How do I ask out my wife?
March 3, 2014 3:15 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I used to go out fairly frequently - not partying but dinner, museum, movie, etc. Almost two years ago we had a child, whom we both adore. However, we have not been out since. We have had offers to watch the child so we could go out and she would not take any up on it. What can I say for my wife to accept a date with me?

A few additional notes:

1) She actually gets upset that people offer - she thinks people are trying to push her into doing it - they think she is weird for not going on a date night, etc

2) She has had a number of people express shock that their hasn't been a date night.

3) We have had numerous "discussions" about it - so she knows I would like one. She seems to think its just about me getting out despite trying to say its about us.

4) I have not done a great job perhaps at articulating what makes it different. I talk about conversations and she says we have conversations at home, I say time to ourselves and she says we have time to ourselves when the child is asleep, I say it would be distraction free and she says no because while we were gone she would just be thinking about the child, why do to a movie when we have watch a DVD, etc. I try to express that it is a different experience than just doing these things at home, but she doesn't buy it.

5) It is affecting our relationship. It's making me somewhat blame our child, even though its not her fault, its making me feel unwanted - like the child is the only thing that matters to my wife and its making me upset with my wife for just not trying something that is clearly important to me.

6) Perhaps the key? My wife's parents worked A LOT as she was growing up. Her parents frequently came home after a dinner that she had started pulled from the fridge. She went to boarding school in her older school years. I seriously think she has a sense of abandonment and is over compensating by feeling as if she needs to spend every moment either with the child or doing something for the child - never herself and never me.

7) Yes we have other friends with young children who go on semi-frequent date nights - so examples abound.

So -

* Any data, articles, etc that might help me make my point?

* Any non-data "look at this" ways to convince her date night is important?

* Is it possible I am doing something wrong? Taking the wrong approach? Am I crazy for wanting this? Should I just bide by time? How long 2 years? 3?

Anonymous email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (51 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Find something you know your wife would love to do. A museum she's always wanted to visit. A movie that's right up her alley. A restaurant she loves that you guys haven't been to since before the baby.

Make it about her.

Handle all the details yourself so it's no work for her.

Plan to be home at a totally reasonable hour, during a week that you guys have had plenty of quality time at home with the kid.

Also, maybe she just doesn't want to do date night? It's annoying when someone says they want to do something "for you" but you don't want it at all.

Could you set up something special at home/super close to home in a way that would be a compromise between going out vs. her being able to relax and feel comfortable away from the kid? Dinner party with neighbors? Or resolve to spend the evening at home, but actually take the trouble to make a nice meal, use the good china, dress for dinner, watch your favorite movie, etc?
posted by Sara C. at 3:28 PM on March 3, 2014

Have you put it in relationship terms? I want to feel closer to you, I want to keep building our relationship, I need to connect, I miss you, I miss us...
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:33 PM on March 3, 2014 [18 favorites]

If she's anything like many of the full time parents I know then she's too tired to want to go out after a day of kid wrangling and doesn't have the energy to enjoy something more challenging than a DVD on the sofa.

If that's the case then finding ways to reduce the load on her may make a difference.

Finding someone who knows you and your kid well enough to be a trusted babysitter might also help. Someone who you've seen interacting with your kid enough that you think it's a positive benefit for kid to spend quality time with them - and someone who knows you all well enough that you don't have to spend an hour doing the "induction process" explaining how to get your kid back to sleep and not to give her salt and where are the nappies and who knows what all else.

Another trick: Go for a walk with the whole family at the weekend. Time it so kiddo falls asleep in the car and hopefully remains asleep for a good part of the walk (hopefully you have a car seat the clips into a pram base). Presto, adult conversation without the hassle of a babysitter.
posted by emilyw at 3:38 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Different folks have different tolerances. I think my husband and I went on our first "date night" when our child was 3 months old. Other friends of mine haven't spent an evening away until their kid was in kindergarten.

It's important, because it's important to you. Have you told her directly "This is very important to me, and I feel rejected and sad when you don't want to go out with me any more?" Also -- does she work outside the home? The mothers I've known who have had busy, demanding jobs outside the home have often felt like an evening away from their kids is a loss, not a relaxing time away. So I think you need to focus on the fact that this is important to you and avoid trying to make her feel like she should want to do it for her.
posted by KathrynT at 3:41 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

What time does your kiddo go to bed? If she doesn't want to take away from kid-time, then can you go out after your child falls asleep?
posted by gaspode at 3:45 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are not nearly enough details here for internet strangers to assist you. Do you both work? What is the division of child care and household duties between you? Is your child in daycare yet? Have they ever been with a baby sitter for an hour or two? Is she still breastfeeding? Who is your support network that your wife might feel comfortable leaving your child with?

Unless she directly tells you otherwise, you need to keep her past relationship with her parents completely out of it and ask her directly what she needs to feel comfortable in beginning to leave your child with a trusted adult for a predetermined amount of time, even just a hour or two, and then go from there.
posted by romakimmy at 3:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

you might also consider having someone sit with the child for an hour while you guys make and eat dinner together in the other room. it can be a good tiny step to giving up a bit of that anxiety in a more controlled situation.
posted by nadawi at 3:51 PM on March 3, 2014 [13 favorites]

Would a breakfast date go over better? My baby was way happier and did better with the grandparents in the morning. I felt more at ease knowing baby was in the best mood possible. Plus by bed time I was way too tired to think about going out.
posted by Swisstine at 3:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [14 favorites]

I feel like new moms often think that their needs are put dead last, and your wife feels like you are acting as though your need to go out is supposed to trump her need to stay home and recharge. I (mom of a ten-month-old) don't have the energy to go out on the town right now and the people telling me I'm supposed to want to are just putting yet another item on a seemingly endless to-do list. It doesn't matter that the item is more fun than cleaning the's still on the same list as cleaning the bathtub. That list has a shit-ton of stuff on it that is just never gonna get done.
posted by town of cats at 3:54 PM on March 3, 2014 [25 favorites]

its making me feel unwanted - like the child is the only thing that matters to my wife...

Given what you've told us, I don't think this is an inaccurate statement. You should tell your wife what you've said here. You're not going to make any progress in feeling trapped at home unless you're honest with her about how you feel.
posted by killdevil at 4:00 PM on March 3, 2014 [15 favorites]

Also, it's reasonable for you to expect that your life outside the home is going to change when you have a kid. I don't think it's reasonable for your life outside the home to be over. That's not healthy for the kid, it's not healthy for your wife, and it's not healthy for you.
posted by killdevil at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't have kids and am still undecided about having them. But 95% of my coworkers are over 50. A lot of them have struggled with being empty nesters because they forgot to work on the relationship in all the stress and business of parenthood. It's pretty sad actually.

If you don't do regular maintenance on your car, it will fall apart but it's not going to happen instantly. If you don't take care of your body, you will be plagued later. Your relationship is the same. It's depressing as hell seeing lovers become roommates.

Sometimes we do things for the people we love because that's what they need, even if we think it's silly or pointless or inconvinient. I urge you to not give up on this. Tell her you guys need this, to continue to grow together, instead of apart. Even if she doesn't need it as an indivdual, you two need it because you do.
posted by Aranquis at 4:08 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

This can be more common than you think. I didn't go out on a date with my husband until my kid was over three-years-old. A few of my friends didn't either. I think for me, it was about control a bit and I was happy staying home with my kids. Looking back, I do wish I would have had more date nights with my husband. It is important and the kids are not going to die. The fact that she thinks it's strange that people are offering leads me to think it's a control issue.

edited to add: I do think it's important to say that you need this. You have your needs -- recreation with your wife -- and she has her needs. . A date night isn't too much to ask and they help keep you connected as a couple and be better parents.
posted by Fairchild at 4:09 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Before you go straight to date night: Has your child stayed with a babysitter at all?

I'm not saying that you should have used a babysitter; I was extremely uncomfortable with the random teenagers and 22-year-olds I found on UrbanSitter, and we had no babysitting family around until recently when my sibling moved near us. So we rarely went out.

Getting a babysitter isn't easy. It's work. You have to call in favors from friends with kids to divulge their babysitters, or you have sort through zillions of online ads till you find someone who you would literally trust with your kid's life. Then you have to interview them and work out rates and potentially reject them if you don't like them. Sometimes it seems easier to not go out at all.

You mention friends who have offered to babysit. I've never used a friend who's volunteered, partly because I don't have the mental or physical energy to reciprocate, and partly because I want to be able to tell my babysitter to knock it off if he or she is doing something I don't like with my kid, and that might be awkward to do with a friend.

It doesn't sound like we're really getting enough of the story here. It does sound like this is becoming a wedge issue in your marriage, which is worrisome, and it definitely doesn't sound to me like more "evidence" to support your side is really going to help you here. I'm feeling defensive just reading your question. You have decided that regular date nights are the normal thing to do and your wife is abnormal and you need to fix her. I would ... uh ... reconsider your stance a bit and figure out why she's resisting.
posted by purpleclover at 4:18 PM on March 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

Has your wife had any time JUST TO HERSELF lately?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:25 PM on March 3, 2014 [24 favorites]

For me, the missing ingredient was finding a sitter I was comfortable with. It took a lot of work and some trial and error, and a lot of money, because I was only going to be comfortable once I knew the sitter well, which meant she had to come and hang with us a few times before I would leave the kids with her, and of course that's paid time.

Here's what I'd do: offer to do the legwork of finding, selecting, and training a sitter. It is a big project. Interview three. Have your favorite one come over for 2-3 hours while you're there, to play with the kid and get to know all of you. Do this when you're both there. Repeat until wife is comfortable with the sitter.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:27 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think because people have got her all riled up and defensive about Date Night, you're going to need to be even more blunt about what you want, which, if I'm reading you correctly, means saying something like this: "I don't care where we do it or what we do, I just want to be alone with you and have your undivided attention, and to give you mine. We can't have that at home with the baby, because we can't help paying attention to her/him. It's only natural, but this is about having something that's just for us as a couple, and taking care of our marriage, which is the basis for our family."
posted by gingerest at 4:30 PM on March 3, 2014 [18 favorites]

2nd ing purple clover.

I know you said you want a date night, but maybe a baby step (ha!) towards that would be you staying home and letting your wife go out for a bit on her own (get her a gift card for whatever she's into, spa, coffee whatever) so she can learn its ok to leave for a bit and remember how nice it is to have grown- up time. It can be easy to get stuck in a stay at home rut so maybe this will help?

My husband and I will often wait until after our kids are asleep to leave, and have a sitter our kids know well, for peace of mind.
posted by cestmoi15 at 4:30 PM on March 3, 2014 [5 favorites]

Could you find a babysitter she REALLY trusts? Her very best friend who also has a young child? One of the grandparents or an aunt or uncle? Leaving your child alone for the first time is very hard.
posted by amaire at 4:33 PM on March 3, 2014

Have you actually directly asked her if she would like to have a date night/spend time with just you? It sounds like everyone is just telling her that she should, but perhaps there is a compromise - something less weighted than "date night" but geared towards reconnecting as a couple.
posted by sm1tten at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2014

I think you need to find out exactly why your wife doesn't want to go on date night. Is it that she doesn't trust anyone to take care of your child or is it that she feels being left with someone else might be traumatic for the child? Or is it something else entirely - like maybe she's just too tired to enjoy it?

How the child is going to feel about it is definitely something to consider. Does the child have any experience staying with another adult when a parent isn't present? If not, suddenly being left with a babysitter for the first time could be a pretty stressful experience for a 2 year old. Maybe you and your wife need to talk about how you think your particular 2 year old would react, and if you aren't both confident he/she would handle it well, you could talk about what steps you could take to get him/her ready for it.

If this is really your wife's big issue with date nights, then talking about how much you want to go on dates is just going to stress her out because it will make her feel as if she has to choose between making you unhappy and making her child unhappy.
posted by Redstart at 4:53 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agreeing that different folks have different needs, but I think some of the generalizations in this thread about moms being too tired to go out, etc. are a bit much. I'm a single parent of a toddler and I really love to have "date nights", either romantically or just to reconnect with friends. It's important to have adult time. It sounds like there's something else going on here, and that's worth talking about.
posted by judith at 4:55 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

I have a two MONTH old, not a two year old, but I would much rather go on a lunch date on a weekend than an evening date. Bedtime takes more parenting finesse than other times of day for me and it's more likely to go awry. Plus goin out in the evening means sacrificing sleep and at this stage I really can't do that, though hopefully you both are well rested. Can you get somebody to watch your child while you go for Saturday brunch or something?
posted by Cygnet at 4:55 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

So you haven't had a night out alone with your wife in TWO YEARS? I'd say something is really wrong. Consider getting some professional marital counseling. This is not normal.
posted by shivohum at 5:03 PM on March 3, 2014 [7 favorites]

If your child has never been cared for by someone other than you and your wife, here's one way I like to think about daycare for my three year old- why wouldn't I want him to be loved by even MORE people in his life, and be taught things about the world by people with perspectives different from mine. Our regular babysitters and his daycare teachers (some of his teachers also babysit for us, which is awesome) totally love our kid, and it's really nice to know that he has more than just his parents and grandparents looking out for him. Can you spin getting a semi-regular babysitter into that light? It's not only good for you, it's also good for the kiddo! The time for you as a couple is really essential, and it just feels different when you're out of the house and not on duty for a little while.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:34 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Something you need to know is that moms get real genuine separation anxiety when being away from their young children. Not all moms, not all to the same degree, but it's a THING.
I had three in a row, I desperately craved getting out and about and yet after an hour or so I started feeling really anxious.

I have a friend who had her last child rather late in life. I don't know if she ever left that child with a babysitter. In her case she herself had been sexually abused, and one of her older children (adult when the youngest was born) had also been abused by a parent. In my friend's case, she had understandable issues with being able to trust-both molesters were people who were in positions of trust, and that trust was betrayed.

You need to talk with your wife and find out exactly why she does not want to go out. And meanwhile I think you should have some "date nights" WITH your child. Go to a library. Or a childfriendly museum. Have fun as a family. Try not to let it seem like your child is your adversary. Because in her mind, unconsciously she might be setting it up that way. If you get the two of them out, go have fun together, that is a baby step toward what you want.

And heck yes, do a home date while the kiddo is asleep. Pick a movie, or a fun board game, pop popcorn , pour adult beverages, or whatever it would be to make the evening fun, and focus on her. Make it fun.

If you do those things and then in a couple of months things are the same, perhaps then it is time for a marital tuneup with a trusted clergy person or a counselor. Because it very well might be true her background has something to do with it, and you don't want to damage your entire relationship over a date night, as important as date nights are.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:42 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't think data is going to help you if she is arguing from emotion and not from data herself.

As a parent of two kids, one with severe disabilities, the key word that gets used is 'respite'. No matter how much you love your children, they do grind you down and interfere with your spousal relationship, so respite is a very important thing for any parent, not just parents of the disabled.

One phrase I've heard is that you need to put on your oxygen mask before you put on your kids.

Take care of yourself, it will make taking care of your kids easier.
posted by plinth at 5:47 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Date night" is sort of a loaded thing in a lot of ways, I think. People are saying "You should go out! You should have fun and be sexy! You should probably have sex afterwards!" And I get that for some women it's super liberating and whatever, but when my daughter was little, I would've punched someone. I was tired, I had PPD, I was freaked out about her (nothing specific, just suddenly I was responsible for making a human being not die, all the time), I didn't have anyone I felt I could leave her with, and on top of that, there's this weird pressure to Go And Perform, even when you would seriously consider cutting off a limb just to be allowed to go and spend an hour sitting in your bathtub with a trashy magazine and a glass of wine.

The other thing, frankly, is that leaving your child is really, really stressful, especially if you're depressed, anxious, have a history of abuse, etc, etc. I didn't leave my daughter with anyone, ever, until she was two and a half, at which point I left her for two hours to go to a wedding. Then I came home, and we didn't repeat it until she was three, at which point my job changed and she went into half day daycare. Which, as a datapoint, was almost a stress-free transition, so don't feel like if you don't leave the child with a sitter now, you'll never be able to do it.

I really don't think that anyone here can hep you more without knowing more about your wife, though. Is she reluctant to go because she's tired, because she no longer feels sexy, because leaving the child is stressful, etc. Because each of those things has a different--I don't want to say fix, because that's not it, but it's the closest thing I can come up with. If this is depression or anxiety talking, though, she needs therapy; if this is exhaustion, she needs help dealing with that, etc. There's not a one size fits all thing. I do, however, think that continuing to pressure her for date night when she's made it clear that it's not something she feels that she can do right now is uncalled for, if not outright cruel.
posted by MeghanC at 5:52 PM on March 3, 2014 [11 favorites]

Why is it important to you to spend time with her out of the house?
posted by Dansaman at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eh, wot? It's important for two people in a romantic relationship to spend time alone doing things together. Yeah, you can often do that in the home (although doing so with a small child is very difficult and you're completely eliding that part) but doing things together outside the home is not the same thing. It's the difference between sitting on your couch watching a movie about a romantic dinner and actually going out together to have a romantic dinner.

OP: I think you need to have a serious, sit-down discussion about this and make sure your concerns are being heard. Because I can't imagine not having any alone time with my wife in two+ years.
posted by Justinian at 6:57 PM on March 3, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, this was me. No amount of data or pressure would have helped, and in fact it hindered. I remember just after my daughter turned one everyone conspired (aka 'took all the decision making out of my hands') to send me on a date night with my partner for my birthday. Because I was abnormal that I hadn't tried doing that before. I was broken because I didn't want to have a date night. Obviously I didn't love my husband, not really, since I was happy to sit at home and watch a movie with him, or go out to dinner with our daughter in tow, instead of leaving her with whoever was handy and go out to dinner and a movie because apparently that's how you show love...

We watched a movie, ate a burger, and I very icily said that this was awful, I want to go home, I don't like it when people do this to me because we are a family and they are not included in the decision making process. Because we're not two people and a third thing that we have to look after, we're a unit together, and this is not how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. I still, at that point, needed to share my time with her - exacerbated significantly by my return to work. I am still annoyed a little, with all of those people who were so sure about what I wanted and ignored everything I said to force their blind-eyed, media fed, mothering magazine vision onto me. Change is exactly what is supposed to happen when you have a child, it's absolutely normal to change and be different.

The only way to fix this, as a wider issue, is to make your child as much of a priority to you as they are to your wife. Then she might feel able to pull back emotionally because some of the infinite load of emotional parenting is being taken off her shoulders in a way that doesn't add more. By making this about you, you're ignoring the relationship you should be having with your child and acting selfishly. Think about the rest of your life spreading out ahead of you, 20, 30, 40, 60 years, and you're getting angry and upset that she's taking the irreplaceable two years of early childhood and focusing on the child you both made. Does that seem fair? Useful? Likely to lead to positive outcomes further down the track when she does want to go out?

And she's very, excruciatingly, correct that what you're asking for is not actually alone time. You do, indeed, get that after your child has gone to bed. That's actually one of the hard things about being a parent, the way your time is already spoken for. Except that you don't seem to think you have any role to play other than trying to force your wife into a path of action she is uncomfortable with, while ignoring what she has actually told you.

FYI, I'm fine taking time out now, but it's still a huge pain in the arse finding sitters and I don't enjoy it the same way I used to. My partner understood how I felt and had let himself be swayed by the collective bitching and carrying on of the extended family/friend group who didn't know me nearly as well as he did.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2014 [17 favorites]

[Couple comments deleted. Folks, please don't make weird mean accusations; constructive suggestions only please.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:51 PM on March 3, 2014

I am the survivor of a mother who needed to keep me in her sight at all times. I'm middle aged now, but I still feel the reverberations of her anxiety. It sounds like your wife is heading down that road. A two year old can certainly be left with a trusted babysitter. Is she magically going to let go when you child is 3, or 4, or 5? I doubt it. This sounds pathological, and I urge you to get help not only for your sake but for your child's. (BTW, yes, I'm a mom too. I understand the fear of leaving one's child with a sitter -- and I also understand that it's crucial not to be controlled by it, for the good of all concerned.)
posted by summer sock at 8:15 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think that it is probably best to frame this about you and your needs. I don't think that focusing on her behavior is as important as saying something like: "I miss you, and I want to go on a date. It's important to me. I really love you and I really miss that time we spent together. What do we need to do to make this happen? How can we work towards doing this? If you don't want to go on a date, what can we do to compromise so that we both feel like our needs are being met? If you need some time to think about this, that's fine - I just wanted to open up a dialogue."

I think that will open up the conversation without blame, without questioning her behavior, without anything negative - it says to her: hey, this is important to me, I want to work on it, what can we do together to work on this?

I often like to mention that it doesn't have to be solved right away when I have big questions, particularly when I don't know whether or not the other party has ever seriously thought about or reflected on the thing I want to address.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 8:29 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get to the bottom of why she doesnt want to do it.
For me it was a combination of dreading waking up early the next morning to parent after a late night with my partner. Had he offered to take that load off, I'd have been more inclined to try.
Someone else brought up alone time. Is she getting enough time to herself to do the things she would like before needing to attend to your needs? Her cup needs to be full before she can share that with you.
Are you suggesting activities you know she'd love? I started my journey on leaving the kids with a caregiver with the temptation of missing out on concerts of bands that that were invaluable to me.
Is there a financial worry in your home? Is she stressing that money could be better spent than on a night out?
Do you have an appropriate caregiver? I needed to start with my mom watching my first kid in small doses to let my anxiety and guilt begin to slide away.
Guilt. Is she feeling like a bad or neglectful parent for attending to her own desires? Sometimes when we are on our first kid, we think we have to be on and available 100% or we are letting out kid down.
Exhaustion. Is she the full-time caregiver? Is there any respite for her, does getting ready and going out with clothes that may not even fit anymore to a loud and busy place seem overwhelming to her? Does she still have nice clothes that fit, a nice haircut or whatever can make her feel good in public? Can you start with movie and takeout dates on the couch?
Just a few things to think about. Communicate. Get to the bottom of why. Frame the issue as 'our relationship' not 'my needs'. Good luck!
posted by tenaciousmoon at 9:11 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

There are a LOT of details missing here... your entire question was basically, "There's something wrong with her, everyone thinks she is crazy, and what about meeeeeeee?" Based on this question alone you sound like a complete energy suck who is undermining her to your family and friends. If you were my husband I wouldn't be able to muster up the energy to want to spend time with you either.

How do you two balance your home and family life? You know, the child-caring, the home-keeping, the income-generating, etc? And are you both (BOTH) comfortable with that balance?

Even for a well-balanced couple, there are moments. I have a 15-month old and a husband who takes charge of all the home-keeping so I don't worry about it. And yet, we have those nights where the baby wakes up two or three times, and at 3:30 in the morning I HATE HIM so much for sleeping and not even registering that the child is crying. Even several hours later, my sleep-addled self doesn't give a flying f*ck what he wanted to accomplish that weekend morning because damn it, he SLEPT PEACEFULLY while I was wrangling a crying and thrashing child and I need to sleep!

Logically, the rage doesn't make much sense. Sure, I could make him get up sometimes, but I'd rather have one of us get a full night's sleep and be able to function. That's a decision we've made. But that doesn't stop the rage from occurring. And again, this is with a husband who does his fair share and more in taking care of our family. We don't really do the date night thing either-- we are both really damn tired at the end of the day. But we still get our moments, with and without our daughter. We enjoy her together, we trade her off to give each other some breathing room, we have "conversations" in the front seat of the car and during naptime and whenever.

You say you feel unwanted but please consider the message you are sending to her. Given the balance of what she does and what you do, is it possible that what she hears from you is that she's not good enough? That despite everything she IS doing already, it still isn't good enough for you? What would her version of this question look like? Maybe she feels like she is offering you options, and you keep shooting them down... again, not good enough. Maybe SHE feels unwanted? The alternatives she offers are still time with her, but you don't really want that. You want to go out.

Can you just... back off for a little bit and try to just enjoy her, as she is, for a while? Stop demanding more more more for me me meeeeee. There is already a 2-year-old in your house. Be a grownup and show her that you're on her team. Start by defending her against people who express "shock" and think she is "weird". And if you're talking to any of those people about your thoughts, stop it now. Stop ganging up on your wife. If you must talk to someone, pick someone who can keep their mouth shut and not tell others or her.

TL, DR: Re-examine what you are doing to contribute to the family, parenting is still HARD even when you have a good balance. Support your wife-- stop sending the message that she is not good enough, and start defending her to others. You two are a team, start acting like it.
posted by scarnato at 9:33 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

Just giving my opinion here but I am a mom of a 1 year old and I don't think you're being selfish at all. I think I would cry if my husband never wanted to have date night with me. We are fortunate enough to be able to have date nights frequently and it makes me feel like a human being and a wife.

Relationships are about compromise. She's not compromising. You're allowed to ask for things you want that are reasonable. You've waited two years for her to change her mind. I think that's ample evidence that you are far from a selfish person and are in fact a very understanding and supportive husband. If she doesn't compromise on date night and things continue to get rockier between you, will she refuse to go to marriage counseling because it would take time away from the baby?

Part of it might be that after a while there was too much hype because you had waited so long. Maybe she feels like now when you finally do have date night it has to be a very formal and fancy affair or involve wild sex. I would stress to her when you ask her that it's fine if she just wants to go and eat dinner at Panera Bread then go home and go straight to sleep, you just want her to make a small compromise for you to show she understands this is important - or even better, let her propose a compromise (no, "date night" at home doesn't count as a compromise, that is doing only what she wants). Then, the baby steps towards more…
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:37 PM on March 3, 2014 [9 favorites]

Postscript: I'm assuming, although I have no evidence for it, that you are a helpful husband who takes on your fair share of the household chores and the childcare, who helps out when needed, who tries to ensure that your wife isn't getting burnt out and does a little extra if she's having a hard time. I'm assuming that you haven't been guilt-tripping her relentlessly or nagging. And I'm assuming that there isn't more to the story where your wife is being kept up all night and is operating on zero sleep or your child has special needs or is difficult to care for and thus would be challenge to leave with friends, and so forth.

These things may or may not be true but I think it's fair that at least some of the answers assume the positive about you instead of the negative.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:45 PM on March 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Stop demanding more more more for me… Be a grownup and show her that you're on her team.

This is incredibly condescending and ridiculous considering that he's waited 2 years.

Sometimes asking isn't enough. She knows what you want, but she's not motivated. Why is she not motivated to go on a date with you? How did you date her in the first place? Why isn't it fun and exciting anymore? Are you still physically and emotionally fit? Do you work hard during the day at work and at the gym? (E.g., are you attractive to other women?) Does she respect you as a man?

If you're doing your half of the work and she's doing her half and she doesn't have energy for building the great relationship that you deserve, then you either have to accept a miserable life with her or find someone with more energy to give you. What's the advantage of raising your child together if you're not together?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:04 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

By making this about you, you're ignoring the relationship you should be having with your child and acting selfishly.

I respect your choices and I appreciate the insight in your comment, but I think this really, really harsh on the OP without enough information backing it up. Every family is different, and I think I've benefited from the fact that my parents are cool, active people who like to get out of the house and do stuff. Other families work differently.

These things may or may not be true but I think it's fair that at least some of the answers assume the positive about you instead of the negative.

Yeah, seriously. In the Spirit of Metafilter, let's assume the OP is not a dick.

Why is it important to you to spend time with her out of the house?

Can't speak for the OP, but my parents have always had an active social life. That involves leaving the house. They go to museums, concert, and so on, and they did that as much as possible (i.e., not much, but a little) when my sister and I were little. I remember chilling with my cousins when I was a very little kid and my parents were having a date night. For whatever weird reason, some of my earliest childhood memories involve hanging out in my cousins' living room and playing with their pet rabbit. (This was before my sister was born, so I couldn't have been older than four). My parents' date night was an opportunity for toddler ablazingsaddle to hang out with my older, hip relatives.

You mention friends - do you socialize with these friends at home? Or not at all?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:04 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

How about this:

"Karen, I want us to go out and have an adult date together, just you and me, alone. I want to have your full focus and attention. This is important to me."

Instead of offering suggestions as to WHY you want it, which she views as objections to be overcome, just flat out tell her it's important to you.

There's no comeback to, "this is important to me." Either the answer is, "okay, I see you're convicted about this," or "I don't care if it's important to you, I don't want to do it."

If it's the latter, your next date should be in couples counseling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:42 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

As a mother of a two-year-old, I can concur that it is very, very hard to have the energy for date night and it often doesn't seem that appealing. Here are the things that stand in the way of 'date night' for me:

1. Lack of babysitter. Like you, we had several friends who, for the first year or so, made a big stink about how they would love to babysit. But these same friends were people who worked full-time and had lots of their own non-work activities, and, to be honest, I don't think they really wanted to babysit so much as they wanted to play house for a couple of hours on their schedule. So it was this weird social situation where it felt like it would be a major imposition on busy people who were really only generally expressing fondness for children. These same people also were not being personally very friendly to me - no one offered to babysit so that I could get a break to get things done. I don't think my husband saw quite what a social minefield it was.
Finding some other babysitter is a lot of work, and my husband would often say "we should find a babysitter" and wouldn't do any of the legwork, or act like the only thing to do would be to call up some random person and just schedule it. Yikes. And if your wife is remotely like me, she's probably not too keen on having friends or strangers judging her housekeeping. So going out involves tidying the house.
2. Exhaustion. I have a firm 9:30 bedtime these days to ensure that I get enough sleep on a daily basis. Do you expect sex at the end of date night? Because having to clean the house, get ready for date night, help child cope with disruption to evening routine, be engaged in the date night, is all really exhausting and if you don't get enough sleep at the end ... ugh ...
3. Depression. My daughter was over a year old when I became depressed. It took that long for the exhaustion to set in. So don't overlook that possibility. I took my husband's pleas for date night as very harsh criticism which just did not help with my mental state. It felt like another demand.
4. "Social" activities don't feel as good as they used to. The past year I have been home full-time with my daughter and have not had much for me that's not about family life. My husband urged me to get out with friends, but when I did get out, it wasn't that great. It just wasn't and I couldn't put my finger on it. Recently, I started volunteering a few hours a week in a capacity related to my profession, and it's great to connect with my profession again. It's not fun-social, it's meaningful-work-social. Now that I have that, date night seems appealing. Does your wife have opportunities to engage with things that are important to her that aren't purely "fun" and also do not directly relate to the family? Everyone talks about spa days for moms but maybe she needs something different.

Your wife's experiences as a child could be heavily coloring all of this. I don't think ultimatums are really going to work here. It also doesn't matter that all your friends are having date nights or that they are "shocked" that you don't. The only thing that matters is what works for you and your family. Have you and your wife spoken recently about her childhood? Would she be interested in therapy on her own to discuss it? One of the hardest things about being a parent is how there are these things related to our own childhoods that we feel we worked through and got past, but parenthood brings them all up to surface again.

Last two tips:
- Even if you don't get date-dates, family dates are wonderful. Those are so precious to me and I love it when we do something special as a family.
- Try 'date at home' after toddler goes to bed. As a rule we eat dinner as a family, but every once in a while we'll have dinner as a couple, usually some food that our kid is not into. We have to split up the prep while doing the evening routine, but it is so nice to sit down together to a nice-ish meal at our own, crumb-free table. You can foster the couple intimacy at home. When you think about it, the whole going out for date night is a relatively modern phenomenon, but connecting with another human being is not.
posted by stowaway at 7:02 AM on March 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Maybe stop using the term "date night" because it sounds like she's developed a grudge around that idea in particular. I would be annoyed/feel judged, too, if my extended friends and family were "expressing shock" all the time that I didn't want to do one thing or another. I personally love the idea of "date nights" but it is definitely concept that is really "in" and being sort of culturally held up as "requirement for a good marriage/relationship!!!" right now. That's a lot of pressure on her to conform, and maybe she doesn't feel like doing the activities you're "supposed to do" on a date night, maybe she feels there is pressure to get dressed up or feel pretty, maybe she feels insecure, maybe she just doesn't find the suggested dates appealing. Basically, you need to pull back from this approach.

You're definitely not being crazy or asking for anything wrong, though. You need to: 1) stop pressuring her in the short term and actively tell your friends and family to also stop nagging her (support her!) 2) Have an honest conversation where you explain you are sorry this idea of a date night has become overblown and you don't want her to feel pressured to do something before she is ready to do it. BUT spending time just as a couple is important to you and you can't just give up on the idea completely. There's no timeline and you don't have to call it a date night, but you need to her to be open to the idea and make it a goal to find a way to make it work someday in the future.
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:38 AM on March 4, 2014

You've gotten a lot of good advice. I'm not suggesting that it is a direct correlation to your situation (especially since, here, the wife is missing her husband's company), but your story reminds me of Chapter 38, "On the Shelf," of Louisa May Alcott's excellent book "Little Women."

Some bits and pieces:

"As she was a womanly little woman, the maternal instinct was very strong, and she was entirely absorbed in her children, to the utter exclusion of everything and everybody else. Day and night she brooded over them with tireless devotion and anxiety... Being a domestic man, John decidedly missed the wifely attentions he had been accustomed to receive, but as he adored his babies, he cheerfully relinquished his comfort for a time, supposing with masculine ignorance that peace would soon be restored. But three months passed, and there was no return of repose. ...When he went out in the morning he was bewildered by small commissions for the captive mamma, if he came gaily in at night, eager to embrace his family, he was quenched by a "Hush! They are just asleep after worrying all day." If he proposed a little amusement at home, "No, it would disturb the babies." If he hinted at a lecture or a concert, he was answered with a reproachful look, and a decided—"Leave my children for pleasure, never!"

...The poor man was very uncomfortable, for the children had bereft him of his wife, home was merely a nursery and the perpetual 'hushing' made him feel like a brutal intruder whenever he entered the sacred precincts of Babyland."

[Then Meg's mother gives her advice:]

"You have only made the mistake that most young wives make—forgotten your duty to your husband in your love for your children. A very natural and forgivable mistake, Meg, but one that had better be remedied before you take to different ways, for children should draw you nearer than ever, not separate you, as if they were all yours, and John had nothing to do but support them. I've seen it for some weeks, but have not spoken, feeling sure it would come right in time.

...He tried not to be selfish, but he has felt rather forlorn, I fancy. This is just the time, Meg, when young married people are apt to grow apart, and the very time when they ought to be most together, for the first tenderness soon wears off, unless care is taken to preserve it. And no time is so beautiful and precious to parents as the first years of the little lives given to them to train."

Of course, it contains the sensibilities and language of 1800s America, but it's a classic for a reason. It's a childhood favorite of many women and perhaps will sound familiar to your wife. You might like it, too. The chapter stands alone fairly well as a short read, if you don't want the whole book.
posted by spelunkingplato at 8:49 AM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think all the advice telling you how to convince/approach your wife is missing the main point, that there is no badgering or convincing in the world that is going to make a responsible mom leave her preverbal toddler with someone she doesn't trust to keep her kid happy and safe. That's why I recommended taking care of training a babysitter as your first step.

One more recommendation - this is kind of specific but it has worked for us - if your yard and budget permit, get a little hot tub. They sell them on Amazon for around $3k and they don't cost much to run. It is private physical space for grownups, makes a clear division between "family time" and "grown ups together" time, you can go in with her after baby's in bed and you put the video monitor where you can see it, and you don't need a sitter for it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:19 AM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it possible your wife is suffering from some residual postpartum depression? I'm not sure how you would approach this with her but perhaps you could do a bit of research on it yourself and then find a way to gently approach it with your wife. If this is your first child, it is quite possible for depression to linger for some time after the birth.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:18 PM on March 4, 2014

Are you my husband? Heh. A lot of this sounds familiar!

Assuming you're not, I'd like to share my perspective, in the hopes that it a) might help you give your wife the benefit of the doubt a bit and b) give you some ideas as to how to approach her.

Background: we have a toddler, have ever only had a couple of nighttime dates when family was in town, the date interest is very high on husband's side, and I have a lot of... conflict on my side.

1) This has been mentioned a lot above, but if she is exhausted and never takes time for herself, I think that should be encouraged/facilitated first... and if not first, maybe concurrently? It's so easy (especially when they are babies, and especially if one stays at home) to kind of function day-to-day and temporarily lose your identity in the process. This was mentioned above, and I heartily ditto: if her cup isn't depleted then she has reserves from which to share.

2) It sounds like her own childhood issues have a significant impact on her feelings about leaving your child for the night. This is totally justifiable, and something worth exploring in a therapy setting, if she's open to it. It sounds like parenthood (and the classic desire to give your children what you didn't have) has awakened some of these feelings. There's no magic wand to wave to make those feelings instantly vanish, and I would encourage you to validate what she's expressed. Feeling heard could work wonders in lowering her defenses. In my case, I was frequently left with babysitters as a child, one of whom molested me. As such, I have very high anxiety/nightmares about leaving a child of my own with a stranger. It took me quite a while to confess this to my husband, and while I don't want to use it as a reason to never go on dates, it does lend a certain emotional backdrop that has to be, well, navigated a bit more. And unfortunately for him, it makes for a situation where I may never be super-chill about leaving our little one with a sitter, like Friends X, Y, and Z do.

3) ...which leads me to the comparison game. Hearing from Friends X, Y, and Z, whether directly or indirectly, that they are shocked/appalled/etc is a lightning fast road to putting her on the defensive. She is not "your friends". Echoing above, she probably wants to feel understood or heard, before she can have an honest discussion with you. I don't mean you need to agree with her conclusions, but just that you are hearing where she's coming from and respect her. If she feels like everyone (including you) thinks she's nuts, she's probably going to shut down to some degree.

4) You have mentioned offers of care, but are any of these friends someone she actually trusts in a babysitting capacity? Are there any potential babysitters with whom she would feel comfortable? It's tough, because she's probably going to be nervous the first time or two away, even if Mother Teresa herself descended to your house with angel wings and reassuring offers of childcare. But having someone she trusts will make that leap so much easier and provide a foundation for next time, and the next time, and the next.

5) MEGA-dittoing Stowaway above: if this is important to you, please do as much of the legwork as possible. Saying "I want this" and then expecting her to coordinate it all is probably just going to set everyone up for disappointment. Could you find an approved sitter or friend, take an afternoon off work, and plan a super-chill, brief afternoon coffee date? A couple weeks later, maybe step it up to an evening date somewhere really close by? One cool thing my husband did was to set up a low-stakes framework for our first try at leaving our child with a sitter. Heck, we just went to a Starbucks a few blocks away, and he didn't try and convince me not to feel anxious. It wasn't exactly a fun date, but it provided something to build off of for next time.

6) Please, please don't let this come between you and your child. He/she is not your opponent in this. I don't doubt that this is frustrating and disheartening situation for you, and thank goodness that you want to spend time with your wife, right?! If you can keep from playing the blame game, with either your wife or your child, and focus on creating a supportive framework, I think and hope you can make some headway.

I often feel guilty that my husband ended up with someone who's so anxious about all this stuff, but hopefully I make up for it with my other winning ways. ;) I wish you both luck!!!
posted by sixtyten at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are a ton of responses and I admit I didn't read them. However, speaking from experience, expect your wife to be nervous and fidgety if you do take her out on a date. Mine kept calling the babysitter (my mother-in-law!) to check on the baby. It was frustrating, but understandable. As we went on more and more dates, this tendency waned. I was happy the first time she watched a whole movie in the theater without sneaking out to call home...
posted by tacodave at 3:10 PM on March 4, 2014

These people who have offered to watch your child - are they people your child sees often and already has a relationship with? If so, great. There's a lot of potential for babysitting to work out, if your wife agrees to try it. If not, you may need to think some more about how babysitting is really going to work. You do realize, don't you, that being left for hours with Aunt Jane who visits once a year, or even Mrs. Smith who lives next door and sometimes stops by to chat, is likely to be scary for a 2 year old? And you don't want your kid to have a miserable, scary experience, do you? To make sure the child doesn't spend the whole date night crying inconsolably and then develop a lot of separation anxiety you'd ideally want to set up some times for the potential babysitter to interact with the child in the company of a parent and then try a short period where the child is left alone with the sitter before you try a full date night. Do the people offering to babysit have enough free time (that they're willing to spend with your child) for this to be realistic? Is setting it up going to be a lot of hassle for your wife, or would you be able to handle all of that? Remember that there's no guarantee that the first short trial with the babysitter is going to go well. Your child may need quite a bit of exposure to the babysitter before being ready to be left alone with her. Maybe your wife has already spent some time envisioning how difficult this whole process could be and doesn't feel like it's worth the trouble. Maybe she's even right.
posted by Redstart at 3:40 PM on March 4, 2014

Like many other posters, I'm going to assume that you make sure your wife isn't exhausted, that you do your share or more of the housework and childcare, and that you were going to coordinate everything, including setting up the date and training and finding a sitter with whom you're both comfortable and so on. I'm going to also assume that you aren't expecting anything more than time with your wife and that you don't pressure her about what the date has to entail. I've lived through quite the opposite experience and it was awful. But I assume my experience is not the norm and that you are taking care of all those things.

However, I do wonder how your child handles transitions. My ex-husband used to pressure me to go away for the weekend (with the baby in tow) and it was exhausting. The baby would be fine during the trip. But then baby's naps and temperament would be a mess in the days after that, sometimes taking a week or more to get back to normal. This made the trip away a drain, not an energizer. While you might not have had a sitter, I wonder if other things make your wife think this would be a drain for her or less than positive for the baby.

Also, while I had my mom babysit when my babes were small, I generally wasn't okay with childcare from others till my baby was old enough to talk a little. I wanted them to be able to tell me if something had been scary or bad. This was partly based on my own experiences and partly just my own comfort level. Perhaps your wife has a similar perspective. I know people are telling you to tell your wife that this is really important to you, but this may be a very firmly held value for her, combined with her own instincts. In that case, I think you'd both be better in couples counselling...perhaps with your child playing in the corner of the room.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would try for an afternoon date first, to take the "exhausted by end of day" thing out of the equation. And by "try", I mean suggest to her that maybe you could have someone watch your child for a couple of hours some afternoon so you can go do a specific thing that is hard to do with your child -- wine tasting, for example, if that's something you like, or going to a movie.

Does your child stay at home with your wife all the time? Does she ever get breaks where you are watching your child alone? I'm wondering if she's not used to anyone else watching your child or if, conversely, already feels like there is too much time where someone else is watching your child (in daycare?). If it's the first case, I would consider working up to it. Giving her more time to be out on her own (if that isn't already happening), maybe having a helper come and watch your child while your wife is home and then transition to short errands and then maybe to some kind of afternoon date? If it's the latter, I would consider the suggestion above where you both take some time off of work (time that your child would already be in daycare), and spend it together.

It's hard to get over feeling guilty for "leaving" your child in the care of someone else, and it sounds like particularly given your wife's background, that might be the case. I hope for her and for you and your relationship, she can take time for herself and time for you two.
posted by freezer cake at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

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