A Year of KC Dates: A Marriage Counselor’s Guide to Dating Your Spouse in Kansas City

Dear Vanessa,

Kids are expensive, dating is expensive, and babysitters are expensive. My husband and I need time to reconnect. Can you give some practical ideas on how to spend time together as spouses that don’t cost an arm and a leg?

As a counselor, it’s my job to work myself out of a job. The average cost of a couples counseling session in the KC area will cost between $70 and $130 for a one-hour session. The average couple will spend a minimum of 12-16 sessions in counseling for basic issues most couples confront. Gosh. $70-$130. That’s a freakin’ nice date. Insurance may or may not cover relationship counseling, depending on your carrier. So let’s imagine you’d pay for those services out of pocket: that’s $840 – $2,080 in a year. Now, if you and your spouse have come up against one of the three A’s – addiction, abuse or affairs, or if you have become so disconnected you need help navigating the conflict pattern that’s become unmanageable, by all means pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with a good therapist. But as you compare the cost of an annual date budget with the cost of counseling services, which looks more attractive?

Enough said.

So using a $70/hr minimal rate, let me break down that $840/yr you can spend on either hypothetical therapy or dates.

Of your $840, take $300 for three events: $100 for your anniversary and $100 for each partner’s birthday. That leaves you with $540 for the rest of your dates or $45 every 4-5 weeks. That’s 12 total $45-dates in a year with three bonus special occasion splurges (15 total outings)! Here’s where the fun begins.

Now, search “date night” here on Kansas City Moms Blog. Here’s a couple of my favorite posts from my contributor friends, particularly regarding childcare costs during a date:

  • In 7 Secrets to Date Night Success Emily makes some great points, like (1) set a budget, (2) put it on a calendar, and (3) try a babysitting swap with another couple. A note on babysitting swaps: sometimes it’s easier to go to the couple’s home that is going on the date. This way, the babysitting couple gets the novelty of new toys and a different place to hang out for a night (a mini-date), and the dating couple can come home and continue their fun without having to lug tired little bodies home and put them in their own beds (what a great way to end a date, right? That was sarcasm, see my previous post on sarcasm in marriages).
  • In Dating My Husband, Erin provides links to awesome KC eateries, as well as a great sample of a KC staycation. Her most important tip for working couples is to take advantage of daytime childcare you’re already paying for and go on breakfast or lunch dates. Plus, breakfast and lunch menus are cheaper than dinner menus!

When planning a date, consider your seven senses (yep, there are seven – not five): taste, touch, smell, sound, sight, proprioceptive and vestibular. Food is a frequent date activity because mammals equate food with nurture and security. One taste can send us on a trip down memory lane, and on the flip side, a new taste is exciting. Novelty – a common word used by behavioral scientists – peaks our senses. As mammals, we work to balance the familiar comfort of habit with the novelty of new experiences. Did you know that you can have a taste date at the KC Culinary Institute with hands on cooking class experiences (Cooking for Couples), wine and dinner?

How about sound… live music at a jazz club like the Phoenix or one of the many festivals of KC? Kansas City loves a festival. How about a vestibular date at an amusement park with no kids (vestibular has to do with inner-ear balance – think roller coasters!)?

Or what about a sight date at one of several KC art museums: the Nelson-Atkins, Kemper, the Nerman at Johnson County Community College, and of course, who would deny the fun of First Fridays. Not an art fan? How about sports? Or how about a free tour of the Boulevard Beer Brewing Company (one of our contributors suggests going during the week because the beer is actually flowing)? Even if you’ve lived here for years, treat Kansas City like a novelty, and check out Visit KC’s Official Guide to KC.

Thinking about touch: how about yard saling this fall without kids, or a trip to a thrift store or one of several huge antique venues around the metro, such as West Bottoms Antiques, River Market Antique Mall, or Mission Road Antique Mall. This gives both you and your partner a chance to pick up interesting and new items, spark childhood memories, and hilarious conversations. Check out Bella Patina on a First Friday weekend, where our upcoming KC Moms Night Out is being held! What about a couples massage for a proprioceptive date? Splurge and go with a professional, or there are several massage therapy schools that provide discounted massages.

What if I told you that one of the major determining factors of satisfaction in a marriage is a couples’ play habits? And no, I’m not suggesting you visit a local sex shop. Dating is one of the games of romantic couples. When we date, we seek out either comforting experiences (like a ritual trip to “our favorite restaurant”) or new experiences (like a brand new place for both partners). Divide up those 12 remaining $45-dates into sensory dates… or divide up who plans the dates 50/50 (each partner plans six dates with a $45 budget)… or have one person plan all of them if they typically hold the family planner. If you choose to combine two $45-dates into a $90-date so you can do something super fun, just be sure to time it so that you have a date on either side of it within 6-8 weeks. Don’t assume that spending all $540 on a staycation once a year will keep your marriage connected.

Here’s the point: dating needs to be intentional, balanced between new and old experiences, and regular. And it’s definitely cheaper and more fun than therapy! 

Dear Vanessa
Photo credit: Allison Corrin Photography

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Vanessa Knight has been a part of the Kansas City community for 11 years (a native Texan), living in the Overland Park area with husband Josh, two children (Sophie is 6, Jude is 5), and three Labradors. A clinical marriage and family counselor serving the area, Vanessa works with those who hurt from life experiences, relationships or trauma, helping both individuals and families to love (www.securecounselingclinic.com). When she's not working, Vanessa's favorite stay-at-home things are Sequence, puzzles, picnics on the Nelson-Atkins Museum lawn, messy art projects, and trampoline jumping!