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Spice of life

Date nights give an area couple time to spend with each other

Date nights give an area couple time to spend with each other

February 13, 2009|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

SHARPSBURG - When Shirley and Tom Stevens of Sharpsburg married nearly 36 years ago, his parents gave them a simple piece of advice: Take time for each other and have a date night.

"It just seemed like a natural thing," he says. "Every Friday night my parents would go out to dinner without us kids."

It seemed to work for Tom's parents. After all, Tom says, they were married for about 45 years before his father's death in 1996.

So the high school sweethearts say that, since they were newlyweds, they have made it a point to put aside at least one day a month to just be together.

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It's something they do not only to reinforce their marriage, but to get a chance to spend some one-on-one time as a couple.

"We like each other and we love each other," Tom says.

Those early post-wedding dates weren't that extravagant, Shirley says. "Back then we didn't have a lot of money to do a lot," Tom says. Shirley nods. "They've just evolved."

The Stevenses raised two children and are grandparents of two with one on the way. They say they love doing things together as a family, but they still make a point to set aside time as a couple.

"We make time to do something at least once a month," Shirley says.

When they were first married, Shirley says they would call on Tom's siblings to baby-sit (He's the oldest of seven children). But a night off without the kids didn't mean lavish, four-course meals and an extended vacation.

"It might have just been shopping for groceries and then having a hot chocolate," Shirley says. "It was time to have adult, grown-up conversation."

Both 54, Tom and Shirley say even with full-time careers (She's a registered nurse at Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital Home Health Care; he's an engineer with Bechtel Corp.) and with maintaining their home, they make a point to keep those dates constantly on their minds.

They also plan longer excursions together - daytrips and vacations. They use the time they carpool to their Frederick jobs to talk about where they are going to go next.

For a time, the inside to one of their cupboards was covered with clippings from magazines and newspapers and a list of places they wanted to go together. One of the items they were able to cross off the list was a 35th anniversary cruise to the Mediterranean.

"I like cruises because we can be totally devoted to each other," Tom says. "It's like I have a captive audience with her."

In March, they are planning a trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show because Tom likes gardening while Shirley enjoys taking photos.

"That was on our list," Shirley says.

They also say they want to take a trip to Ireland. Tom's grandmother, who died in December at age 104, left Ireland at age 18 to come to America.

And even with balancing their work with social organizations such as Elks Lodge 684 in Frederick, Tom says they still make a point to do things together.

Last weekend, the couple's date night featured a performance of "Guys and Dolls" at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and dinner afterward. Shirley says their outings don't always have to be expensive. She says they like to take advantage of free events in the area.

"You can walk around City Park and be together," she points out.

But their date nights, they say, aren't always about doing things away from their home. Shirley and Tom say sometimes they just like to stay home, make dinner and watch a movie. In the summer, they like to spend time outside and relax by the pool.

"We really love to cook together," Tom says.

In fact, for Valentine's Day, the couple say they are planning a quiet evening at home.

The Stevenses say they have separate hobbies, which allow them to have interests of their own. "It keeps life very special when you make time for each other," Tom says.

Although Tom enjoys camping, his wife isn't fond of being one with nature. "I like my camper with a big 'H' outside for Hilton," she says with a laugh.

For other couples considering a date night, Shirley suggests having a plan in mind. She and Tom take turns planning out their next adventure.

But Tom says spontaneity isn't bad either. "It adds some excitement," he says.

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