The life-changing magic of monthly date nights.

How takeout and a sitter can lead to deeper connection, more wealth, and a life with purpose.

My wife and I sat in a church basement completing worksheets of chores we would each do when married. It was then that we identified our key to a happy marriage: a dishwasher. Thank goodness for this marriage preparedness class!

We married in 2001. Both 25 years old, we had no grand plan for what life together would look like. Beyond getting a dishwasher, life was open-ended. I assumed “things would just work out”.

The first 20 years

The years passed and life happened. Personal goals. Professional goals. Our son was born in 2011. We traversed life “just fine”. I didn’t think about it too much. I put my head down, went to work, made money, vacationed, hung out with the family, and repeated it for years.

It took me 20 years to finally see that I had no vision for what I wanted our lives to be. I was 45.

Conversely, my wife only seemed to think about big things. Why are we here? Where are we going? What is our purpose?

Up to that point:

  • I handled work and “tasks”. She carried the emotional burden.
  • I lived in the present. She looked to the future.
  • I thought about money. She thought about life.

We needed a solution for combining forces. We could no longer “wing it”. We would need to work together to design a purposeful and more connected life.

It continues to be our goal for the next 20 years.

Trial and error

My epiphany for planning a well-intentioned life didn’t happen all at once. It took place over many months. Covid-19 shook me out of a life of “going through the motions”.

To improve our unity and direction, my wife and I decided to meet weekly and make some plans. We mapped out what needed doing that week, fun weekend plans, and long-term activities to work on together. The discussions morphed from tactical to aspirational and back again.

But we had many fits and starts.

  • Talking at night didn’t work. That kid kept interrupting.
  • In the morning failed. We have different sleep schedules.
  • We committed to meeting in person, but that also proved unreliable.
  • We settled on mid-day meetings by Zoom. And, yes! It worked for a while.
  • But then, we’d miss a week and the schedule unraveled for two more.

In the end, for us, the weekly meeting became too much. We couldn’t get it to fit in with many, other commitments.

Our efforts were completely derailed for several months, until my wife recognized it. Since our time meeting weekly, we had both grown. We learned some things…

Monthly date night

We now meet monthly. We like it, because it’s efficient and with only 12 dates a year, there is absolutely no reason to miss. For us, these are date nights. You might also call them meet-ups. Over the course an evening, we discuss all aspects of our lives.

At first, the dates were tactical.

We would:

  • Arrange for our son to be away.
  • Order takeout.
  • Discuss plans for the coming month. That was it!

The next stage became more strategic.

Additionally, we would:

  • Revisit one life and one money goal we set for the year.
  • Plan an interesting activity for the month (to “make a memory!").
  • Find new ways to connect with each other.

Now, the date night looks like this:

  • Sometimes we do takeout and sometimes we go out!
  • We pick and choose our conversation topics. Some months we cover life or connection or money or a combination.

But, we never miss a date.

Why does it work?

I truly believe that a monthly date night leads to deeper connections, more wealth, and a more well-intentioned life.

And now, I think I know why. I recently read Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. In it, he describes the keystone habit.

A keystone habit is one that leads to a cascade of other positive actions. It’s a habit that has a ripple effect…from it, other good habits form.

The book offers two examples…

  1. Sleep. Commit to 8 hours of sleep a night and wake up rested and ready to make many other good decisions throughout the day.
  2. Exercise. Commit to 30 minutes in the morning and feel better all day. You’ll think clearer and tend to eat more healthy foods.

Life is hard. Work. Relationships. Kids. Friendships. Health. There is so much to think about and work on.

Can’t I just focus on one thing to jump-start everything else?

Well, maybe not one. But, how about three things?

First, focus on yourself: 1) get enough sleep and 2) exercise daily and other dominoes will start to fall.

Then, 3) commit to a monthly date night! With proper guidance, it can lead to a deeper relationship, more money, and a better life. I will help you.

I cannot wait to see what the next 20 years have in store for us…

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Brian Herriot, Fast Follow Investor @brianh