I will admit that my husband and I do not get out together as a couple sans-kids as often as we should. Mostly it’s just the logistics – how long can we be gone (especially with a nursing baby), who will watch the others, where will we go, what will we do, etc. We live in an area where getting a quality babysitter is really tough, and there isn’t an abundance of places to go out together. And by “places” I mean restaurants and movies and plays and special dinners and all that “normal date stuff”.
But, here’s the thing – our marriage is anything but “normal”, especially if that means making appearances at all the right shows and going out to dinner together and watching movies, etc. Not that those things are bad necessarily, but they just aren’t us. From the very first day we met, we have connected best out on the trail. Whether we’re skiing or hiking or biking or spending time on the water – THAT’s where we can leave the distractions of life behind and focus on each other.
Plus, we’re cheap. We’d much rather put that money that we would have spent on a fancy dinner and show towards a new bike or skis or boat or camper. Again, WEIRD!
But, I also think we have the right idea about something, even if it only happens when the grandparents come visit: exercising outdoors together helps us think better, which in turn helps us communicate better, connect better and build our relationship further. The quote below is referencing the link between walking and writing well, but I think it translates into so much more than that, including healthy relationships.
“When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.” – from “Walking Helps us Think” New Yorker
Exercise also is proven to greatly relieve stress and boost your overall health as it bumps up the “feel- good” endorphins in your brain, improves your mood, and helps you become more focused on the task at hand (in this case, your partner in life!) (Mayo Clinic)
While there is no hard feelings towards those of us who love a good movie or a meal in which you only have to feed yourself (if you have small kids, you understand what I mean), there is great benefit in offsetting that with dates focussed specifically on outdoor exercise together.
A few ideas on how to mix it up outside:
- Once the kids are old enough to be home alone for a few minutes, take a nightly walk together, even just around the block
- Go biking (road, mountain, cruisers, whatever!)
- Explore a new trail that neither one of you have been on
- Pack a picnic dinner and watch the sunset
- Train for a race together (5K, 10K, marathon, etc.)
- Go rock climbing
- Don’t have the gear? Rent, borrow or buy! If purchasing, take advantage of end-of-season-sales
- Walk to an outdoor movie showing/Shakespeare in the Park, etc.
- Trade kids with a friend so you can even have 30 minutes together and then take full advantage of that time to reset together.
Someday I won’t have a nursing baby that keeps me closer to home. Someday we’ll find the perfect babysitter or family to swap kids with on a regular basis. Someday our kids will be older and things will be easier to leave them and get out together. That “someday” WILL happen. For now, I’ll take advantage of what I can get.
Ideally couple time means sans strollers and carriers and bike trailers. But, in not-so-long-ago years, we just put the kids in those contraptions while we got out and they passed out. The hour or so of quiet thanks to sleeping kids still meant time to connect as a couple. Not perfect, but it worked.
Finally, outdoor dates are a perfect time to allow yourself to be challenged and/or challenge the one you love. Be open to new activities and pursuits together. You may surprise yourself and find a deeper connection as you overcome the challenges of the unknown.
What about you and your partner? How do you get out and make time? What would you like to do differently?
Check out these great posts on the topic also:
- Til Death Do We Date Night by The Kid Project (guest posting on our site)
- 50 Outdoor Date Ideas by Bring the Kids
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