Love is an action word. If you want to send a message with long-lasting impact, skip the flowers and make your gift a year-long calendar of Date Nights.
Research shows that institutionalizing “date night” can protect your marriage from deterioration and keep you and your spouse more healthy, happy, intimate, and able to manage your life stressors.
Follow these six tips for Date Night success.
1. Make “Date Night” affordable. Don’t allow date night to add financial stress. Decide how much you can budget for your weekly date nights. Your budget will determine the frequency and location of your dates. Most budgets allow for a weekly date at home and a once-a-month date out at a favorite restaurant for dinner or a picnic at a picturesque spot.
2. Decide when you will schedule Date Night. For at home Date Nights, find the time when a “date” at home can be added to your normal routine (lunch, late dinner, night cap). Do NOT let other activities get in the way of this intimate time together. For monthly Date Nights Out, set a routine night (e.g., the last Saturday of the month) and get it on the calendar. Only adjust Date Night plans for important events that cannot be scheduled on another day. Your monthly date could be anytime. It’s the time for intimate conversation, not the time of day that matters.
3. Decide who will oversee planning. When planning monthly Date Nights out, work together to generate a list of restaurants that fit your budget and that you would both enjoy, then take turns picking a restaurant from the list and making the reservations.
When you generate the list of restaurants, include other activities to enjoy before or after dinner, such as a movie, a play, a concert, or a walk on the beach. The secret is to always include a meal in a sit-down restaurant so you can have a good conversation.
When planning weekly Date Night at home, generate a list of ideas that work for you, depending on the time of your Date. Then take turns executing your at-home date. Take turns shopping for and making (or bringing in) dinner/dessert. Take turns setting the table or the cozy atmosphere. Use the good dishes, play music, and turn off the television. And be sure to show appreciation for your partner’s efforts.
When you select the best format for your at home date, make it doable, without much stress. Just create a time for just the two of you to talk, relax, and show love and support for one another.
4. Make a Special Effort to Get Ready for Date Night. It’s a date. So, whether it is your at-home Date Night or your monthly Date Night out, invest time in refreshing your personal appearance. At home, present your clean “at home, relaxed” self. For going out, wear “date night” clothes, primp, and have fun with it. For example, have the husband get ready first, then he can take care of the dog, settle the kids, and/or go get the babysitter while the wife finishes getting ready, undisturbed. You’ll be surprised how transformative that can feel for a busy wife. Whatever your relationship configuration, make sure Date Night out preparation adds anticipation, not anxiety to your date.
5. Turn off your cell phone during Date Night. (Except maybe to have the waiter take your picture). If you have small children and are truly worried about your babysitter being able to contact you, then put your phone on Do Not Disturb and only let the babysitter’s call come through.
6. Plan your Date Night conversation. If you want to avoid slipping into a night of talking about the kids, household chores, and other logistics, you must have conversational starters ready. You also need to be adept at gently changing the subject when your spouse starts talking about laundry, carpooling, home maintenance, grocery lists, or your problems.
So, make a list. Write it down and then commit it to memory or have a cheat sheet in your pocket. (Won’t work to put the list in your phone, because your phone will be off, remember?) After a while, inventive Date Night conversation will come naturally.
Bottom line: If you want to improve and protect your relationship, share this article with your partner, talk about the importance of Date Nights, and work it out.
Let me know if I can help.
Jamie C. Williamson, PhD is a FL Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Couples Counselor. She is an owner and partner at Amity Mediation Workshop, a mediation practice specializing in “friendly divorce” mediation and psycho-educational marriage revitalization sessions for couples. Dr. Jamie speaks frequently on relationship topics and authors the blog “Work it Out”. You can find her online at amitymediationworkshop.com.