Like a lot of married couples, my husband and I rarely get to enjoy a date night. Busy work schedules, family obligations and, let’s face it, sometimes just sheer exhaustion all prevent us from making quality couple time a priority.
But according to a study conducted by The National Marriage Project in 2013, today’s parents are foregoing date night at our own peril. Researchers at The University of Virginia determined that couples who go out together at least once a week are three times more likely to report being “very happy” in their relationships. They are less likely to get divorced and make better parents too.
Most of us recognize that there are benefits to prioritizing time with our partner. Where we struggle, though, is in finding ways to fit those meaningful moments into the fabric of our daily lives. If you too are desperately seeking the elusive date night, here are few suggestions that may help.
Date Before Dark
Who says date night has to equal dinner and a movie on a Friday night? Mix things up by going on a breakfast or lunch date instead. Daytime dates work especially well for parents of infants and toddlers. Little ones are often happier with a caregiver earlier in the day, and mom and dad can still be home in time for the all-important bedtime routine.
Embrace Date Night In
Can’t afford to pay a babysitter? Have a child struggling with separation anxiety? Too tired to dress up and go out? Bring date night into your own living room after the kids are asleep. Open a bottle of wine and catch up on a favorite show on Netflix or Hulu. Make nachos and hot dogs and cheer for your hometown sports team. Or play a game like “Would You Rather?” to spark an interesting conversation.
Whatever you do, think outside the box to create a date night you will both enjoy. For example, my husband and I love sushi but rarely make it to a restaurant. Instead, we like to order carry out and have turned late night sushi dates into a ritual we both look forward to.
Write It In Red
Date nights don’t always come cheap, but daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social — which feature deep discounts on everything from restaurant meals to local experiences to vacations — might just come to your rescue. Not only can these sites save you money on activities you wouldn’t otherwise pursue, they also force you to make a commitment to dates that have already been planned and paid for.
So if you want to get back into the habit of routine date nights, sign up to receive some of those daily deal emails. Buy a few that pique your interest. And then add them to your calendar in bright red ink.
Embrace The Small Moments
With so much pressure surrounding date night, it’s easy to feel frustrated when you can’t make one happen regularly. But it’s also importantto remember — especially while children are young and require so much of our energy and attention — that a strong marriage or relationship is about a lot more than the occasional night out on the town.
There are many ways to connect as a couple, and regular date nights represent only one of them. Don’t disregard the small opportunities to enjoy each other’s company that exist in everyday life. Share an inside joke. Say thank you. Snuggle on the couch. Give random hugs. Play with your kids. Remember why you fell in love in the first place.
Remember The Big Picture
As for my husband and me, I know that we”re doing just fine, even if our date nights are few and far between. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t the end of the world — it’s just a season of life. Eventually, our kids will grow up and move out, and we will once again have the freedom to enjoy date nights at our leisure. In the meantime, we can always order sushi.
Not Your Normal Date Night
Falling into a date night rut? We asked the folks at In Good Taste Denver, a blog dedicated to the restaurant, movie and theater scene in Denver for some of their favorite date night ideas.
- Tour, and taste beer or spirits at one of the microbrews or distilleries in Denver. Most tours and tastings are adult-only events, so grab an opportunity to visit on date night. Leopold Bros., a distillery in the Northfield Stapleton area also offers regular cocktail workshops.
- Visit the Denver Botanic Gardens, even in winter. The conservatory, Marnie’s Pavilion and the orangery are full of warmth and heady scents, and a lot of plants in there have heart-shaped leaves.
- Take in an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, or any museum, because strolling along is conducive to conversation and handholding.
- Instead of eating at the same neighborhood pub, try a cuisine that can be shared, such as Ethiopian. Or, visit a place that is just new to you — it’s like going on a little culinary adventure together.
- Take a date-night cooking class. Rev your senses with the smells and tastes of delicious foods that you learn to prepare yourself. Check out Uncorked Kitchen near Park Meadows, Stir Cooking School in the Highlands, Cook Street in LoDo and Sur La Table in Centennial and Cherry Creek.
- Craft together. You know you can make amazing things together — just look at the kids! Upstairs Circus offers all you need to make hip hands-on projects like jewelry, wine bottle tumblers and concrete coasters.
- Play! Bowl, play ping pong, try karaoke or play classic video games at Punch Bowl Social on Old South Broadway. There’s nothing like a little playful fun to brush off parenting stresses and focus on making each other laugh.