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'Date night' was wrecking my love life

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
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Granderson: Why date night doesn't work
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson and partner, working parents, set aside a day a week to be together
  • But Granderson came to hate date night: It became an obligation and duty
  • If intimacy is routine, he says, it becomes boring, a leading cause of breakups
  • Granderson says there's a value in uncertainty, surprise and spontaneity

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, has been named Journalist of the Year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com, and a 2010 nominee and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs. Watch him on CNN Newsroom Tuesdays at 9 a.m. ET.

Grand Rapids, Michigan (CNN) -- I'm sure my partner and I aren't the only busy parents who thought that establishing a time for just the two of us each week was a good idea.

Driving our son to sports practices, band and play rehearsals, volunteering and church activities always dominate the family calendar, especially during the school year. And a crowded schedule leaves little one-on-one time for my partner and me, a scenario I'm sure mirrors that in many other households.

But I came to hate date night.

Why?

It was ruining my sex life.

Every Thursday night, I knew I was going to get some alone time, which I guess is better than not getting any at all. But when you know the precise time you are going to get busy and you know it's going to be that time each week, that makes it routine. And if intimacy becomes routine, it can become boring. And when intimacy becomes boring, well, you have one of the leading causes of divorce.

So for the sake of our relationship, we're ditching date night and returning to the time in which we had no idea when the two of us would be alone. It may sound counterproductive for two people without a lot of free time to take something important off the schedule and just hope to find time for it, but I actually liked the desperate yearning I felt before having a "date night."

I don't know what it's like for women, but sometimes going hungry trying to hunt out in the wild is preferable to being fed a steady diet in captivity. That's not to say a monogamous relationship is prison, but having your love life locked into a weekly schedule can make a relationship feel that way. Loving your kids while being in love with your better half is hard enough without scheduling away the aphrodisiac of spontaneity.

There was a stretch in which I didn't even bother to make a move on a Wednesday because I knew date night was the next day.

Can you string together five words more sad than 'Who has time for sex?'
--LZ Granderson
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There was a stretch in which date night was the only time I'd make a move -- which wouldn't be terrible if it weren't already established the week before that I was going to get lucky that night, anyway.

It was like turning on the television and being surprised to see that "American Idol" was on at the same time and channel it was last week. That's not getting lucky; that's just tuning in for your regularly scheduled program. Date night had turned sex into a regularly scheduled program.

Not to mention it put all of this pressure on us to have sex, because what would it mean if we didn't? We no longer were attracted to each other? He's cheating on me? My breath stinks? It's the date night Catch-22: bored if you do, mortified if you don't.

No, for us, it had to go.

I know, I know, relationships are more than just sex, and date nights allow parents the time to talk and not be interrupted by the needs of their children. I get it and totally agree.

But I would add that if you routinely find yourself not thinking about having sex with the person you're out date-nighting with, then perhaps it's more than the kids' busy schedule that's keeping you two apart. No one goes out on a first date hoping only to run errands in the future.

This is just one of the many reasons why I believe that people who argue against marriage equality have few, if any, gay couples in their lives. If they had some gay couples as friends, then they'd know that we aren't having sex, just like them, and we aren't that big a deal. In fact, if conservative politicians were really interested in protecting marriage, they'd ban date night; it's a much bigger threat.

I'm being silly, of course. But it is amazing to me how so many of the highs and lows of couples' relationships really are the same -- regardless of the people involved. I told a friend I was considering writing this column, and he joked that he didn't believe his wife even bothered brushing her teeth until date night.

"We're so busy with the kids," he said. "Who has time for sex?"

Can you string together five words more sad than "Who has time for sex?"

And yet, that's where so many of us are, right?

Strapped for cash, pressed for time and looking for love. This year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in married couple households with children under 18, both parents worked in 58 percent of them.

That, together with the fact that kids are far busier with scheduled activities today than a generation ago, it's little wonder why, in a recent poll, a third of those polled said they would give up sex for a week rather than give up their smartphone for a week. I guess they've figured they've already given up sex, but if they lose their smartphones, they won't know what time to pick their kids up.

But notice I said "they" and not "we." I'm not giving up sex for a smartphone or anything else, which is why when the school year starts, date night is not going on the calendar.

I didn't share all of this because I'm unhappy in my relationship but rather because I am happy in my relationship. I want to be with my partner for the rest of my life, so I'm resisting any construct that could undermine the most essential element for any long term couple: passion.

Life is busy, and if you're married with children, it can feel like a complete rat race. But I'm OK with the race as long as chasing the person I love is part of it. For me, date nights are great in theory, but the romantic chase in the midst of life's chaos is what I prefer. I know that's not for everyone, but neither are handcuffs.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.