Almost 30 Dates Later

I've (Leez) said it before this challenge and I'll say it again: it takes some work to make a relationship work. You can't be romantic or thoughtful once a year on your anniversary or whenever you feel like it and expect things to just work themselves out. I mean you can certainly try, but chances are the relationship will eventually come to an end unless you're both putting in the effort on a consistent basis. 

So why did I put myself and my fiancé Todd up to the 30 days of dates challenge? Because I believe hard work pays off. I work hard at my job so I can become a better writer, I put time in the gym to get into better shape, I make an effort to try to be more mindful...why should romantic relationships be any different? 

Fast forward to almost 30 dates (we got a little lazy on a few), and I'm walking away with these five nuggets of wisdom:

1. Date nights don't have to be comprised of fancy dinners or shows — some of our best date nights were home cooked meals, wine and a movie. The key is to be fully present and avoid any kind of multitasking (easier said than done).

2. Use date nights to check a few off your bucket list — as I mentioned when I was only half way through the challenge, Todd and I tried a lot of new things together. Although there's nothing wrong with going to your favorite dinner spot, don't be afraid to try something totally new together on one of you date nights. For us that meant trying a 9 Round class together, going to a Timberwolves game, and even horseback riding to name a few.

3. Let go of expectations — can you guess what kind movies are in my Netflix viewing history? Although this one wasn't always easy for me to do, letting go of expectations about what the date should or shouldn't be was a great reminder that life is nothing like a movie and shouldn't be compared to one. 

4. Let your partner pick the date — I can't tell you how many times Todd would throw out an idea for what to do/see to only to have me suggest something else instead. So, out of the (almost) 30 dates we went on, Todd planned 15 of them. And the best part about it all, those were some of the most memorable dates of them all. 

5. Dating is a lifetime challenge — 30 days of dates is a great commitment to your partner and the relationship, but it's not enough to sustain the lifetime of a relationship. In other words, a good relationship takes a lifetime of dates and effort. 

Interested in taking on the dating challenge but not sure where to start? Check out the list of 30 date ideas below and 30 awesome questions to ask each other along the way. 

30 Date Ideas

1. Work out together or try a new workout class together...boxing, yoga, you name it.

2. Go horseback riding. 

3. Cook a new meal together. 

4. Help each other face a fear.

5. Go to your local museum or art show.

6. Meditate together. 

7. Take a painting class together or turn your favorite corner into an artsy haven. 

8. Take advantage of good weather (or bundle up) and discover a new hike together. 

9. Surprise him or her with tickets to a game or show they've always wanted to see. 

10. Ask each other to make a bucket list and then plan surprise dates around it.

11. Dress up and go to a martini or wine bar. 

12. Relive your first date (still on my bucket list). 

13. Plan a staycation.

14. Hit up a jazz bar.

15. Channel your inner kid and play Scrabble or Jenga together. 

16. Try a morning or afternoon matinee instead. 

17. Read the same book. 

18. Get your fortunes told or palms read. 

19. Go rock climbing. 

20. Create the ultimate playlist for your next road trip.

21. Visit a flea market. 

22. Check out your local zoo. 

23. Play a few rounds of pool (winner gets to pick the next date). 

24. Attend a book or poetry reading. 

25. Turn your bedroom into a spa and give each massages. 

26. Put a puzzle together (brownie points if the finished product reveals the next date).

27. Throw a dart at a map of the united states or the world and then spend the day researching your next vacation (where the dart lands is where you're going). 

28. Make a time capsule of your relationship or write letters to each other to open on your next anniversary.

29. Partner on a project together...remodel a room, start a blog, make art, etc. 

30. Drive 30 minutes from your neighborhood, park and explore a new part of town.