Billy and I joke about how we don’t have many hobbies. As I’ve mentioned, my golf game isn’t worth the effort, and Billy stays busy keeping up with the umbrellas around the house. However, we do have one consistent past-time that we both enjoy: eating out. I throw myself into the cooking process of many family meals, so when we schedule our weekend Date Night, we are all about getting far away from my kitchen.
The last time I chatted with someone about their date night, they mentioned feeling like they had hit a rut. Their date routine was plagued by an inconsistent schedule and predictable activities. My take on the issue is that your first priority simply MUST be to have 3-4 nights out a month, not a QUARTER. If you are the “planner” in the relationship, then plan away. Lean into that strength. Don’t be passive aggressive or demand that your spouse “meet you in the middle“; just take charge and make it happen. Next, figure out how to break with the predictable and be spontaneous. Here are some ideas how:
1. Eat someplace new.
For the love of entrepreneurs everywhere, try that little dive joint and see if the next Julia Child is working in the kitchen. We all have “favorite” go-to spots, but save those for times when it’s raining outside, the dog has chewed up your favorite book, and you are so “hangry” that you can’t think straight. That’s the time you need to go to the “old standby.” Otherwise, branch out and experiment. However, if venturing someone new isn’t feasible, then see tip #2 to try at your usual dining out place.
2. Try a new food.
Even your favorite places likely have things on the menu that you haven’t tried; so go for the new thing! Where else can you “risk” a few bucks and make a new discovery? (Nowhere!). If you don’t try something new, you might lose out on the chance to eat something like a Gooseberry (above) and THAT would be a shame!
This means bringing your most patient attitude. If you’re in a hurry for your food, try Chick-fil-A. They know how to get you in and out quickly (and if you stick with the grilled chicken sandwich or salad, you can eat healthy!) Otherwise, if you’re out with family, friends, or on a Date Night, instead of fretting over slow service, relax and enjoy each other’s company. My “go to” activity is to take pictures or play word games. Do something fun instead of being uptight about everything going as planned. Remember, a good part of a night out with friends or a date night is about the PEOPLE… not just what comes out of the kitchen on a plate.
4. Plan ahead, but stay flexible.
In the words of Dr. Seuss, “I’m sorry to say so, but sadly it’s true, that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.” This is true in the broadest scope of life and certainly true with dining out. You’ll show up at your anniversary dinner and there won’t be a reservation for you. You may try to take a friend out for her birthday and your car will die en route (see above). Or you may make a plan in your head and your date doesn’t feel like Korean BBQ. Stay nimble. Stay quick. Adjust and remember, you can always plan another trip to your favorite spot.
5. Check your teeth!
I never promised you classy advice! If you don’t know this trick, don’t mock it until you’ve tried it. A clean knife works like a charm in identifying every last piece of cilantro caught in your teeth. Don’t make your date tell you, “you have something right…there…no, one over; yes, you got it.” Just pick up your knife, admire the reflection, and get it done!
Bottom line… Don’t put pressure on making the night perfect, just have fun when you’re out. Experiment and play with your evening. After all, you’re only risking a bad meal. This isn’t like investing your life savings in Webvan; you’re just eating dinner!