Without work, our relationships grow stale like month-old bread. We put our best foot forward at the beginning, but over time we can take each other for granted and start getting lazy. One way this shows up is in our date nights – if we do them at all.
I’ve noticed this inertia in my own heart. My relationship with my wife was good, but I wasn’t being creative like I used to. So, I decided it was time to shake things up. (You can adapt this for any relationship, though!)
Enter the Better Than Chopped Date Night. It’s a friendlier version of the popular TV show that worked really well for my wife and I. I think you’ll like it, too.
Before getting more specific, here’s the big picture. You and your wife (or boy/girlfriend, or friends) cook together, with two twists that make it a lot more fun. You (1) incorporate certain must-use ingredients into what you make, and, (2) get it done in a certain amount of time. (It’s just like Chopped in that sense).
Because you’re not competing against each other, these limits create a friendly pressure that should inject some much-needed fun and unpredictability into your relationship.
Here are the details. It’s super-flexible, so you can adjust to taste (your own relationship and circumstances). Don’t forget to keep the preferences of your spouse (or whoever) in mind as you plan.
- Schedule it. Find a time you’ll both (or all) be available and relatively relaxed.
- Create some anticipation. I told Sharon I had a fun, in-home date night planned for us a few days out. She loved the element of surprise.
- Plan it out. You can do nearly anything – any meal, appetizers, desserts, drinks, whatever. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be depending on your interests and time you have. I opted for one appetizer and one meal because we only had an hour and a half.
- Go shopping. Once you know basically what you’re doing (see #3), you can shop for the ingredients you’ll need. Picking up a random, must-use ingredient or two will take it to another level. (If you want to keep the theme of the date a total surprise, you might want to hide everything after you’ve bought it, though).
- Clean your kitchen. Pretty self-explanatory. Bonus points: empty the dishwasher, too.
- Set it up. You’re almost there! Place the must-use ingredients in a basket(s) and cover them so that they can’t be seen. Since we were making both an app and main course, I used two baskets, one for each. I also managed to keep the setup a surprise; your call.
- The reveal. After everything is ready, bring your spouse/date/friends into the kitchen and explain. I told Sharon that we were doing a friendly version of Chopped. One of us would cook the app; one of us would cook the main course. She could choose which basket she wanted. Each of us had to incorporate the ingredients in our chosen basket into our dish, but we could use anything else from the kitchen, too.
- The execution. Pick a time limit, set a timer to make it more fun, then go! This is the best part of the date. We ran into each other, dropped things on the floor, wondered how we were ever going to pull it off and wound up extending our own time limit. It was one of our best dates ever.
- Eat! After you catch your breath, sit down and shared what you’ve made. Not only the food, but the memories, too.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the 9 steps. It’s really pretty intuitive and you can make them even better by adjusting them to your own situation.
Looking back, this date was a real win for us. My wife felt special because I had put a little effort and creativity into our relationship. It felt great for me to experience again that it may just be possible to rise above our noisy, busy lives to keep our marriage a real priority. And all without leaving our lives or spending a ton of money.
Now, it’s your turn. With a little thought and effort, you can show God’s creative, surprising love to the people around you, too.
Question: What date night ideas have worked well for you in keeping your relationship fresh?