Say you don’t have the time or money to plan those romantic dates because last time you went to the opera by private plane with—wait, that’s Pretty Woman.
In every relationship education class there is a strong encouragement for regular date nights.
Some couples say they don’t miss a week.
Others, ahem, a good amount, say they try once in awhile.
Then there’s those who say they don’t need date nights at all.
Well, what is best for you? Are you missing out on something if you changed the way you date your long-term partner?
It’s almost like the question of comparing which workout is better, high-intensity or moderate?
Depends. One saves time. But why are you working out? What’s the purpose? To lose weight, be healthy, maintain your weight, build up strength?
What’s the purpose of date nights?
In the field of RME (relationship and marriage educaion), we often see this as a way to reconnect, make time for each other and bond.
Connection is something you do regurlarly, like brushing your teeth. Unless you don’t mind having the charming smile of Beetlejuice, things can go rotten.
Who wants to get drilled and have a swollen face right before vacation?
Yet, we step into the argumentative vacation almost willfully, like a parent guiding their preschooler by the hand away from mud puddles in their new clothes to then accidentally walk into a splash soaked up to their waist.
As much we try to avoid it, we seem to walk into it deliberately.
But are date nights even necessary to connect?
Essentially you need regular time alone to emotionally connect and have fun.
The pain-in-the-rear-end is when you go through the trouble of planning a date (you book a sitter, make reservations, pre-order movie tickets, and clean the car) and you both end up arguing about that last issue that hasn’t been resolved—for 3 years!
Is it even worth it?
Someone’s not appreciative. No need to impress your partner now that you’re committed. Resentment is making the food taste lousy. We don’t look happy, but let’s fake it for Instagram. Someone’s said the wrong thing. You see the bill (gulp).
How can you keep this up?
First off, connection shouldn’t be an expense.
You shouldn’t feel robbed or cheated after a date night. If date nights aren’t in your budget, it doesn’t mean that cutting out formal dates should be at the expense of your connection, especially if you aren’t enjoying them and defeating the whole purpose of a date … to connect.
It doesn’t have to be at fancy restaurants, broadway shows, or going out period.
If you can afford regular date nights out of the house, and you both enjoy it, then do it! It’s working for you.
If you’re not connecting after spending your hard-earned money, then carve out time for each other in other ways. You don’t need to dine every Friday to feel intimate. That’s not a requirement or what any professional would suggest.
So what should you do together?
Whether you decide to do the traditional evening dates, relive memories of how you met, have spontaneous weekends or stay home together, here are some ways that’ll help you build the regular dates/time you want in your relationship.
We’ll use the acronym SMASH.
Ultimately, we want you to SMASH it every time you make time for each other, so you feel absolutely connected and valued.
Researchers in Los Angeles did a study on young professional couples, observing them 24/7, and found that for an entire week the couple only talked for 35 minutes. Much of it being about chores and to-do lists. We run out of time to talk after finding a wealth of distractions in video games, social media, smartphones, and endless information online. Modern technology is a common reason to lose touch, but there can be other reasons. Our interactions are below a healthy minimum of 3-4 hours per week.
Map out ahead of time how you want to spend time together. This may sound rigid or like too much structure, but you don’t want to end up in an argument on your “date.” What can you do to avoid that? Put away smarthpones, unless it’s just for taking pictures? Not bringing up any big issues? Try not to be pessmistic? What is it that you each need to be able to relax and have a good time with each other?
Be fully attentive. Don’t strain your neck with forced eye-contact. Just relax and participate. A friend of ours, Brett Williams, MFT, says that Love is really all about attention. If you’re distracted or hogging the spotlight, your partner will feel left out and unloved. It’s your opportunity to show your partner that you care about him/her. At this moment.
Try to be a little spontaneous. No need to break the bank or go over the top. Sometimes the little things are what make an impact. Try a surprise kiss. Cook their favorite meal. Hide a note with “see you tonight!” in their sock drawer.
Emotional connection doesn’t mean you have to just talk about feelings or bore yourself with same ol’ routines of how you spend together. The saying goes, “those who laugh together, stay together.” Life isn’t meant to be too serious or we end up feeling depressed, nor too much fun if we can’t be serious with one another. It’s a balance of the two.
There are several opportunities to spend time together. You don’t need to believe that if you’re not at a restaurant, then you haven’t spent any time together.
Be creative in how you complete those 3-4 hours a week of connecting and not losing touch.
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