Most couples need at a least a weekly date to help them keep the romance alive in their marriages. This fact is illustrated repeatedly by the many couples who come to me for marriage counseling who rarely, if ever, go out together on a date. They’re too busy, child care is too hard to arrange, they can’t think of anything they would both enjoy… If it were too inconvenient to put gasoline in your car, how long would you expect it to run?
Or sometimes a couple will say, “Our weekly date is an evening of watching TV,” or, “We usually do something as a family every week,” or, “yeah, we get together with our in-laws (or a group of friends) a couple times a month”.
Those might be enjoyable and even important experiences, but they are not dates! When you were first in-love or, at least, anxious to get to know each other, your dates were probably not spent in front of the TV, with in-laws or friends. Dating and courtship, which help enrich a relationship and keep the love growing have important elements or guidelines that need to be spelled out but that too often get ignored. In my opinion, here they are:
- Plan the date at least several hours, preferably days, in advance.(Anticipation is an important part of the fun).
- Make it a weekly occurrence, preferably on the same night most weeks. (This means saying “No” to other important, but less important things than your marriage.)
- At least three times per month, your date is with just the two of you. (You two are each other’s most important people. Nobody else! Right?)
- With rare exception, your best chance for a good date is away from the house. (You regularly need to shift out of the roles of Mom and Dad, maid and cook, landscaper, bill payer, etc. and back into the mode of LOVERS! At home, it’s too easy to get distracted by some little urgency that sucks you back into some role other than your spouse’s lover.)
- There is no conversation about problems–kids, money, in-laws, etc. (This is a time for fun. There’s plenty of time to argue later.)
- No awkward silences. (You might need to think ahead and have some new things to talk about. Or turn silence into number 7.)
- Enjoy a moment of silent consistent eye contact. (Silence can be intensely romantic, even exquisitely intimate.)
- Make your date last at least two hours. (Feeding your romance doesn’t happen at the drive-through at McDonalds)
- Do something fun. (Going to the grocery store together, working in the yard, or on home improvement are important parts of being a team and will help you feel closer, but they are not dates.)
- Do something new occasionally. (Finding things to do that you both enjoy is a challenge for most couples so be up for trying new things. If it’s a total bomb, it will at least it will be good for a laugh.)
- Plan reliable childcare well in advance. (The most frequent obstacle to actually making a date happen is the failure to find available childcare.)
- Take turns planning the date. (It’s nice for both of you to know that the other person enjoys and desires an evening with you.)
- Follow through with your date plans unless there is a genuine emergency. (When in doubt, GO OUT! Your date is a priority, isn’t it!)
- Prepare yourselves as if it’s a special event because it is! (This is no time for bad breath, bad hair, or body odor.)
- Drive together. (Meeting at the theater or restaurant on your way home from work might be more convenient or cost-effective but those are not the goals of a date.)
- Be affectionate. Maintain frequent physical contact with each other. Let it be obvious that you two are a couple and that you are in love (or at least working on growing in love). (This world, and your kids especially, need more good examples of loving husbands and wives being loving husbands and wives.
- Purchase or keep a souvenir (napkin, book of matches, ticket stubs, etc.) of the date. (A date remembered is a date enjoyed for many years. Collect these souvenirs in a special place or treasure box.)
- Get a photo of yourselves on your date. (Great for your scrapbook or journal.)
- No phoning, emailing, or texting unless it’s a life threatening emergency. (Nothing says, “you’re not important to me” like shifting your attention away from your lover to anything else.)
- Do something new that increases your engagement with each other and with your city. Take a dance class, attend an adult education class, learn new skills, try new music and art venues. New experiences together are an adventure and reinforce your sense of being a team and enjoying your city.
- Be on time. (If I need to explain this one to you, you’re hopeless.)
- Don’t be tired. (Nothing in your week is more important than your weekly date. Plan accordingly. If all else fails, resort to Red Bull.)
- If you go out to dinner and the service is adequate, leave a generous tip (more than 15%). It helps increase the festive, generous, loving mood of your date together. If you argue about this your ignorance, unfriendliness, stinginess, and lack of gratitude are hanging out.)
- At least once a month, do something in an unfamiliar part of your city or state. (We live in an amazing world. Discovering it together will add to richness of your marriage.)
- Pace yourselves, leave enough time, energy and sobriety for snuggling in bed together and connecting sexually. (Sex shouldn’t be expected, but it needs to be initiated as a gift of love and affection–intimate, pleasurable caressing and tender words. Maybe it will be like the Fourth of July or maybe it will simply be like enjoying the warm glow of a fire in the fireplace. Little else connects a couple like enjoying the intimate, tender pleasures of a sexual, mild or wild, encounter.)
Obviously, not all of these elements can be included in any one date, but as you plan ahead and consider your month of date nights try to include all of these elements and see what happens. I’m anxious to read about your ideas and your experience.
Grow in love!!