I’ve been married just over 9 years now and if I can be honest here, I have to say that being intentional about a date night has been one of the hardest things for us in marriage.

There are a couple of things that just stand in the way for us.

We haven’t been intentional enough

First of all, we don’t have kids so we don’t have anyone’s schedule other than one another’s that can stand in the way. No body has to be taken to play practice, dance rehearsal, the soccer game, or driven to and from work. We literally can just decide at noon on a Saturday that we want to see a movie that evening, pull out the computer and buy our tickets online. We don’t have to worry about anyone but ourselves.

That sounds ideal, I’m sure. In fact, after being guardians after a family tragedy for a few months, we really learned what it looks like to have to be more intentional. And it was tough. Really, really tough. But, it has given us both more desire to do a weekly date night with one another.

We’re busy, busy, busy…

Here’s something else that has stood in the way. My husband teaches school full time and is a full-time student working on a second Master’s degree, and I own a private practice, teach, supervise students, and try to be good about using social media to promote ideas of happy marriages and encouragement to struggling couples. We both work out and try to eat right, so throw that in to our busy schedules as well. We basically use all hours of the day (just like everyone else) and much of the time the “important right now” gets in the way of the important for us. Busyness has drained us more than a couple of times over the lifetime of our marriage.

Why date?

Do you know why dating is important? Dating helps you form a friendship with your spouse. Friends hang out together, trust one another, get excited to talk to each other, and simply want to share life with each other. Dr. Gottman teaches that friendship is a pillar to relationship success and studies have even proven that friendship makes you happier. In fact, I teach couples that friendship is one of the three important ways that spouses love one another (get more info on that right here).

I cannot overestimate how important friendship is. Let me give this quick example: Let’s say that you and your spouse don’t consider yourselves friends. Maybe you have pretty good sex and you’re 100% committed to one another, but the friendship is really lacking in your marriage. If the two of you share a negative event (medical emergency, crisis in your family, a bad date, financial difficulties…), the tension in that event can add to the gap between you two and make you feel even less like you’re in relationship. You may still be committed and still enjoy your physical relationship, but it just feels like something is missing in the marriage. That something is friendship.

Friendship means you can connect even when life is throwing lemons at you.

On the other hand, couples that have a strong friendship find that negative experiences only temporarily cause a break in the relationship and both parties are quick to want to repair any wrongs. Why? Because nobody wants to lose a close friend. Deep down, we all know that friendship is a thing to be cherished because there is so little opportunity (doggone busy lives) for cultivating a bunch of really close friendships.

Dating helps you become better friends

Here are two big reasons that dating helps you become better friends. First, dating allows you to kick back and just have some fun with your spouse. Having fun allows you to release hormones that actually cause you to enjoy one another more fully. This means that if you’ve been overwhelmed by life stressors, laughing and playing together will lighten the overall mood in your marriage. Just like personal self-care is necessary for you to function at your best, marriage-care is absolutely necessary to really enjoy your relationship.

Secondly, social psychology research has proven that we like people that we spend more time with. Known as the ‘mere exposure effect,’ studies have shown that seeing someone over and over again causes us to like them more. The caveat here is that this effect is seen when we don’t interact with others. To increase the like factor with someone you do interact with, those interactions have to be positive. In fact, there’s a need for about five positive interactions for every negative interaction. Date night gives you the chance to fill your love tank with positive interactions.

How “to do” date night

I’ve already posted previously about how to really have a great date night and you can read the full article here. Here are the basic ‘rules’ about date night though.

(1) Date night doesn’t have to happen at night.
Sometimes, the night just isn’t free for people. Dates can be in the early morning before kids are awake while you sit together and drink coffee or tea or in the afternoon when you can both break away to grab a bite of lunch. For those of you that are geographically separated for a season, date night might be a virtual hangout with you each in different time zones. Date night can occur any time that you’re both awake and tuned in to one another.

(2) Date night should be something outside of your normal routine. 
My hubby and I enjoy watching some of our favorite TV shows in the evening. Sometimes that will include a glass of wine or dinner while we watch and almost always includes at least a little bit of touching or holding hands. This will NEVER be considered a date night. There’s nothing special about that because we do it literally every night. Date night has to be outside of your norm and usually requires a little bit of planning. If you have the ability to be more spontaneous, make sure you are clear with your spouse that this time is special and you want to do something together.

(3) Couple dates are okay and healthy, but that should not be all you do.
My hubby and I really enjoy spending time with other couples, especially fairly happy couples. It’s just fun to do life together with others. You may be in the same place. If so, enjoy your double dates and group dates, but make sure that you are also spending time as a couple – just the two of you and that this time is focused on one another.

(4) Date night should be conflict free.
This is really most important for couples that have a high level of conflict in the marriage. It’s super important to learn how to table arguments and disagreements during date night. Especially if it’s been a while since you’ve dated, you need to find ways to enjoy your time together. That isn’t likely to happen if you are arguing. For some help on freeing yourselves of conflict, check out this article about not fighting when you’re together.

(5) When money is tight and life just aint right. Dating can (and should) still happen.
At least one of us has been a student for most of our marriage. We know what it’s like to need to live on a budget, to feel like money is too tight to go out, to truly believe we just don’t have time, and to have life situations come up that makes dating seem too hard. But, date night is always important! Date night doesn’t have to be expensive. It may not cost you anything but time. For example, think about utilizing coupons, at home dates with the TV off, or making the most of a really bad medical situation, like Jason describes here in his article about dating in the hospital.

And now…a review

I’ve recently decided that it would be fun (and hold us accountable to consistent date nights) if I started doing date night reviews. I’ve started this process on Facebook and Instagram, so if you want to see several of them you can follow over there.

For now, I’m just going to share the most recent date night we had. Oddly, it isn’t actually the one pictured on this post. But that one is on Fb and Insta.

Last weekend, my hubby and I went to Baladi Mediterranean and to Tinto Wine and Cheese. Both were fabulous. So, if you’re in the Hampton Roads area, it would be worth your while to go. And the two places are just a few doors down from one another in a shopping center in Hilltop. And, if you’d like, after you visit there you can get some amazing coffee beans at the Fresh Market right by both of these places. That’s how we do date night. 🙂

At Baladi, we started with an falafel appetizer. We both really, really love falafel and were happy with this one. It came with a yogurt-type dip, slightly runnier than what I’ve had in the past. The taste was great and I’ll probably go get some falafel again next time I’m at Tinto. For dinner, Hubby had the kufta and I had the hoseh (and some of his kufta). Both dishes were tasty and filling. Props to the waitress we had too. She was really helpful and polite and had our food out pretty quickly.

After dinner, we went to Tinto, a little wine and cheese bar just a few doors down. We love the quiet, down-to-earth style of Tinto. They even leave the doors open in the evening making it feel like a comfortable home inside. They staff are knowledgeable and if you order a tasting, they’ll give you a little bit of a history lesson before you taste each wine. They’ll also tell you what subtle flavors to expect and how you can best pair the wine with food. And, if you become a member you get special discounts on the wine, food, and tastings. It was a sweet deal so we joined.

So there you have it. A little review of our latest date night. If you thought this article was helpful, you might also like joining my email list. I offer tips there that I don’t put in my blog and when you join you’ll get my free guide with strategies that I implement with the couples I work with. You can join right here.

Until next time – keep dating your spouse.
Jessica

While you’re here…comment below and tell me your favorite date night adventure! Or, just join me in my closed Facebook group for more ideas and lots of marriage encouragement.