Like a lot of married couples, my husband and I rarely get to enjoy a date night. Busy work schedules, family obligations, and - let’s face it - sometimes sheer exhaustion prevent us from making quality couple time a priority. But according to a recent study conducted by The National Marriage Project, today’s parents are foregoing date night at our own peril. Researchers at The University of Virginia determined that couples who go out together at least once a week are three times more likely to report being ‘very happy’ in their relationships, they are less likely to get divorced, and they make better parents, too.
Most of us recognize there are benefits to prioritizing time with our partner. Where we struggle, though, is in finding ways to fit those meaningful moments into the fabric of our daily lives.
If you too are desperately seeking an elusive date night, here are a few suggestions that may help:
Date before dark - Who says date night has to equal dinner and a movie out on a Friday night? Mix things up by going on a breakfast or lunch date instead. Daytime dates work especially well for parents of infants and toddlers. Little ones are often happier with a caregiver earlier in the day, and mom and dad can still be home in time for the all-important bedtime routine.
Embrace date night in - Can’t afford to pay a babysitter? Have a child struggling with separation anxiety? Too tired to dress up and go out? Bring date night into your own living room after the kids are asleep. Open a bottle of wine and catch up on a favorite show. Or make your favorite munchies and cheer on your hometown sports team. Or play a game like “Would You Rather?” to spark interesting conversation.
Whatever you do, think outside the box to create a date night you will both enjoy. For example, my husband and I love sushi, but rarely make it out to a restaurant. Instead, we like to order sushi for delivery and have turned late-night sushi dates into a ritual we both look forward to.
Write it in red - Date nights don’t always come cheap, but daily deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, which feature discounts on everything from restaurant meals to local experiences to vacations, might just come to your rescue. Not only can these sites save you money on activities you wouldn’t otherwise pursue, they also force you to make a commitment to dates that have already been planned and paid for. So if you want to get back into the habit of routine date nights, sign up to receive some of these daily deal emails. Buy a few that pique your interest, and then add them to your calendar in bright red ink.
Embrace the small moments - With so much pressure surrounding date night, it’s easy to feel frustrated when you can’t make one happen regularly. But it’s also important to remember - especially while children are young and require so much of our energy and attention - that a strong marriage or relationship is about a lot more than the occasional night out on the town. There are many ways to connect as a couple, and regular date nights represent only one of them. Don’t disregard the small opportunities to enjoy each other’s company that exist in everyday life. Share an inside joke. Say thank-you. Snuggle on the couch. Give random hugs. Remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Remember the big picture - As for my husband and me, I know we’re doing just fine, even if our date nights are few and far between. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the end of the world - it’s just a season of life.
Eventually our kids will grow up and move out, and we will once again have the freedom to enjoy date nights at our leisure. In the meantime, we can always order in sushi.
Alyssa writes about parenting and family life. As the mother of two elementary-aged children, she looks forward to the day when regular date nights will once again become routine.
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