Is it possible to rise above the mess of day to day life and find your way back to a romantic relationship?
I have a couple of friends who have “date nights” with their husband. Once a week (at least), they get a babysitter and head out to have dinner and/or see a movie. They’re not allowed to make plans with other people on that night: the point is to have some alone time.
I admire them. I even envy them. What I don’t do is imitate them.
It’s not that I don’t want to–it’s just too hard. Weeknights are crazy. Crazy. Did I mention they’re crazy? Four kids (five this year with my niece staying with us), all trying to get through homework, eat dinner, have whatever lessons or appointments they might have (sometimes I think I should just put down a mattress in the orthodontist’s office and move in), deal with emotional, social, and moral crises, and score more attention from me than their siblings.
Anyway, my husband’s schedule as a TV writer is unpredictable, so if I did try to plan a regular night out for us Monday through Friday, then inevitably he’d have to work late that night more often than not. When he doesn’t have to work late, well, stuff is piling up for him at home, the chores I can’t or won’t do, like cleaning the turtle tank with our fifteen-year-old or paying through the pile of bills that mount up and mount up and mount up and mount up by his computer.
And, when the weekends come, we’re either doing stuff as a family or trying to get in a nice dinner with friends. If we went out alone on the weekends, we’d have no other social life. And we both love our friends. We’re lucky to have people in our lives whose company gives us a lot of pleasure but there aren’t that many weekends in a year, so Saturday nights–when we’re not seeing a kid in a play or traveling or hosting a birthday party–are for being social.
Of course, it would be remiss for me not to mention that I am slightly insane. I’m not at peace unless the entire family is together. It doesn’t necessarily need to be at home–although I love any evening when we’re all six here–but I feel like a limb is missing when we’re spread out in different places. (It will be interesting to see what happens to me emotionally when my kids start going to college. And by “interesting,” I mean potentially terrifying.)
Given how tough it’s been to get me to go out for a date night with my husband, you’d think a romantic weekend away with him would be out of the question. And you’d think right. It almost never happens.
Well, there have been a couple of exceptions. Back when our youngest was a baby, Rob pried my fingers from the doorjamb and got me on a flight to Seattle for a friend’s wedding. I had a drink on the plane and for the next 48 hours forgot I had any kids at all. I had no idea I could adapt that quickly. It was a glorious weekend and I loved every minute of it.
Unfortunately, it was followed a few years later by the worst kind of negative reinforcement for going away: we spent a night alone in a hotel (just 15 minutes from home, mind you) and got a call in the morning from the babysitter saying she was worried about our daughter. We sped home to spend the day in the E.R., the week in the hospital, and the rest of our lives dealing with her diagnosis of Addison’s Disease.
Not the kind of thing that makes you want to run off again. I mean, I’m the first to acknowledge the timing was coincidental, but it felt meaningful.
It’s been ages since Rob and I have spent time alone together. There’s an occasional car ride on our way to meeting friends somewhere, but I’m always running through everything I need to talk to him about, from the broken refrigerator light to what the kids should do this summer to how he thinks I should end my novel. I can’t waste that precious time just chatting lazily and making each other laugh.
But our marriage is the foundation of this family and I know it. So when Rob turned to me last week and said, “Come with me to Boston for the weekend” (he was already going but I wasn’t), I immediately said . . .
“I don’t know.”
He took that as a hopeful sign and set about booking an airplane reservation. It looked like I might have to be on an early morning flight back to LA. I was worried about being overtired all week, about all the work I had to do, about whether the kids would be okay with all this, about whether it was worth all the flying and bother for just a couple of days.
I was torn. I couldn’t decide. I asked him to give me a couple of minutes. Then I went downstairs and called my friend Kim who is wonderfully clear-sighted. I explained the situation and my hesitation and without a pause she said, “Go.” And then she said, “You’re lucky enough to have a husband who wants you to be with him, who wants to spend time with you. You have to honor that. Plus you’ll have a great time.”
I hung up the phone, went upstairs and told Rob to buy the airplane tickets.
So I’m going. And I suspect I’ll have a terrific time. Maybe it will even inspire me to find more nights at home when we can go out alone together.
But while I’m thinking about it, I better email him about that broken refrigerator light.