Therapists recommend couples scheduling date nights so often that it’s almost a joke, up there with “how are you feeling about that?” You might wonder if it’s just some default thing therapists say to fill up time.
Nope. We suggest date nights so often because they work. One-on-one time doing something fun with your significant other is very important to keeping the two of you feeling happy and connected.
It’s easy for couples in long-term relationships to settle into routine. After the heady “I’m so in love!!” dating stage transitions to something more stable, couples sometimes get into a rut. After a while, all they talk about is household tasks and schedules. If this goes on long enough, the spouse starts to feel like a chore rather than the fun, exciting person he or she used to be. The demands of parenting, especially, can drag couples into an all-work, no-fun dynamic.
If couples stop having fun together, they start to grow apart–and are much more vulnerable to someone being tempted into an affair. Many of the couples I see in therapy have forgotten how to have fun together. Once they start going out on date nights again, they remember why they fell in love in the first place.
The best date nights are fun and interactive–things that make you laugh or feel like a kid again, or that give you and chance to really talk.
Here are some possibilities for relationship-boosting dates:
Have a relaxed dinner. This is a classic date for a reason. Dinner out is usually better than a movie because you can really talk to each other. (But if you love movies and you talk about the film afterward, that’s good too.) If dinner is hard to schedule, breakfast or lunch are fine, especially if you’re not rushed.
Put your phones aside and pay attention to each other. Talk about something other than the kids. What is really going on in your SO’s life? What intrigues or excites your partner these days?
Think low-tech and retro. Play mini-golf or go bowling. (You gotta love the goofy shoes–embrace the goofiness!) Or go to a country fair. Or play Twister. Anything that’s a break from the rhythm of your daily lives.
Go dancing. Take a swing dance lesson and have a blast twirling, or learn salsa or blues dancing and get your sexy, romantic vibe back.
Go to an amusement park (without the kids). Or play paintball, play tennis, go zip lining. Anything that gets your blood pumping deepens your connection with the person you’re with.
Take a hike. Getting out in nature helps you wind down from the busy-ness of life; you can relax into a rhythm of walking together, talking, just being fully present with the one you love.
Do whatever you most enjoyed doing together when you were first dating. In addition to being fun, it’ll bring back affectionate memories.
Take a class together. Community centers and adult ed programs offer all sorts of inexpensive options. Maybe try scuba? speaking Italian? baking bread? building furniture? organic gardening? Learning something new is stimulating and helps you grow together.
Get a room. If you have kids, get a sitter or swap overnight babysitting with another couple, then go to a hotel–overnight or even for an hour. If you don’t have kids or they’re grown, you might still plan a getaway. Being in a new place with frisky intention is a great way to rekindle a spark.
Plan an at-home date night. Pick a night to have a staying-in date with your sweetie. Turn off all phones and other devices; maybe light some candles; put on something sexy; and simply pay attention to each other. Thinking all day about the fun in store for the evening can really get the juices flowing.
In the end, it doesn’t matter a lot what you do, it matters that you do it. Making time with your sweetie a priority makes it more likely that you’ll stay happily together over the long haul.