Big J and I try to have date night at least once a month. It doesn't always happen, but when it does we have a similar discussion beforehand.
"What do you want to do for date night?"Yeah, it doesn't matter who starts the conversation, it is always the same. The result? Well, we see about two movies a year without little j, so that should give you a clue.
"I don't know. Do you want to go out to dinner?"
"We could go to a movie."
"That sounds good, then we can get dinner after."
"Or we could get dinner before, and see a later movie."
"Or we could just go out to dinner."
The truth is, Big J and I always have our best conversations when we go out to dinner. I am happy to say that even though we've been together for 19 years we are not one of those couples who has forgotten how to have a conversation. In fact, I think conversation is what keeps things good for us. We can discuss everything from the most mundane to the most intellectually stimulating. We can have a civil argument or an absolutely silly and random conversation. But best of all we aren't afraid to talk about our feelings, our fears, our frustrations.
Last night I learned that Big J does not feel guilty when he leaves little j and I for a couple weeks to go to a class, on a fire, or whatever. And I envy that immensely. Not that I want Big J to feel guilty. On the contrary, we always make a decision together about his travel (for the most part) and I am always supportive and urging him to go and take advantage of whatever opportunities may come his way. I really respect his work and am proud of what he has accomplished.
I, on the other hand, feel incredibly guilty when I work late (not to mention when I go out of town for a couple days). Not that I have any reason too. Big J has always been supportive. So it's nothing that he puts on me . . . it's all me, all something that comes from my own mind. And lately I've been struggling with that because I know that being a faculty member is going to demand a lot of my time. My research and writing process is such that I need long stretches of quiet time to just think. Big J knows this and didn't hesitate to tell me that I should take whatever time I need to research and write.
So what is the take-away? The same things that it always is: Communicating expectations. Big J and I both need to talk about our expectations, our schedules, our plans. As long as we do that, things always run smoothly. It's not really hard. We just have to remind ourselves to do it from time to time.
On a side note: I think Big J finally gets why I like (make that need) television. It is the only way I can turn off my brain for an hour. When I described how not a moment in the day goes by that I am not thinking about something he had to tell me to stop because it was hurting his brain! Yep, that's how I live every moment of every day, and that's why I need an hour or so in front of the television. Trust me, it's not a bad thing.