Jun 25, 2021
Of all the couples who have been reaching out in the past 6 months for help improving their marriage, 1 thing has rang true with EVERY SINGLE ONE of them...they aren't experiencing any fun in their marriage. We understand that there are a number of variables that impact your ability to let loose and have fun, but scheduling a date night is not something that can be overlooked. Often, after listening to the myriad of reasons a couple is struggling (including the convos I have in my head about my own relationship), I ask one simple question: "Are you having any fun?"
The answer is always a resounding, "no."
Why "fun"? Research shows that having fun releases "happy hormones" into our bodies and literally changes the way we think. The stress of work, household chores, feeding kids, bedtime routines, finances, lack of intimacy, etc. has the opposite effect on our thinking.
The bad news: "unhappy hormones" like cortisol last in our bodies way longer than the "happy hormones" of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin.
The good news: having more fun in your relationship and with your family can be the key that unlocks happiness, improves communication, increases intimacy, and leads to more meaningful work around the house.
We can't eliminate (entirely) the many things needed to keep a household going, but infusing some fun with date nights, family adventures, laughter, and intimate physical touch is 100% possible...not "someday" but "today." See below for some tips to scheduling a date night within the next couple weeks.
Date nights are a special, important, and often overlooked time to spend with your spouse. We use our date nights to make memories, catch up on the week, and, most importantly, have something amazing to look forward to each week!
We have managed to keep date nights a thing in our relationship for 17 years. (Admittedly we had a few years in the middle of that where we didn’t like each other and we were not having any fun so they were less frequent). Once we got back on track and prioritized date night, even forced it at times, we started to win the battle of happy vs unhappy hormones.
Any time we recognize that we are getting short with each other or sometimes even mean to one another, we ask ourselves "Are we having any fun?" The answer is almost always "no" so we go to work on finding time to do something fun in order to change our thinking and the trajectory of our marriage.
Here are a few suggestions to HELP YOU make date night a regular occasion… and get back to having more fun together.
We all live and die by our calendars at work and family events like t-ball, soccer, dance lessons, gymnastics, band practice, birthdays, PTO meetings, conferences, etc, etc, etc. Okay...take a deep breath.
The busyness of life can overwhelm us at times, and the first thing to get rescheduled or canceled is a planned night on the town. However, in a study conducted by the Marriage Foundation discovered the importance of scheduling a regular date night. The results showed that couples that had monthly date nights were 14% less likely to split up when compared to couples that “rarely” went out.
I don't want to be insensitive to the other important things in our lives like PTO meetings or practices, games, and recitals, but there is no research that shows making it to all of these meetings and events improves your marriage.
Likewise, having a perfectly manicured lawn, getting all the laundry done and folded, cleaning the floors and vacuuming, and picking out your own avocados at the grocery store does not directly improve your marriage. Schedule your date nights and build everything else around it. Pull together with some friends to ride share for practices, rotate sleepovers, or chip in for each other's childcare so that more of us can have fun, lasting, and meaningful marriages.
For date night to succeed it takes more than just wishing it to happen; it takes intentional effort and planning from both partners. The key is to decide on a regular night or frequency that works and to stick to it. This notion stems from the concept of “Sliding vs. Deciding” by psychologist, Dr. Scott Stanley. “If you think about different transitions that people go through in life relationships…People can either tend to slide through them, where they’re not really paying a lot of attention, they’re just sort of letting it happen to them. Or they can be making a decision, they can be talking about things with their partner, they can be deciding what this is about, and then making a decision together for moving through that transition.”
Sliding through marriage leads to disconnection and divorce. Decide to invest in your marriage and fail at some other less important things. If you can outsource grocery shopping, hire someone to clean the house 1 time per month, or pay a neighborhood kid to mow the lawn, you can let that stuff slide so your marriage doesn't.
It's also easy to get stuck in a rut and do the same thing over and over. When Friday night comes we don't want the age old conflict of "what do you want to eat?" to be something that starts your date night off with unhappy hormones. Take some initiative and try something new. If you build date night in more regularly, one new idea that didn't work isn't the end of the world...there is always next time.
We like to recommend that each person in a relationship take turns planning what is happening for the night. But remember if you are the one planning the night, try to plan something that the other person would prefer and they will most likely do the same next time.
Some Date Night Ideas include:
And just a heads up… not all dates need to happen at night. While “Date Morning” or “Date Afternoon” don’t have the same ring, they can have the same beneficial impact on your relationship. Consider coffee conversations at your favorite little shop, become the best of buddies over brunch, or go to your favorite deli for lunch. It might even be fun to revisit some of your favorite date destinations and reminisce.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up, be creative, and try to outsmart your busyness...your relationship is WORTH IT!
HOT TIP: We have had good success looking on groupon.com for ideas in our local area. We don't always buy the groupon, but it really helps spark ideas and helps us think of new places.
All-in-all date nights are a fun and unique time to engage on a deeper level. They give us a chance to step out of everyday life and experience something exciting and new. We hope that you can begin to make date nights a regular occasion so that your relationship can be a Meaningful Marriage.
I don’t know about you, but I am not taking any chances...We're headed out tonight!