Seattle, New York City, Chicago and even our own Minneapolis are a few of the places my husband and I have stayed for a few days with other couples over the years. We have spent weekends with close friends at cabins and vacation homes. Sometimes a boutique hotel. These couples are the kinds of friends we hope we grow old with and – if we’re really honest – we hope some of our kids marry theirs. We have a shared history that shows up in random moments, reminding us of an adventure we have had together and erupting in laughter over the memories. And it all started with double dates.
How are parents of small children able to pull that off? Weekends away… without kids? Full nights of sleep? Meals that are still hot when you eat them? What are they… magicians? Or wealthy?
Not at all. We simply have learned how important and rewarding it is to prioritize time together as a couple with other couples. Marriage experts always say that married couples should keep dating each other, and we agree. Intentional time together is so important, especially after having kids. Whether it is the traditional dinner-and-a-movie date or something as simple as a walk together, it is vital to find ways to reconnect with each other. However, we have found so many benefits to double dating and yet there aren’t many people talking about that.
Double dates have brought back something important for our marriage. There is a side of us that can get lost in the daily doldrums of life: the fun side. When all we see of each other is the beginning and end of a work day, the parenting, the taking-out-the-trash and other adulting things, we can forget what we were like when we first fell in love. Like most couples, there was an element of fun that included other people at the beginning of our love story. Whether it was a group of friends going to a concert, out to eat, or just hanging out, there is a part of him and a part of me in those settings that played into the inevitable falling in love. When we go out on a double date with friends, I’m reminded of that attractive smile he has and of his compassion for others as he listens to their stories. I remember why I so admire the way he handles conversation and can so seamlessly get to the heart of people, making them feel heard and known.
By ourselves, we can tend to be more reserved and quiet, even boring sometimes. We talk a lot about anything and everything, but when the words run out or when we are too tired, there is a good chance we might spend the evening watching movie trailers and in the end realize that it’s too late and we would rather go to sleep. And that’s fine. We are comfortable with who we are, even in the boring times. But I can see where we could easily just stay in those ruts until we grow old together. Quite frankly, we both want more to our relationship than that. When we are with another couple or a group of good friends, there is a livelier social side of us that comes out and it forces us out of our usual routines. It adds a richness to our experiences together, which in turn, fuels up our relationship.
Shared experiences tend to do that. They add layers of complexity and depth. We all know hard things do that. When we walk through a difficult time with someone else, that shared experience adds depth. But the same is true for positive experiences. Difficult experiences are hardly something you choose, but positive experiences are mostly always a choice. Both create memories that tie people together. Like that time we almost froze, sitting on the slopes of the Gorge Amphitheatre surrounded by crazies, while waiting for our friend’s favorite band to play. Or that time we walked the equivalent distance of a marathon through the streets of New York. And that night after a concert downtown Minneapolis, when they wouldn’t let us into a bar because our friends had a baby in the Ergo. Come on, we just wanted some fries! Those are just a few of the memories we now share with friends which have knit us together in a deeper, and definitely more fun way.
We all know that “mawwiage is what bwings us togetha today” but life has a way to pull us in different directions. Kids, of course, rightfully demand a lot of our attention and resources. Then there are jobs, commitments, house projects and other relationships. Spending time together can quickly become something we’re too tired to accomplish or simply don’t have time left for. In fact, we can easily get to the point where we each have our own circles of friends and even our social life becomes yet another thing pulling us apart. Double dates give us both the opportunity to make friends together and actually, the combination of four people’s personalities can lend a much more well-rounded relational component to our collective friendship than we might not have achieved with just the wives or the husbands alone.
We have made some of our best friends by double dating, but it hasn’t always been easy. It is necessary to remember that we live in a highly transient culture. Most of us don’t live in the same neighborhood we grew up in, or in my case not even the same country! As we move through the different stages of life from singleness to marriage, we can find ourselves in the throes of raising kids feeling quite lonely. I am convinced this can be one of the hardest seasons to make friends in. Sure, we have camaraderie in the fact that as parents, we are all sleep deprived and coffee addicted. But getting into the deeper conversations of who we are beyond the surface takes a while and is extremely difficult when you’re also trying to parent on the side. By double dating with other couples, my husband and I have been able to enjoy focused conversations and our friendships have developed faster than they would have through family get togethers alone. Besides, there is something to be said for finding friends with similar parenting habits–it helps make play dates much more cohesive and pleasant.
Double dates and weekends away have become something my husband and I intentionally schedule and budget for. We know that an evening of uninterrupted adult conversation and great food helps us come back to our kids refreshed. And a weekend away always helps renew our perspectives on the goals and values we have for ourselves and for our family. We are a team and we operate so much better when we take the time to nourish our souls, our marriage, our friendships, and our appetites!
So what is your dream weekend getaway? And when are you going to finally try that new restaurant in town you’ve been talking about? Make plans and bring some friends along!