I know y’all opened up this post hoping for a juicy tidbit of suburban scandal. Prepare to be disappointed:

Yes, I am dating.

I am dating my husband.

We are 35 years old and we are just now getting the hang of “dating” each other. We have been “together” since we fell madly in love many moons ago, girating on a ratty old couch to J Lo and Ja Rule. I simply could not resist his bleached blonde, Eminem-like, spiky hair once we locked eyes across a smoke-filled frat house living room. From those initial alcohol-induced moments our budding romance moved along at warp speed.

We spent each and every second together, partying, studying, and hanging out with friends. We became friends, lived together, got jobs, moved into apartments, moved into houses, and moved around. We had four kids, saw less and less of each other, resented each other, recommitted ourselves to each other, worked on ourselves, worked on one another, had some more kids, got a dog, fell apart, and rebuilt.

All within the span of about 15 years.

Do you know what we didn’t do during those 15 years?

We never dated.

We “hung out,” “hooked up,” and “did things with other couples,” but we never dated each other. There was no getting dressed up and anxiously waiting to get picked up at the door for an evening out because those younger years were our broke college years. Neither of us minded though – we were having fun and enjoying each other’s company.

We got married straight out of college and our wedding was a bona fide party because that is what happens when you get married in your early 20s. Kids followed shortly after. We went to prenatal appointments, kids’ birthday parties, and school events, but still we didn’t really date.

A few times a year we managed a holiday party or anniversary dinner out, but these unicorn evenings were few and far between. Unfortunately for us – and probably due to the lack of dating practice – these nights usually ended in soaring expectations of wild sex and bellies full of booze and food. Of course fights and hangovers followed and the rare date nights faded out even more with intense work schedules and the addition of twin girls, which rounded out our total number of children to four.

Still we didn’t seem to mind the extinction of together time because we literally had no time to think. We have spent 10 years in “go mode” and I think that perhaps somewhere in the middle of this mode your brain turns certain parts of emotional consciousness off.

Then about six months back we hit a marital wall. I suppose that after so many years of sub-par communication and emotions locked into survival mode it wasn’t exactly a surprise that we found ourselves sitting on the couch having a come-to-Jesus talk about where we were and where we were headed. We needed to air out our years of pent-up grievances and lay out our needs simply, clearly, and concisely. Because we didn’t spend those formative years talking and communicating (Lord knows we spent it doing all sorts of other things), we maybe missed the whole “know what your partner wants” component.

So yes there was hurt, tears, feelings of betrayal and resentment, and all sorts of other things that you never really imagine yourself feeling when you fall in love at the tender age of 19.

But like a couple of middle-aged Phoenixes we seemed to rise from the ashes and rebuilt our marriage.

Along with The McCarthy Marriage 2.0 came dating. We are about six months into dating one another and I have to say a number of positive aspects have come along with this newfound addition to our marriage.

We talk. We go out and have dinner and talk for hours. We don’t always talk about earth-shattering things, but that is okay. Sometimes it is glorious to sit back and realize that for once you have nothing pressing to discuss.

We get the family management done. Date nights are not always filled with lipstick, cologne, and high heels. Sometimes we just need to leave the chaos of our home and get shit done. We have to organize our thoughts, sync our schedules, and figure out how our little jigsaw life is all gonna shake out. It isn’t sexy, but it sure is necessary and really so much easier to do over beers and fries.

We get dressed up … for each other! I won’t lie. It is kind of nice to look at one another and think to one’s self, “My, my we clean up nice don’t we?” How many times does that man come home to find me in baggy sweatpants with stains on my shirt and sporting a frizzy mom bun? Far too many to count. If I am being completely honest, which I am known for, I think there are entire months I don’t even look at my partner. It isn’t because I don’t love him or find him attractive, it’s just that I stop prioritizing the marriage.

Date nights seem to reset this sector of my brain.

Sometimes we go do things and find ourselves (gasp!) having fun. Man, it is far to easy to find yourselves in the trenches of life missing out on the fun. In our case we found ourselves having fun, but only having family fun. Our kids became the center of our universe and the epicenter of our fun. Watching them have fun was automatically our fun. While there is certainly nothing wrong with watching your little ones enjoy life, it feels good to have our own separate, partner fun.

Practice makes perfect. Now that dating is becoming a more regular thing the expectations for the evening are not outrageous. We now know that date night is going to happen more than twice a year and we can relax a bit and simply enjoy our time together without forcing ourselves to go overboard.

I have to say that I am enjoying the dating scene now that I am 35 and I hope that as the years go by we can keep it up. All that time I thought it served zero purpose, but it turns out I was gravely wrong: Dating your partner is important.