By Lisa Barr
This piece was reprinted from www.wefoundtime.com with Zibby Owens
A little glimpse into my former pre-coronavirus, life: Every day, after the kids left for school, my husband and I would meet at a nearby café for 20 minutes. No phone calls would be answered, no meetings scheduled, no emails replied to. During “coffee time,” our sole focus was always our relationship. These morning dates were more than just an easy way to satisfy my craving for a grande extra hot mocha with whip (although, that was usually there, too). In those precious, stolen moments, in a crowded café filled with busy people going about their own pre-pandemic lives, I felt seen. My husband and I treasured those daily opportunities to remember why we chose each other in the first place.
Our day dates felt a little hot, a little secretive, and yes, sometimes a little naughty. Like we were sneaking around. Once, a woman approached us and said, “I see you two here every morning, holding hands. I know it’s none of my business, but are you having an affair?”
“Yes,” I laughed. “An affair with my husband.”
We are not newlyweds. We have been together 17 years, each our second marriage, with three daughters between us. (Our home could also be referred to as “Drama Central”.) We’ve had our fair share of problems. And yet, our relationship is still full of passion and love. Having learned from our pasts, we know exactly what it takes to keep a relationship intact — and also what can break it.
I’m here to tell you: “date night” is bullshit. Yes, it’s a celebrated tradition among many couples, but as I see it, it’s just another Hallmark holiday, manufactured and forced, like Valentine’s Day. For many couples, “date night” comes with a long list of requirements: Make a dinner reservation, find an expensive babysitter who will (hopefully) put the kids to bed, dress up, force adult conversation and then cap off the night with sex. It’s no wonder that “date night” rarely seems to live up to all of the glimmering, high expectations that surround it. If you ignore your marriage six days a week, one night out cannot erase the distance that has been created.
Plus, by the end of a long day, many women (especially those with young kids), would rather have hot sleep than hot sex.
Our marriage works better when we date during the day. “Date day” presses pause on all of life’s minutia. For a few moments, we’re able to see one another out in the sunlight, before being drained by the inevitable demands the day will bring. For us, “date day” doesn’t just stop when we finish our coffee. Throughout the day, even when it seems like there isn’t enough time, I let my husband know that I am thinking about him. And he has learned to do the same. This is where emojis come in handy! With a tap of a thumb, I can send a heart or a kiss or an eggplant to tell him he is on my mind. This is sexy. This is connection. This is foreplay.
Of course, there are certainly days when we have our coffee time and emoji exchanges, and at the end of the day I would still rather check out and watch a TV show by myself. Yet our established routine takes resentment out of the picture.
Admittedly, the recent “shelter-in-place” orders have created a bit of an obstacle for our “date day” routine. This virus is a serious cock-blocker. There have been countless moments during this endless lockdown in which I have wanted to slay my husband. And there are none of our usual emoji exchanges, because he’s literally sitting right next to me. (Did you know that during quarantine, a top divorce attorney said there has been a 50 percent rise in filings? I hate to say it, but I’m not surprised.)
As the days began to blur together — is it Wednesday or Saturday? — I realized that my marriage needed a boost of vitamin A. A, as attention. As in ASAP. Without our consistent day dates, that absence of resentment that I was so proud of before started to build. Competition I did this, you didn’t do that) replaced romance, and we became blind to one another, even in the same damn room. We knew we needed to regroup to recover our mojo.
Now, we wake up before the kids. We shower, put on clean clothes, go for a drive, order curbside coffee from our favorite café, and take a long beach walk (properly distanced, of course). We divide and conquer the dishes, the laundry, the meals, the house details. Believe me, my husband has never looked as hot to me as he does unloading the dishwasher.
We made 5:00 pm our official, no-matter-what happy hour. Bourbon for two — yes, please. We’ve established boundaries in our home, boundaries with our kids, and boundaries with each other. The stupid fights that start over nothing have ceased because we’ve given ourselves the chance to thwart the bullets before they fly.
“Honey,” I said earlier today. “I’m losing it. Totally losing it. I can’t write. I can’t get a grip.”
Because we’ve practiced, he listened.
When I finally finished my rant, he said, “I hear you and I know exactly what you need. Go. Get out of here. My office is totally empty. Take some time to get your stuff done. Stay off your phone. I’ve got the laundry. I’ll cover the kids, the dog, all the shit you do.”
Full stop right here. This guy is so getting laid.
Therein lies the power of “date day.” Whether it’s back in real life, or throughout this apocalyptic, altered existence: it’s not about saving up all your romance ammo for a designated special occasion. Being seen in real-time on a daily basis is a powerful aphrodisiac — a daily supplement necessary for any relationship to survive, and ultimately thrive.
Lisa Barr is the editor and creator of GIRLilla Warfare and the award-winning author of THE UNBREAKABLES and FUGITIVE COLORS.