wine, and a single candle between us. After a few hours of great conversation, the evening ended exceptionally well for both of us. Simple yet very effective. Sometimes you just have to do things out of the ordinary and create a special moment. Maybe next time, I'll add a little dancing... (hmm, new topic)
4) Share a Meal at a Nice Restaurant
We do this quite often. By a nice restaurant, I'm referring to one in which tipping would be appropriate. I know people who have never been to a restaurant like that and that is okay. Just whatever your favorite place to eat will do. Our favorite place for date night is LongHorn Steakhouse. We have been eating there so long and so frequently that we no longer have to tell the waitresses what we want. We walk to our usual spot, they call us by name, and ask if we want our usual. Perhaps we should buy stock in LongHorn.
The point is to do something on occasion that you both enjoy and can relax quickly. You might be wondering, "How is this a budget date idea?". Well, I'm glad that you asked. We share a meal. We can typically keep this meal in the $30-35 range. We have done it for less than $30 on several occasions. Drinks and desserts seem to be the deciding factor in controlling the cost. Don't forget to tip your waitress.
5) Community Events
Most communities have some type of events where you can get out together for a relatively inexpensive adventure. County fairs, festivals, and fundraisers are usually going on somewhere. In our area, they have Hillbilly Day and Strawberry Festivals. If you live in a little bigger city, there are cultural events, live music venues, plays, sporting events, and etc.... National sporting events are usually quite expensive but local sporting events are free or very inexpensive. We used to spend a lot of time going to watch our church's softball team play. Completely free and nice to get out of the house for a few hours.
6) Project Idea Shopping
Heather and I have spent countless hours walking around Lowe's or Home Depot getting project ideas we could do around the house. We normally bundle this adventure with our LongHorn Steakhouse trip. When I was building our wood shop, it seemed like date night came all the time because I needed to make runs to Lowe's for supplies. Win-Win
It's not always manly wood shop projects. Heather loves to make crafts and we often go to JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby and find things that she needs for those projects.
It's not really so much about what we do, as long as we are doing it together. I can look at bolts of material with her for hours. I don't know much about sewing and such things but I can certainly tell her if I like something or not. I'm also very good at carrying things for her and reaching things on the upper shelves. She's notorious for being very flirty with me while were shopping and that makes the whole trip worthwhile for me.
7) Birthday candle in a Hot Apple Pie from McDonald's
I don't recall exactly where I came up with this idea but many years ago, her birthday was coming up and we just didn't have the resources to do anything nice for her birthday. So, on her birthday, I took her to McDonald's and put a birthday candle in a hot apple pie and sang to her. She loved it!
Sometimes you just need to be creative and a bit less formal but sincere love will be appreciated above gifts no matter their value.
A few years ago, Heather wanted me to take formal dancing lessons with her and go dancing for Valentine's Day that year. I'm no John Travolta by anyone's stretch of the imagination. God never gifted my feet and body with a dancing rhythm but off we went. We had 6 weeks of lessons in preparation for the big day. We fumbled through it like you would expect non-dancing people to do. We both realized that we just were not cut out for it and gave it up after Valentine's Day.
We still love to slow dance in each other's arms and it doesn't take a lot of specialized skill to hold each other and sway to the music in a circle. Now, this we could do all night long and it's easy enough to grab her up in the kitchen at home and dance around the house with her.
If you are a dancer and you are gifted in that area, then this can be a wonderful escape for couples to do together. Our town does not offer any opportunities for dancing but some of the neighboring larger cities usually have musical venues for such purposes. Dancing is usually free but even if you have to pay a cover charge at the door for the band, it's still relatively inexpensive for date nights.
9) Free Live Music Event
If you enjoy listening to live music, you can often find these venues or events close to home. There are usually restaurants, coffee shops, and such places that bring in small bands or solo artists to entertain. Heather and I love going on winery tours. These places will sometimes have a festival type event with live music and can be a lot of fun to attend.
Last but certainly not least, you can pack a picnic lunch, hop in the car, and, for the price of a tank of gas, go sightseeing. We have gotten up really early on a Saturday morning, driven to the Smokey Mountains, taken some photos and drove home before bedtime. We would stop at a park or rest area and eat from our picnic basket we prepared. These are wonderful adventures to get out and see God's creation at a low cost.
At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what you do. Do something intentional and together. Make memories and strengthen your bond of intimacy. No time invested in your relationship is wasted. Try to find joy in being together rather than on what you are doing. All you really need is time!
Share with us your ideas for low-cost date night. I'm sure there are plenty more and others would love to hear your ideas.
See Also: Marriage, Ministry, & Valentine's Day a guest post that we did for a friend in which we gave practical tips for dating when you have young children.