If you seek any advice on how to improve your marriage, usually one of the top five recommendations is to establish a regular date night — monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, whatever works.
Before we had kids, this advice was pretty meaningless to me. My wife and I love spending time with each other, and before we had a gaggle of children vying for our attention, pretty much everything we did felt like a date. Whether we were spending too much money shopping at Home Depot or actually out on a legitimate dinner date, we had a seemingly endless supply of quality time with each other and made the most of it.
But four kids later, the equation has changed significantly. We spend a lot of time together — as a family of six. We also spend a lot of time apart, with me taking the older kids on an outing by ourselves or Theresa taking the one-year-old home early from whatever we’re doing to put him to bed.
Sure, we still have some free time in the evenings, but sitting together and watching TV is not the same thing as making ourselves presentable and venturing out into the world as a couple to spend some real moments of peace with each other away from the scene of the day’s domestic crimes.
So having children taught me the importance of regular date nights, but the idea still seemed far-fetched as a regular occurrence until we found ourselves a reliable babysitter. There are a few main roles in life for which it really pays off to “know a guy”: car mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and babysitters. At this point in life, babysitter flies to the top of that list.
God bless Colette, the answer to our prayers. As the oldest of many younger siblings, she is unfazed by our 1, 2, 4, and 6-year-old quartet. She helps them eat dinner, plays with each of them graciously, and puts them to bed with more panache and less drama than their own parents can muster.
Once the kids were taken care of, all that was left was to figure out what we wanted to do for our dates. After going on a few standard dinner dates together, we decided to return to an old activity that we had tried once in a while back in our dating and early marriage years: trivia nights.
We found a great pizza place relatively close to our house that hosts trivia on Monday nights. The food and drink are outstanding, and the trivia is exceptionally fun with a variety of question types: standard questions, a sheet of movie stills with a theme, another standard round, an identification round with 20 fill-in-the-answer questions around a theme, and then a final round with two questions where you can wager some of your points to take home the prize of $25, $50, or $75 gift cards to invest in future trivia date nights.
Best of all, the trivia host keeps the action moving (nothing is worse than slow and endless trivia games) and the questions themselves are difficult but not impossible (or there are enough that aren’t impossible to still make it fun). There are usually at least seven teams playing, so it’s actually competitive.
To our shock, Theresa and I make an excellent trivia team and we are actually good at this! Despite our collective lack of deep sports trivia knowledge, we have placed 3 out of the 5 times that we’ve gone. This obviously keeps us coming back to some extent, but even if we weren’t that good, I think we would still try.
I can tell that trivia is the perfect date night because we hardly ever mention our kids or work the entire time that we are there. The questions get us working together on a project that is completely unrelated to any trials and tribulations in our life outside the restaurant. It leads us down conversation topics that we otherwise might never encounter and frees up our minds from the daily humdrum.
United as Team “Married…With Children,” we are laser-focused on working together to take down “In Beer We Crust” and the other teams that are usually in the mix for first place. Not to toot our own horns, but there are only two of us on our team and we’re usually taking on groups of 4–6. One of these days we’re going to finish in first and get our photo posted on the trivia company’s Facebook page. I can feel it.
We bond over Theresa’s math major skills coming in handy to solve a complex math question or my ability to pull the title of an obscure 90s movie out of my brain by just looking at a still frame. We swear each week that we are going to study the geography of Africa before the next time we come, and last week we actually took our four-year-old’s presidential placemat in the car with us to brush up on the order and years of U.S. Presidents. Zachary Taylor ended up being an answer to a question that we only knew because of our placemat cramming session and we won second place!
We are both committed to maintaining the quality of our marriage, and trivia date nights are institutionalizing that work into a fun (and lucrative) bonding activity. We are working together toward a common goal, laughing a lot, and getting our adrenaline pumping as we decide how much or how little to wager as the final round is wrapping up.
When we come back home after these trivia date nights, we are both more refreshed and have some new “just us” memories to share. I can’t overstate the importance of taking time away from your kids so that you’re better with them (and your spouse) when you’re around them.
As an added bonus, I’ll soon be learning the geography of Africa.
This post first appeared on Rounding 40. Sign up there to read more of my period dispatches.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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