By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline Without Distress and co-founder of Attachment Parenting Canada, www.attachmentparenting.ca. Her date night blog is at www.datenightyyc.wordpress.com/about/.
In the movie Date Night, the characters played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey are in a long-term relationship that they try to spice up by going out to dinner once a week on a date night. The trouble is that their date night is monotonously predictable—they go to the same restaurant and order the same food on the same night every week. They start to notice the sameness when they become a little too clichéd even for their own taste by talking about the variation of the chicken quality instead of their feelings, week after week. One night they do something different—they dress up, pick a new restaurant and go to dinner in the city for a change. What happens next is hilarious, and they end up with an incredible evening tale, though probably one that no couple would wish for. The end result is that they had a renewed sense of each other as the people they loved, not just their roles such as parents, children, siblings, etc. (although those roles were strengthened, as well).
Why Have Date Nights?
No matter how long they have been together, couples need sparks, creativity and fun in their relationships. As the years pass, they need it even more. For centuries, organized religion has discovered that people need continuous affirmation of their faith in the form of weekly rituals such as church attendance. Relationships need the same kind of tending and care. Regular meetings are required in order to talk, have fun and spend time together.
We know that friendships survive on shared interests, yet as soon as we partner up with our very best friend, we tend to settle into domestic boredom and let the shared interests slide. Every relationship has peaks and valleys—moments where love is overwhelming and moments when you seriously wonder why you are still with your partner. Couples need to remind themselves of the qualities that they saw in each other at the beginning of the relationship and what they still love about each other. This is even more critical when mortgages, pets, children, jobs, laundry, broken appliances, normal conflicts and elderly caretaking occur alongside the couple relationship. These are normal stresses, but they can be overwhelming in a relationship without some nurturing buffers, such as date night and time together.
The “Date Night” Rules
If you have children, hire a standing sitter to come each week at the same time. Try to get a sitter who drives, and pay the sitter well. If finances are a concern, consider finding or starting a babysitting co-op or have date nights at home after the children are asleep.
Each partner takes a turn planning the date, executing, driving and paying. The other partner is the guest. Switch roles the next week. It’s more fun to keep plans a secret until you are both in the car or it’s the time of the date. Surprise is part of the fun!
Try to plan an evening without friends so that intimate subjects can be addressed if need be. Some subjects are difficult to bring up, but with time and space, it’s better to broach the subjects and give them air time than to bury them. Couples who bury critical conversations end up with nothing to talk about in the later years and drift apart.
- Be tolerant and enjoy the evening as much as possible, knowing that your partner put a lot of effort into making it special for you, even if he or she didn’t quite nail it that week.
When the Going Gets Tough – Babies, Toddlers & Teens
Research shows that the first five years of a relationship are the most difficult because of career-building demands, money woes and especially the parenting of babies and toddlers. The lack of sleep, child tantrums, worry and differing parenting styles can tear down the closeness and caring of even the most loving couples, as we tend to take our parenting frustrations out on each other. This can be toxic to relationships. We need frequent reminders to be kind and caring to each other in the good times and especially in the challenging times. Continue reading Date Night: Why and How To Make It Happen →