Whether you’re looking at scientific research or anecdotal evidence, a strong case can be made that couples are happier and more connected when they spend quality time together. But let’s be honest ─ it’s not always easy to carve out the time or creativity to plan date night. But date night really does matter! And here’s why…
It’s a science.
Countless studies by researchers, marriage counselors and the likes have proclaimed date night as beneficial. And, of course, we couldn’t agree more! Most recently, the Date Night Opportunity study published by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia found regular date nights add value to relationships by generating “higher levels of communication, sexual satisfaction and commitment” among couples. Sounds like three awesome relationship enhancements, right? Keep in mind that the study concluded that all couples can benefit, regardless of whether they have children or not.
You may already consider your relationship to be happy and loving, but there’s always room for improvement. Think about it: When was the last time you eliminated all distractions – kids, technology, etc. – and solely focused on your partner? It’s time to give yourself permission to disconnect from distractions and reboot your love through date nights. Yes, DATE NIGHT!
Countless health benefits.
In a Harvard study that spanned over 80 years and included thousands of participants, researchers found that the number one predictor of health and longevity is our relationships and, more importantly, how happy we are in our relationships.
Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ or even genes.
Barbara L. Fredrickson shared similar findings in her work, published in her 2013 book Love 2.0, sharing that “Love, as it turns out, nourishes your body the way the right balance of sunlight, nutrient-rich soil and water nourishes plants and allows them to flourish.”
Even a quick search on Web MD reveals that love gives us innumerable health benefits, including:
- stronger immunity
- less depression
- lower blood pressure
- less anxiety
- better stress and pain management
- faster healing
- fewer colds
Love (and date night in its own way) is like taking a multi-vitamin for your relationship.
Quality, not quantity.
Some couples complain of losing the relationship “spark.” It turns out that how couples spend time together really matters. The Date Night Opportunity study cited that, “Couples may be particularly likely to benefit from a regular date night if they use it as an opportunity to do more than that old standby: dinner and a movie.” That means that those who engage in novel activities ─ whether adrenaline-based adventure or out-of-the-box at-home leisure ─ can keep the romance alive and the spark burning both in and out of the bedroom. Perhaps it’s that simple… Don’t be boring to avoid getting bored in your relationship!
The couple that plays together, stays together, according to a New York Times article titled “The Science of a Happy Marriage.”
… it may not be feelings of love or loyalty that keep couples together. Instead, scientists speculate that your level of commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons…
As it turns out, researchers are finding that the level of self-expansion we experience plays a huge part in determining that happiness we get from our relationships. And how does one self-expand? By trying new things, learning new topics and experiencing new adventures together.
Obviously, singles date to bond with a potential partner. But married couples need date night to bond too; maybe even more so once children are added to the mix. Children alter a couple’s relationship on so many levels ─ and sometimes more than expected (both good and bad) as I can personally attest. My husband and I use date night to honor the bond we built when it was just the two of us. Yes, we’re parents but we’re still a married couple too and, so, we can’t let that special twosome bond fall to the wayside. Date night may not always be spontaneous – especially since logistics require a babysitter – but the effort is worth it.
Go digital free.
In 2016 Time magazine published a story titled “How Your Smartphone is Ruining Your Relationship” that shared research showing that smartphones are a romance killer. As it turns out:
It didn’t matter much how much a person used their device, but how much a person needed their device did. People who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships. People who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship.
Here’s the thing: Once you’re finally out on a date, really focus on your partner and not mundane things. Date nights are not meant to serve as business meetings or co-parenting sessions; rather, they are a fun opportunity for lovers to engage. Sure, it’s natural to address life’s responsibilities but do not let them consume one-on-one dialogue or inhibit romance.
“On date night, we allow ourselves to briefly discuss our children and work issues to vent frustrations or address demands,” says Nicole D., a mom of two who has been married for seven years. “But, after that, we redirect to more lighthearted couple chatter. We always check-in to ensure each other’s happiness.” Remember: You’re not just parents, business professionals and people with shared bills. Let yourselves just be a romantic couple enjoying date night… for a few hours anyway. And, if possible, silence your phones so you’re not inclined to check social media alerts or work emails.
Grow as a person, and as a pair.
Date night helps partners demonstrate commitment. And activities should balance each other’s interests. This is beneficial to both oneself and one’s relationship. For example, my husband faced his fear of heights when I wanted to check ‘helicopter ride’ off my bucket list. Since then, we’ve literally been able to take our date nights to new heights via hot air balloon, sea plane and zip-line! And when my husband requested a sushi date to me, formerly a girl who only ordered ‘well-done,’ I fell in love with a new culinary world.
Having fun together makes “us” happy but these same fresh experiences make “me” fulfilled as a person too. I’m not just a wife, a mother or a career gal, I’m a woman who has eaten, played, seen and experienced so many amazing things… all because of date night!
We all can agree that life is sometimes stressful, right? Couples can actually de-stress by engaging in open dialogue to share concerns and pressures while on date night. Remember, spending quality time with your partner can garner both emotional and physical support and satisfaction. Plus, the date night activity in and of itself may help alleviate tensions too – i.e. wine, massage, relaxing entertainment, etc.
Do the work!
Careers, children and many other responsibilities can distract partners from staying connected. And, unfortunately, relationships can easily fall apart. Sadly, upwards of half of marriages end in divorce. However, couples who put in the time ─ including regular date nights ─ and the work can make their love stronger and everlasting! Need help finding the time for date night? Read DateNightGuide.com’s eight suggestions on how to actually commit to a regular date night.
Nancy DeVault is the managing editor of Date Night Guide and a contributor to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and toddler. Kristen Manieri, Date Night Guide’s founder & publisher, also contributed to this article.