What is a Date Night? A Date Night is a typically pre-planned evening when a committed couple carves out some time for themselves away from their children and other responsibilities. Date Nights can also be “Date Days,” but the key idea is that the couple is spending time as a couple, and not as unstructured “family time.”
Some couples struggle with the definition of a Date Night. Deciding to go get pizza on the spur of the moment lacks the planning and “special” feel of a true Date Night.
A Date Night definition includes a sense of leaving the ordinary realm of daily experience. You dress differently. You go to a different place or engage in an unusual activity that isn’t part of your daily routine. Date Nights are unique, and out of the ordinary.
The social-science literature tells us the importance of dating in a relationship…even for married couples. Research shows us that Date Night builds stronger marriages in five ways:
Date Night helps with communication. This is an essential element of an intimate relationship. But communication also involves the willingness to remove distractions such as children and career demands deliberately.
Date Nights also offers couples the opportunity to discuss topics of mutual importance. They can self-define and dialogue about mutual aspirations.
Communication is like a muscle. Sometimes you plan your communication workouts.
Gottman’s research, in particular, tells us that a “stress-reducing” conversation can help couples to stay current with what is actually moving through their intimate partner’s life.
Couples typically experience habituation, a “settling in” quality where both are more likely to take each other for granted.
The symbiotic “we are a couple” sensibility can settle into an ordinary domestic routine. But new research indicates that a deficit in fun and novelty is toxic.
A balance of activities, attractive to both, which emphasizes novel and different experiences can help increase intimacy.
(3) Let’s Do It.
Romantic love is that erotic spark, excitement, and an overwhelming sense of attraction to your significant other. But with time, the emotional and physical expression of erotic love tends to fade in many couples.
Because Date Night allows a couple to focus on their connection completely, the erotic spark may be restored by the intentional pursuit of romance, novelty, and more in-depth communication. Date Nights may not only rekindle the romance, but regular Date Nights can also help sustain the fires of love over the long haul.
Couples that have a regular Date Nights maintain a connection through intimate conversation and emotional support. They also lower the stress on their brains, as well as their partners. Fortunately, nature has endowed us with high resiliency in this area.
We don’t always have to connect with our partner correctly. Still, we do have to preserve and develop our capacity to pay attention and be fully present to our partners when they are stressed and to be a solidly loyal and reliable friend.
(5) Abiding Relationship Commitment.
Date Night builds attachment. When you experience the commitment of your partner, your sense of being firmly attached will provide you with a stable, deeply satisfying relationship.
Partners who cherish and prize each other, who steer clear of other romantic opportunities, and who nurture a strong sense of “we-ness” or togetherness are significantly more happy than are less-committed, “iffy” couples. Commitment is scary. But commitment satisfies deeply.
Dates foster an abiding sense of “couplehood.” The deliberate planning and pursuit of date night allow partners to choose one another—in front of friends and family.
Admit it, and if you’re playful enough, the possibilities are endless! Even scientists and engineers can have fun!
You want to go on a date. But what about the kids? But I bet you know other couples that would like to go out on a date as well.
Tell your friends that you’ll watch their kids while they go out if they will do the same for you on your date.
You can swap babysitting services, still enjoy your date, and get your babysitter for free! It doesn’t get any cheaper than free!
If you live near your family, ask them if they could watch your kids this weekend while the two of you try out new date night experiences.
If you don’t live close to your parents, consider asking them to babysit for a night when they come to visit. While you want to spend time with them, they also want to see their grandkids. Come to think of it, Grandma and Grandpa might have their own version of Date Night enjoying their grandchildren together.
What is a date night to you? Are you willing to step outside the box of your workaday life and plan for some novel experiences. New research tells us that the novelty of shared new experiences has a powerful restorative power on marital relationships.
But You have to break through the inertia, and the gravitational pull of kids and career. Make an effort to carve out time for yourselves. You will be so glad that you did.
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Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.
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