One of my Work-Life Balance institutions is something Amy and I call "Life Dinner." We have a standing dinner date on the first night of every month. Given my travel, we usually end up having this date 75% of the time; when we miss it’s my responsibility to schedule a new one shortly after the first.
Life Dinner has three key parts to it. First, we have a pre-arranged, regular, repeating evening where we both can reflect on and talk about what is going on in our lives. Next, we give each other a gift. Finally, we have a fun night out and either explore a new place or enjoy one of our regular haunts. A few times a year we will share Life Dinner with another couple, although we almost always do it alone.
This isn’t the only time we go out, but it’s a special time. Both Amy and I are huge believers in rhythms and patterns. Having now had Life Dinner as an institution for around eight years, it’s a great monthly touch point for our lives. Sometimes one of us is stressed or overwhelmed with what is going on around us – Life Dinner provides a great "within 30 days" opportunity to catch this and work on it as a couple. Other times we’ve been running hard in our own separate directions and it gives us a chance to firmly reconnect. Sometimes everything is going great and we just talk, laugh, and gossip about what’s going on around us. Occasionally Amy will even get me to talk about my views on politics or religion.
Part of Life Dinner is the gift. There is no set expectation here – just that we each give the other person one. Over the years I’ve received clothes, art, my fun skull belt that I’ve been wearing around lately, a remote control fart machine, a Range Rover, books, and an occasional surprise trip. I’ve learned how to buy (and give) lots and lots of jewelry, art, and the occasional item of clothing (although no lingerie since I’ve never really understood it.)
As I write more about Work-Life Balance, you’ll notice that part of the magic here is that I have events – life Life Dinner – that have an appropriate periodicity. This creates a powerful (and satisfying) base to build from. While we’ve had a few tough Life Dinners over the years (as we’ve used them to work through things in our relationship that we had conflict over), when I look back on the 70+ evenings we’ve spent together having "Life Dinner" it’s clear that it’s incredible bedrock for our relationship. And our lives.