In the movie “Date Night” starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey, a couple who is married with young children decides they need to do something to get out of their romantic rut. In true Hollywood style, their date takes them on an unrealistic yet funny adventure which ends up reawakening their appreciation and passion for each other. But do date nights work in real life?
In my experience as a couple’s therapist, date nights do not “fix” a distressed relationship. More than a change of scenery and a good meal is needed to bridge the gap of emotional distance or heal the pain of pent up resentments. But for the average relationship, I think it’s worth examining the benefits and pitfalls.
Everyone in a long term relationship runs the risk of getting swept up in the routines of life and not making time for each other. Date nights can be a time for focusing only on each other without the distractions of home. Exciting, new activities activate the pleasure center of the brain which can help people associate their partner with pleasurable experience. Parents, especially of young children, often need help turning off their parenting role and turning on their lover/partner role. Getting out of the house as two adults can help turn that switch.
What are the pitfalls and how are they avoided? Beware of date nights becoming as routine as everyday life. Make sure to plan new and different activities to get the benefit of the “feel good” brain chemicals. Running out of ideas that aren’t too costly? Consider the daily internet deals through sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Bloomspot. Don’t let date nights cause financial problems. An exciting date does not have to mean spending tons of money. If babysitting costs are daunting, see about making arrangements with another couple to alternate date nights and watching each other’s kids. Don’t let date nights be the only time for connecting with each other. Sharing one special night won’t make up for a lack of small gestures and regular physical affection throughout the other days.
Date nights may be cliché but I don’t think they are useless. If done right, I think they can help couples connect and remember what drew them together in the first place.