(Alternate title: Mud runs, new jobs, more date nights, and a week in Provence.)
Every year during that more chill week between Christmas and New Years, my husband and I go out on our most important (and often most fun!) date night of the year. We call it our “dream date” or our “strategic planning night” and we use the time to set our intentions, goals, plans, dreams, and calendar specifics for the upcoming year.
I decided to share about it here because it truly has become one of the best things we do for our marriage and our family. Taking the time to hash out our dreams and desires both personally, professionally, and for our family helps translate those things into actionable goals.
Of course, you can do strategic planning with your spouse at any time and from anywhere, but I think there’s something special about making it a date night. For Peter and me, it’s a way of communicating to the other that we take this time seriously. We’re paying a babysitter to come so we can do this, we have it on the calendar and make our notepad lists and come prepared for a long hash-out. The date night aspect really does ensure that our strategic planning actually happens.
We often go to a few different places on our “dream date” to change up the location, give the conversation a break, and most importantly so we don’t totally annoy one single waiter while we sit there for hours. We may start someplace for drinks, move on to a tapas restaurant, and end the night at a coffee shop or pub.
I bring my calendar and a notebook and take notes on everything to type up later. My husband uses an electronic calendar and note taking app. And we cover these topics:
- Faith (What’s really working for our family’s spiritual growth? What’s not working? How do we each want to grow spiritually next year? What areas do we need to hold each other accountable? What should our spiritual focus be for each of our children?)
- Marriage (How are we doing? Where do we need to grow? What’s not going well? What do we need to do more of? How can I serve you better?)
- Children (Discussion of each child, their needs, what virtues we’d like to see them work on, discipline issues, etc.)
- Finances (Budgeting for the coming year)
- Fitness (Goals, desires, accountability needs, scheduling time to make it happen)
- Food (Nutrition goals for each of us individually, and for our family)
- Fun (Vacations, adventures, ministry opportunities, miscellaneous dreams and goals for our family)
It’s a lot of topics and usually a long night, but wow it’s helped us make dreams and goals a reality. Peter has given me permission to share a few things that happened in 2018 as a result of our strategic planning last year:
— We both acknowledged how refreshed we felt in our relationship when we went out on date nights, and we wanted to do that more frequently and consistently. So we partnered with another couple from our church to switch off monthly date nights (I babysit once a month for them and she babysits our kids once a month – so both couples go out for free at least monthly).
— We picked a virtue to encourage and a vice to overcome for each of our children and worked on that one thing with each child this year. It really helped.
— We both felt called to intentionally grow stronger friendships with other couples at our church this year. We put quite a few events on our 2018 calendar to host in our backyard or our living room and it truly did bless our whole family with deeper relationships. (Annnd, it might’ve resulted us in participating in our church’s annual lip sync battle. Haha!)
— Both of us started new jobs in 2018, largely as a result of our date night planning. Peter switched up his career path a bit by joining a FinTech company, and I started a business working from home with Beautycounter.
I didn’t join Beautycounter until the end of this summer, but the planning and prep started a year ago during that date night. Peter and I both acknowledged that I’m a better mom when I have an additional outlet for my skills and passions that’s not primarily focused on our kids, and we also wanted an additional income strain that would help us get out and stay out of debt completely and help us achieve our dreams for the future. I didn’t want to work for a traditional MLM company, so we put a lot of time into researching business models and compensation plans. Beautycounter stood above and apart from all other companies we looked at, both because of it’s advocacy work, it’s unique comp plan, and because it’s a multi-channel direct sales company, not primarily focused on growing a downline but about being paid for your personal performance. It was such a different and perfect business model for us, and fit my interests and passions for healthy living and serving women. But if Peter hadn’t started researching the business side for me after our Dream Date last year, I wouldn’t be a Director with Beautycounter right now. I’m so grateful.
— I also started blogging again as a result of our planning date. It was so helpful to have that time with my husband to hash out my dreams and desires (and also my fears!) and hear support and encouragement from him to go for it.
— We hit some fun fitness goals this year as a result of our date. Peter shared that he’d like to run a Spartan race in 2018, and he wanted me to run it with him. At first I said NO. WAY. because I was scared I wasn’t strong enough, but towards the end of the night (my glass of wine must’ve kicked in) I said I’d do it. At our final stop on date night, Peter actually signing us up for four races to run together in 2018, three mud runs and a 10K road race. Having races on the calendar for about every three months of the year pushed us to keep training, and it was so fun for our marriage to do it together.
— We spent a week in Provence, France last May. And it would never have happened if we hadn’t had that December 2017 dream date. We had scheduled and budgeted for Peter to do a mission trip to Lourdes, France, in 2018 to help serve the sick and dying who had come there on pilgrimage. It’s something he has dreamed about doing for years, so we were committed to making it happen this year.
But on our date night he shared the other part of his dream “I want you to fly over at the end of the trip and join me for a week vacation in Europe.”
Y’all at first I just laughed. We had four children under age 8, and both sets of grandparents and all our siblings on both sides worked full time. We didn’t have anyone who could take a week or more off and watch our kids for us. Plus I was sure it would be too expensive.
I’ve learned that strategic planning and stubborn husbands can move mountains. We took my list of impossibilities and broke them down into action steps we could overcome. And in mid May we spent a week in Provence, just the two of us. It was as magical and amazing as it sounds. And I ate a lot of food:
Dream with your spouse. Share the big dreams, the impossible ones, the stuff that makes you feel scared and vulnerable. And then start working on a plan. You’ll be amazed at how taking the word “not possible” out of your vocabulary and instead focusing on how to accomplish goals, dreams, and desires can do so much for your family.
For us, it’s that end of year date night that gets the conversations started, the action steps down on paper, and events on the calendar. It’s been such a blessing for us, and I hope this idea blesses your marriage too.
Happy New Year!
UPDATE: My friend Victoria Wyant, who owns a Printables website called Ampersand, designed a FREE PRINTABLE to use as a reference for your Dream Date! Visit her website to download the printable HERE.