Excuses, all of them. We had convinced ourselves that we were simply being responsible parents. In actuality, we were being irresponsible, doing a poor job of modeling a fulfilling marital relationship. As Frank later pointed out, our sons never got out from under the parental gaze, didn't see their parents get dressed up for one another's benefit, weren't getting the message that their parents' private relationship was something worth nurturing.
Most of the blame, I think, was mine. It makes me a little nauseous to recall how often Frank suggested we go out, while I replied that we couldn't (the baseball dinner), or shouldn't (Budget! Snow! Both of us might die in an accident on the way to the restaurant!). The good thing about a decent marriage is that, most of the time, it's not too late to change. At some point, our children no longer required sitters, finances were slightly better and we had to ask ourselves: What are we waiting for? How To Be A Mother, A Wife—And Yourself
Dating my husband, which for so long had seemed like a luxury, a selfish act, suddenly, or I should say, finally, revealed itself for what it was: mandatory marital maintenance.
Our dates now are tame outings—dinner, a movie, even shopping for something other than groceries—but they occur at more regular intervals, and are planned with intention. The kids seem happy to see us head out and, if we waver, they say, "You should go!" Some of that is surely about what they plan to do while we're gone, but sometimes they still request an overnight at Grandma's (where care-giving roles are now somewhat reversed but food flows freely). How To Take Date Night From 'Meh' To Mind-Blowing
I also sense in them a greater intangible awareness in the way they regard us as a couple. Yes, every dating dollar spent is one less in the college fund, but we're investing in something else—we're showing our sons a long marriage in which both partners still love, and get to hang out with, each other.
For too long, we pushed our luck. But we were lucky. Our center held.