Do you remember the first time you and your spouse went out? I’m sure all couples have really fond memories of the first time they met; all those butterflies and stolen glances, but over the years all the pop and fizzle has gone and we begin to take little notice of our spouse. They’ve become commonplace and ordinary. All the excitement, romance, fun and conversation have disappeared. Most of the conversations revolve around kids, errands and grocery lists, while these same couples started off by spending all day and night on the phone with each other.
So what changed? Do you know what the answer is?
You, you changed and so did your spouse. Every year we grow and we mature (hopefully). We change our ideas and opinions about things and people, we change jobs and positions, we change because we’ve become parents and we change because we’ve taken on more financial responsibility. We are not who we were 10, 5 or even 2 years back. Neither is your spouse! They are constantly changing too.
How can we expect to stay connected and ‘in love' with each other if we are not constantly trying to get to know them and keep looking for reasons to fall in love with them over and over again?
Over the years I have met so many wives and husbands whose primary issue in their marriage is feeling ‘taken-for-granted’ and ‘neglected’.
The idea of ‘dating’ is very alien in the Indian context-a lot of you may be thinking that this is some wannabe western idea and it cannot work here. But don’t get put off by the word ‘dating’ but rather focus on the principles behind it.
The research conducted by The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia was called The Date Night Opportunity and its focus was to study the value of Date Nights to a marriage. They found that having weekly date nights can foster stronger marriages in these 5 ways:
Reason 1: Communication
Good Communication is key to a successful marriage. Date nights are an opportunity for couples to remove distractions like devices, children, parents/in-laws or chores to spend time talking about what is important to them- to discuss ideas, and dreams for the future and express support, and encouragement for each other’s independent pursuits. This kind of communication helps us have a better understanding and appreciation of what our spouse is doing or going through. Having date nights regularly and not once in while helps us ‘stay current' with our spouse because we are constantly changing.
Communication involves talking and listening and we need to learn to use our words effectively and learn to spend time allowing our spouse to speak to us.
Reason 2: Novelty
“Most couples experience a decline in relationship quality after a few years, partly because they become habituated to one another and are more likely to take one another, and their relationship, for granted.” A date night gives couples the opportunity to try new things and experience them together. It’s not about spending money or buying expensive gifts but creating the time and space to do things together it can be something simple like going on a walk or trying out a new cuisine. It’s bringing the fun and romance back in the relationship. When couples only communicate when things need to get done or when they are fighting- the relationship becomes too intense. Date nights create light and exciting moments for the couple to enjoy.
Reason 3: Eros
All marriages start with an element of eros- romantic or sexual attraction. Over time the romance dies down- we no longer notice when our partner walks into the room or even try to hold their hand. Date nights allow couples to rediscover that romance and rekindle that fire simply by giving couples the time and space to just focus on each other.
Reason 4: Commitment
Having regular dates with your spouse is a commitment, not a slapdash let’s-see-how-I-feel-in-the-evening/weekend kind of plan. It shows, not just to your spouse but to friends, family and children, that your marriage is important enough to invest that time and effort. Regular date nights foster commitment in marriage as it prevents either partner to look for other romantic opportunities – since the couple has made their marriage and their spouse a priority.
Reason 5: De-stress
“Stress is one of the biggest threats to a strong marriage. Stress-related to work, finances, parenthood, or illness can prove corrosive to a relationship, insofar as it causes one or both partners to become irritable, withdrawn, violent, or otherwise difficult to live with. Date nights may be helpful for relieving stress on couples, as they allow them to enjoy time with one another apart from the pressing concerns of their ordinary life. (Indeed, for this reason, couples may be better served by date nights when they do not dwell on difficult topics—such as family finances—during these times together). Moreover, date nights may allow spouses and romantic partners to extend emotional support to one another in times of trial. For all these reasons, date nights may help couples by providing them with a buffer or an escape from the stresses that confront them or time to engage in collaborative coping that can reduce those stresses.”
The study goes on to talk about two significant areas where couple-time has helped:
High Relationship Quality
Both husbands and wives reported feeling more satisfied and happy in their marriage when they had spent quality time together at least once every week. Couple time may lead to higher quality relationships at least in part by fostering higher levels of communication, sexual satisfaction and commitment.
Lower Divorce Rate
Couple time seems to foster more stable marriages. Husbands and wives who enjoy high levels of couple time together are markedly less likely to divorce.
This all sounds great on paper (or on a blog) but you might wonder why you need to take the effort at all. I have met a few couples who say that when they do spend time together-they end up fighting! So why bother?! But don’t get put off if the first few attempts at date nights are a bit of a flop. The significant thing is to make the commitment and keep to it.
Some tips to make date night work:
1. Set aside one evening in a week that is your date night. Priorities it over everything else; friends, work, kids and chores. The study found that couples in the “parenthood” phase need couple-time the most. Make it like an appointment so that if someone asks to make plans with you that evening, you can always say that you already have plans. If the date night cannot happen on a certain evening, talk to your spouse and reschedule it for another evening.
2. Take turns planning it: This gives each partner to plan and be involved in the execution of the evening. It also prevents it from becoming a burden on one partner rather than the responsibility being shared. Both partners also get a chance to be involved in the interests of the other. Sometimes wives feel that they need to be swept off their feet by their husbands but taking planning date nights in turns means that even your husband gets to be swept off his feet from time to time.
3. It doesn’t have to be expensive: Don’t get put off with the idea of breaking the bank by going on expensive dinners every week- date nights can be at home- it just means that we put away distractions and focus on talking and listening to each other. It could be a short walk in the evening, playing a board game or cooking something special together.
Marriages require an intentional investment of time and effort to help them thrive. Some people wrongly assume that if they married the right person then marriage will be easy and effortless. Just like, over time, a plant will die because of neglect- marriages will cease to grow and mature if partners don’t realize the importance of spending time alone with each other.
Know that your spouse is changing all the time- so make an effort to get to know the person that becoming and be a part of their journey.
I hope that you give date nights a chance. I’m sure it will really benefit your marriage.
If you have any suggestions for date nights that have worked well in your marriage please do mention them in the comment section below.
*This blog post has been inspired by this study. This is the link for the study- please do take the time to read it http://nationalmarriageproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/NMP-DateNight.pdf
As you read this article you may feel that you and your partner need some further help and at Begin Again we can help. Please book a couple's session to take this discussion further. https://www.beginagainindia.com/book-online