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The Case for Couples Ditch Day in Marriage

habits priorities stress Jan 25, 2022


Spring 1997.

Dave Matthews Band was peaking in popularity. The Backstreet Boys were just arriving on the scene. And the two of us were finishing our senior year of high school.

In a bold collective act of defiance, the two of us, along with four hundred or so of our peers, participated in the time-honored tradition of “Senior Ditch Day." Instead of going to school, we loaded onto buses and watched an afternoon Colorado Rockies baseball game. 

It was our way of saying, “We’re tired of being responsible young adults all the time. We're taking a break."

Looking back, it's striking that, if anyone needs a ditch day, it’s not teenagers, who have little more to manage than their cell phone bill and assignments for chemistry class. 

If anyone needs a ditch day, it’s all of us responsible parents with careers, mortgages, and all the other trappings of middle-age life.

So, last week, we staged our own act of defiance against the highly regimented life we now lead. For an entire afternoon, we ditched calls and work emails and took a Nordic ski lesson. We know what you're thinking, “Wow! What rebels!"

So this week, we have a challenge for you. We want to invite you to stage your own version of couples ditch day. Here’s how.




1. Be realistic.

For many of us, taking an entire ditch day away from life commitments might be unrealistic or even dangerous. It might, for instance, result in leaving your ten year old stranded at the afternoon hug-and-go line.

So maybe you can't do a full-on ditch day. If that's true for you, then you and your partner might consider scaling it down to a ditch afternoon or ditch morning, where are you watch a movie, start happy hour early, or go for a long walk.

Or, if that's too crazy, maybe you to just take a ditch hour where you leave behind your phones and do something spontaneous.


2. Savor the rebellion.

Once you experience the unmitigated freedom of a life without email, texts, and all the other constraints of the real world, savor it.

Feel what it’s like to be a teenager again. Feel what it’s like to violate all the norms of our society, like the unspoken rule that working parents are supposed to be responsible and aren’t supposed to enjoy large blocks of time together with nothing to do.


3. Notice the power of space.

You can distill the vast literature on intimacy down to a single insight: deep connection requires space. 

Without carving out space for each other, connection fades away into the blur of kid's logistics, work emails, and the million or so other things that have to get done each day. We can’t help but feel disconnected in the state. There’s just too much to do.

But as you stage your own micro-rebellion, notice how space brings the connection between you and your partner to life.

Notice how when you don’t have to worry about all those lingering logistics, you remember why you fell in love in the first place. 

There's one other reason to pay special attention to the power of space during your ditch day: it will motivate you to create rituals of space in everyday life, rituals like date nights, short walks together at the end of the day, or even weekends away together.

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