We're married, so why should we continue to date? There has been a lot of talk about couples going on a "date night". What is it? Why is it needed? Does it make a difference? The term date night has become the new norm in many social circles. It also is being used as a therapeutic tool for many therapist.
Many couples who have been together for a long time can fall into routine. Often new things become a thing of the past, and as a result, intimacy starts to fade. Over the years as I have worked with couples, I started to this pattern leaving couples bored and unfulfilled. Even worse, the need for validation would at times led one or both parties into extramarital affairs. So, I started to employ the date night to couples who felt disconnected.
While the idea of date night works in theory, it often falls short because of expectations. This article will hopefully help define and give a fresh perspective on date night. I also hope to be able to provide some guidelines to help make the most of this tool.
I'd like to start on what a date night looks like. Please keep in mind that everyone will have to adjust to their own needs and wants. That said, date night will look very different for the couple that has been married for 40 years and are in their 60's, verses the couple who has been married 5 years and are in their 20's. Date night should have the look and feel of both comfort and connection. It should not be forced. If either party is not routinely excited about date night, there are issues on a deeper level and counseling may be a good first step.
Can you remember when you first started dating your spouse? It doesn't matter if it were 5 or 50 years ago. The newness of dating would lead us to do just about anything to be able to spend time with our new love interest. Remember talking on the phone for hours, sending flowers and surprise visits? Or what about doing something that you had no interest in, but you did it anyway just to be with your partner. Why did that stop?
So many of us have fallen into routine. And once we "got" our new partner, we slowly over the course of time stopped doing all the things that we did in the beginning. This is why date night is needed. The want and need to get to know your partner should not stop. In fact it should grow stronger. And while it is equally important to have your own identity, do we actively openly share with our spouse?
I have often heard couples say "I know what he/she is thinking, so I don't have to ask". That is exactly the thought process that will end you up in a counselors office. I often say to my clients that if you have the same belief system you had at 25 when you're 75, you have wasted a life. So, if you're having the same conversations at 25 when you're 75, the same holds true. We must evolve. Far too many people stop growing and wanting to experiencing new things just because they are engaged in a long-term relationship. It's a trap.
So now that I have spoken about the why is it needed and does it work, here are a few suggestions to help you turn date night into a great night.
Do not talk about the kids, bills or work
This time is for the two of you to connect. Remember all the useless things you used to talk about when first dating? Do that. Or even better. Talk about where you are now. Ask open-ended questions. Take an active role in listening. You two chose each other. All the things that have happened over the course of the years surely have changed the both of you. Have you talked about them? Have you shared you deepest thoughts. Or did you hold back out of fear? The point that I am making is, talk about the real you. Make it all about the two of you tonight.
Get out of your comfort zone
Relationship routine can be deadly. Be open to spontaneous adventures. Nothing brings people together like new experiences. My wife and I were once at the state fair. We saw they had helicopter rides, and we both knew we had to do it. Out of the comfort zone and bucket list. Check! What about you?
Give a little get a little
If you have different ideas of fun, take turns each planning a date. Sure you may have to sit though something that may not excite you. But, how many times did you do that when you were first dating? To connect intimately, sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply give.
I can not state this enough
Please put the phone down. Nothing will kill date night faster than you taking a work call, checking a text or responding to an email. I know that sometimes this will be unavoidable, but make it the exception. If you do pull out your phone, take a picture because you're having fun.
Should you double date?
That's entirely up to you. But again, date night is about building intimacy between you and your spouse. So yes to the double dating, but try to leave it to once a month.
How often should date night occur?
Once a week is optimal. There is an old saying that states, "you should meditate 20 minutes everyday. If you're too busy for 20 minutes, make it an hour." I use the same principle for date night. Surely you can find 30 minutes a week for your spouse. Even if it's just time for coffee and connection.
I can remember years ago my wife and I worked at the same place. Long story short our schedules collided at the same place and same time. We sat outside in my car drinking coffee while my clients were in a meeting. What an amazing break during the course of that busy work day. Remember spontaneity is worth its weight in gold.
As I close this article, let your dates be organic. Have a plan, but go with the flow. You're with the person you picked. And if that's not a reason enough to be happy, you're probably going to need more than a date night.