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How Wednesday Nights Saved My Marriage

Photograph by Twenty20

Do yourself—and your marriage—a favor, and do it now. Don't do it next week or next month. And please don't say you'll start when your youngest child is 3 or 4 or 5, because you won't, and your emotional well-being will suffer for the wait. So, really, the time to start is this week. I'd like to recommend Wednesday. And what is it that you're going to do?

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It's simple. You're going to take a shower, put on clean clothes and get out of the house on Wednesday night without your kids or your spouse. And you're going to do it every week for as long as you have children living under your roof. Impossible you say? Actually, it's not.

In fact, your spouse can have a night off, too. He might like Tuesday, for reasons I'll soon explain. But before I keep going, let me back up.

When I was pregnant with my first child, who is now 17, my husband proposed that we were going to need time to ourselves after the baby was born. "Let's each take a night of the week," he suggested. "A get out of jail, er—the house—free card kind of thing."

"Sure," I told him, "Sounds good," not taking him the least bit seriously.

"So what night do you want?"

"Um, Wednesday," I said. "Good for a mid-week break, I suppose."

"Great. And I'll take Tuesday and keep doing pickup basketball."

"If that works for you … "

About five weeks after Phinny was born, Mark asked if I was ready to start our night-out thing.

"Huh? Really? You were serious?"

We come home grateful for our home, our kids and each other.

He was. And with my baby at home, I took that first Wednesday evening and went to a girlfriend's house. Basically I just sat there for an hour, realizing that I existed in the world separate from my son. It was amazing.

Two months later, I started using Wednesday nights to catch my breath, refuel and do something fun. Once, I took a jewelry-making course just to be able to use a blowtorch. Another time, I did a sculpting class with live models whose lovely but imperfect bodies made me feel less bad about my own post-pregnancy bulges. When I didn't have a class, I'd call a friend for a movie or play or glass of wine. But I'd always do something, and it always felt good. And I would wake up on Wednesday morning looking forward to my night out.

Mark, too. He still comes home happy and sweaty from playing either basketball or Ultimate Frisbee. He has cultivated friendships with other dads that never would have happened without a designated night each week to hang with the guys. And he is always more appreciative of me after having some time to himself.

When friends ask us how we've managed to make our relationship work so well, I give a lot of credit to this plan. We took a few months off after our daughter was born, but otherwise haven't missed many nights of doing our own thing.

We have our night and we use it well. We come home grateful for our home, our kids and each other.

If you'd like to give it a go, here are a few simple guidelines to make it get you going out:

1. Pick a night and stick with it.

Monday is too close to the beginning of the week and not really fun, Thursday is good for family or home "date night," and Friday is out of the question. Hence, Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to work well.

2. Guilt-free fun

Never make your partner feel bad for going out on their designated night. If you are ill or need them home, ask them nicely to stay in and offer them another night of the week. You should receive the same consideration.

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3. Always use your night

"I don't have anything to do" is no excuse. You can always see a movie, read at a bookstore or take a long walk . It will become a necessary and habitual part of your self-care routine.

4. Enjoy!

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