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'I started dating my husband again after 19 years together. This is what happened.'

I still get a shock every time I realise that I’ve been with my husband for 19 years, married for 14. Particularly because I keep thinking I’m in my early 30s… when in fact I’m in my early 40s.

Where did that time go? 

I used to roll my eyes when older people told me that age creeps up on you, but now I know that’s completely true, suddenly you wake up and the years have rolled past at speed. 

And something else also creeps up on you when you’ve been in a long-term relationship for many years – boredom, sameness, routine. 

Please don’t get me wrong: I adore my husband and I love our life together. 

We own (well, have a massive mortgage on) a lovely home, we have two beautiful children; we have gorgeous friends and family, work we enjoy, and we laugh together a lot. We find each other deeply interesting, talk about everything, and have a really equal, happy relationship. 

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But recently, I began thinking about how we used to be together, before children and a big mortgage, and oh my goodness, I really missed it. 


When we were first married, we travelled around Australia in a van for 12 months, visiting interesting places and experiencing our homeland anew together. It was challenging and interesting and such an adventure. 

Then we came home, saved like crazy, and a couple of years later went to live in New York for nine months, and travelled in Europe for three months. And it was extraordinary, not perfect by any means, often stressful and difficult, but hugely exciting and such a glorious thing to experience side-by-side.  

But the thing I realised I missed even more than the big travels and adventures, was the day-to-day romance we had when we were younger and had more time, capacity, money, and space. I yearned to see gigs whenever we felt like it or go for cheap Tuesday dinners every week. I missed popping off to Sydney for a weekend and playing trivia on a Monday night with friends. 

In recent years, we try to go for semi-regular dates, but in all honesty, it can really only happen a couple of times a year. It’s expensive and our kids find it hard, plus we’re so bloody tired, so we just don’t do it very often.

This was affecting us. A lot. 

Yes, we still love each other. Yes, we still talk and find each other interesting. Yes, we’re still attracted to each other, and parent well together, but without time to just enjoy each other, to laugh and talk and be silly just the two of us, we were losing some of that connection and spark that drew us to each other and sustained us for many of our years together.  


So, we flipped it. 

We started dating again, but we created a new version that we call ‘home dating’. 

No, it’s not the same as going out to see a band or for a delicious dinner on a whim, but here are some examples of our dates so far, and they’ve all been pretty great. 

1. We go to the movies. At home. 

Recently instead of just flicking on Netflix and watching whatever popped on, we planned for a night at the movies, at home (but we got to wear our pyjamas instead of going out clothes, which made it even better). We planned the night in advance—we discussed the film we would watch (the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon movie Air); we planned out our snacks (popcorn, Maltesers, ice cream with chocolate topping), we got the kids to bed, and we then pretended we were at the movies (phones on silent and out of the room). 

We snuggled up together, had a bit of a smooch (like we did when we were first going to the movies together), and when the movie finished, we didn’t rush off to bed, we had a cup of tea together and talked about what we thought of the film.  

It wasn’t quite the same of course, but because of the pre-thought and extra effort to mark out time together to do something we enjoy it felt like a date, and it was lovely. 

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2. Breakfast date.

This is not strictly a home date, but it’s very local to home. For the reasons outlined earlier, it’s hard to go out for dinner at night now, so instead we opt for the most important meal of the day, and go for breakfast together (or even just a coffee when money is tight). 

My dad is much better at looking after our children during the day (too tired at night), so twice now we’ve asked him to come over for just an hour or two to watch the boys while we sneak off for a quick croissant and coffee at the local cafe. We don’t let ourselves talk about the kids but try to get to the richer, deeper stuff about life and our dreams, hopes, aspirations; and just that hour of child-free chat, eating and drinking things someone else prepared for us is truly renewing.

We’ve also done a breakfast date at home. We set the kids up in front of a movie and sat out on the back veranda looking over the trees and drinking our coffees while munching on eggs for a full hour without interruption.  

3. Listening to records.

This makes me sound like I’m living in the 1960s, but another thing we love to do is make up a cheese platter, open a bottle of wine and listen to records together. Trust me, it’s really fun.

We used to love going to see live music, and in our early years together would sometimes see two gigs per week. This was swiftly lost when the babies arrived, because, of well, everything, but particularly time and money. Plus our desire to see bands that come on at 9pm or 10pm, and don’t finish until after midnight, seriously faded when we knew we’d be waking up with a baby at 4.30am.  


So instead, we have a musical experience at home. We wait for the kids to go to sleep, set up a platter with all our favourite snacks, drink some rose, put on some tunes and bask in the artistry of good music. Sometimes we dance, sometimes we sing along, but really, we just enjoy music together, something we’ve always loved to do as a couple and something that connects us with each other. 

I know these dates are not the most exciting things. In fact, I think people reading this who don’t have young children or long-term relationships might find it quite bleak. But for me, and for us as a couple, it has been deeply important to help us reconnect. 

These examples are all things we loved to do together when we were younger, but life has changed drastically, and so we’ve innovated to find ways to experience special things together in ordinary life. The key for us is being really intentional, carving out space and time for each other, so we can remember who we are as a couple and what we love about each other most.  

Cate Gilpin is a Mum of two, based in Meanjin (Brisbane). By day she works for a not-for-profit, and by night she is a freelance writer who likes watching a lot of British murder mysteries.

Feature Image: Supplied.