When the wedding is a distant memory and Netflix binges replace romantic nights out, you might feel as if your relationship with your spouse has fizzled into something unremarkable. And while there’s nothing wrong with being an old married couple, there is something to be said of giving up on romance altogether. Growing older doesn’t have to mean being old. To keep comfortable coupledom from evolving into conscious uncoupling, experts encourage couples to spend a date night together once a week. With divorce rates hovering around 50 percent in America, couples interested in maintaining their relationship should get serious about spending quality time together.
In order to understand the tangible effects of date night, two researchers from the University of Maryland conducted an extensive study examining the effects of “couple time” on marital relationships. Using data from 1,600 heterosexual couples and a second survey with over 10,000 participants, researchers identified the factors that influenced couples’ satisfaction and happiness in their relationships and how date night influenced those factors.
The major take away? Couples who spent regular time together each week, regardless of whether they had children or not, reported marital satisfaction rates that were three times higher than those who didn’t. This indicates that if you spend dedicated time with the person you love and share your life with, you’re probably going to be happier and more satisfied.
Communication style matters in a relationship. Couples who communicate contempt with each other are unlikely to stay together in the long run. On the other hand, couples who make time to speak with kindness toward each other can connect, solve problems together, and increase their intimacy, respect and mutual understanding.
Date night gives you and your spouse the perfect chance to talk, allowing you both to put aside distractions and share eye contact along with physical space. Work on positive communication, even if you don’t feel particularly positive at the moment. If you sometimes think that you’re kinder to strangers than you are to your one-and-only, then take date nights as a chance to remedy that behavior. Develop a new habit of frequent healthy conversation with your loved one.
We might be creatures of habit, but lack of novelty in our relationships makes things dull. Generally, as relationship novelty wears off, contentedness plummets. But couples who engage in novel activities together keep some element of surprise in their relationship and experience a boost in satisfaction. Date night can replace the excitement of the early part of a relationship, assuming you go beyond a dinner and movie gig. You don’t have to take up skydiving or extreme sports, either. Choose a new activity that interests you both, like cooking classes or local brewery tours, to spice things up on your weekly outings.
More time with your spouse may not bring back the heart-pounding emotion of the early days, but it will add some variety to your relationship, which is likely to encourage a new appreciation for your partner.
Romance, Sweet Romance
In any relationship, the passionate romance that once made it hard to hang up the phone eventually fades. That incredible energy and overwhelming sense of attraction gradually evolve into a more stable and sustainable form of love. But sometimes that evolution can feel like a fizzle. Date nights offer a great opportunity for spouses to reconnect, rekindle and re-explore the romantic side of their relationship. Everyday stresses of life can interfere with quality communication, but regular couple time allows you and your spouse to connect mentally, often leading to greater emotional connection as well. Plus, couples who have regularly scheduled time together tend to report greater sexual satisfaction – a vital part in your relationship.
Presumably, you married your spouse because you wanted to commit to a life together. Most of us are happier in our relationships when both partners are committed. This bond creates a protective bubble around a couple – it is a firm and priceless reminder that no matter what happens, you’ll have each other’s back. When couples put aside other attractions and focus instead on each other, satisfaction and happiness increase. Dedicating special time together also shows your spouse and the people around you that your relationship is special and important to you, which reinforces your commitment to each other as well.
Life is full of stress. The weighty toll of everyday life can turn perfectly wonderful partners into irritable, exhausted and unpleasant people to be around. You don’t have to let regular stress rule your life. Regular date nights are an amazing source of stress release for couples, allowing them to put aside external pressures, kick back and enjoy good company. To really maximize the stress-busting benefits of date night, save heavy topics – like finances or your kids’ problems at school – for another, separate conversation.
Date Night is Good for Your Kids, Too
After children are born, marital satisfaction plummets. Sleep deprivation, constant crying, indecision about how to handle a new addition to the family and the weight of parenting itself can drive a huge wedge between couples. Date night is one of the most significant investments a couple can make to prevent parenting stress from splintering the relationship. Research suggests that when parents regularly schedule couple time, the level of happiness stays the same as couples without children while satisfaction with the relationship remains steady.
Regular time alone together also serves as an important model for children. Through you, your children will learn what relationships should be like. Couples who take time for themselves demonstrate to children that adults can have fun, that they can have fun without kids and that couples make time for each other.
After a long day, week or month at work, you probably just want to come home and chill, even if you don’t have kids to take care of or other responsibilities to worry about. But before you check out for the night, call up your spouse and make date night a thing again. Try something new and unexpected. Put away your phone and forget about upcoming bills. Focus on the person you committed your life to. Investing in your relationship now could help to thwart problems down the line, and your future self (and spouse) will thank you for the time and energy you’ve invested.