I’ve always loved the idea of dating.
And I know, I know, you’re saying “a dating post so close to Valentine’s Day, Jess. Really?” Regardless of your relationship status, (was ‘relationship status’ an actual term before Facebook?) chances are, you think about “dating” a lot during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day.
But here’s the truth, this isn’t supposed to be a post about Valentine’s Day. Rather, it’s a coincidental realization I came to recently, and it’s also something I think everyone in a relationship (and even my single girls who will eventually be in a relationship) can benefit from.
So here it is, plain and simple:
I’ll never stop dating.
I remember my first date early in high school. It was with a boy named Nick (or was it Geoff? It was one of the two.) He played Lacrosse and went to a neighboring school and had the best frosted surfer hair and an exquisite Hollister wardrobe. (All the things you want in a boy at age 15.) Nick/Geoff picked me up in his white SUV and we went to Red Robin. (I ordered the clucks and fries.) And then saw a scary movie.
It was one of the first times I had felt really grown up. In real life I was Samantha Albertson from Now and Then, but in my mind I was like Sophia Loren. (I had a very active imagination.)
As the years passed, the act of dating continued to hold a special place in my romantic heart. (Except for one time when a guy I went on a date with was so cheap, he accepted my $5 reimbursement for the cab we shared. Such a great story to tell in hindsight.)
So fast forward to now, three and a half years into this “what on earth did I ever do to deserve someone so wonderful?” relationship of mine–I think that’s it. (And yes, I’m aware that this isn’t a huge amount of time in the grand scheme of things). Dating. It really works.
It’s something Neal and I both prioritize. And yes, we have our differences, arguments, and things to work on, as does everyone. But because of this little trick of continuing to date well into our relationship, I still get butterflies meeting him at a restaurant, waiting at bar with a glass of wine, wondering when he’ll walk through the door.
Life is hard, it’s busy, and exhausting. Then the next thing you know, you’re years into a relationship and you haven’t showered and you’re laying on the couch wearing sweats, binging Netflix, and order pizza again. (Which, don’t get me wrong–deep dish pizza and Netflix absolutely have a place in our relationship, we’ve just learned to not indulge in them too much.) And when life seems to get more stressful, or more ho hum than usual, upon closer examination, it’s usually because we need to take more time to date.
It’s just a little thing, but aren’t the littlest things in life the biggest?
So, go out of your way to do little things for one another, just like you used to do in the beginning. Plan a surprise, or cook their favorite meal “just because.” Make a surprise dinner reservation somewhere new just because it’s Wednesday. You could go out to a fancy restaurant, but sometimes, making dinner and drinking wine at home is just as fun.
Even if you live together, make him wait in the living room while you get all dolled up, so there’s still that “big reveal” feeling right before you walk out the door. On occasion, put on a cute comfy dress when you get home from work instead of your pajamas. Whatever it may be, sometimes, it’s the least bit of effort that makes such a huge difference.
So this Valentine’s Day, (and I know, I promised I wouldn’t get all Valentinesy, but I guess I lied a little) why not go all out? Embrace the romance. Make a 10pm reservation in the darkest Italian restaurant you can find. Or scalp some last minute tickets to a punk rock concert. Plan a surprise camping trip. Whatever. Do you! Go out of your way to do something new and different together.
You’ll never struggle keeping the fire alive if you never let the spark go out.