My husband and I stopped forcing date nights after I gave birth. It took a ton of pressure off.

My husband and I stopped forcing date nights after I gave birth. It took a ton of pressure off.
Couple sitting on couch with lamps on aiming remote at television.
Dori Rose (not pictured) says letting go of date nights has been positive for her marriage.Getty Images
  • My husband and I used to go on date nights when we first started seeing each other.

  • When I realized he didn't seem to love going on them, I worried we'd fall into a rut.

  • Over time, I realized we didn't need to force date nights, and there were other ways to show we care.

As first-time parents in our mid-30s, my husband and I have taken the unconventional approach of deliberately NOT doing date nights, despite the fact that some relationship experts say they're essential for a good marriage. We didn't intend on going against the grain in this way, but the writing was on the wall for us and our nearly date-less marriage early on. My husband and I clocked our last date night a year ago — and don't plan on going on another anytime soon.

This stance on date nights evolved for us over the years. Back in 2017, we were in the earlier stages of dating. We had a blast getting to know each other over delicious dinners and drinks. But as our relationship progressed, the planned dates out to popular restaurants became fewer and farther between. While I was totally smitten with my future husband, I was quickly learning the truth: He would much rather chill and have a meal at home.

This aversion to dates out of the apartment bothered me at first. It triggered a fear of falling into a "rut" as we left the honeymoon phase. Did fewer dates mean we were headed for trouble as a couple? While I was learning how to deal with my anxiety about failed relationships, I decided I should embrace this shift in ours. Turns out, getting rid of date nights would teach me a lesson about love I never knew I needed.

We've tried to make date nights work for us in the past

Fast forward to the summer of 2022, two months after our wedding. With a gift card to a local Mexican restaurant and nothing to do, we decided on a matinee movie and an early dinner. It felt fun, light, and relaxed. As I watched our fresh guac being made tableside, I sipped my margarita and thought, "Look at us go! First date night as a married couple!" I made it my mission to reinvigorate our dating life by planning more nights like that. After all, isn't that what all married couples do?

I immediately started brainstorming date-night ideas. I already knew it wasn't my husband's "thing," so I kept my expectations realistic. Weekly dates? Way too ambitious. Every other week? Doubtful. Monthly? Let's give it a shot. Just as I started researching the kind of festive fall dates that would make my husband cringe, I found myself with a different set of plans to make; I was pregnant! With the news of our beautiful bundle of joy on the way, I suddenly felt even more pressure to squeeze in our date nights before our "pre-baby life" expired.

We realized we were forcing it

But as my pregnancy progressed and the months flew by, the two most-used apps on my phone became Babylist and DoorDash. Before I knew it, we were two weeks away from my due date, and my hopes for a year filled with date nights were dashed. As a consolation, my husband proposed going out for a "last supper" before my C-section. I agreed, found the only dress that fit, and waddled out the door.

While browsing our menus, it hit me: We were sitting at that table only because we thought we should be. Although I was having a great meal with my wonderful hubby, I couldn't help feeling this date was forced by the calendar. The feeling I had while sitting at that dinner was a far cry from the one the summer before. I decided then I had to stop trying so hard to make date nights happen.

I felt immediate relief. The pressure of feeling as if the health of our marriage depended on date nights was finally gone. I realized the frequency of nights out of the house didn't have to be the most important metric of a healthy relationship.

We found better ways to show each other we care

Instead of planning dates, we decided to place more focus on the other ways we connect with each other. Whether it's never missing a goodnight kiss at the end of a busy day, vocalizing a "thank you" for unloading the dishwasher, or finally spending time on the couch together and becoming ridiculously invested in our favorite reality dating show, our goal is to be intentional about paying attention to each other in some way, every single day. This approach means our connection is weaved into our life through daily actions and decisions rather than saved up for a designated night on the calendar.

Even after the birth of our son, our relationship is stronger than ever without date nights. We've traded stress about where to go and what to do for more laughs in our living room, a perfect fit as new parents. We'll eventually get to another night out, but only when it feels right. Although regular date nights work for some, we're proof they simply aren't necessary for the "secret sauce" of a happy marriage.

Read the original article on Business Insider