As Valentine’s Day approaches each year, a question lingers in the back of my mind: When was the last time my husband and I had a night out together? Unfortunately, the answer remains consistent: it has been too long. In the early stages of our relationship, we dismissed the idea of regular date nights as unnecessary. We assumed that going on dates would be effortless. However, as our family grew and responsibilities piled up, finding the time for each other became increasingly difficult. Even with a teenage daughter who can babysit, prioritizing a regular date night feels like an uphill battle.
Our struggle is not unique. A recent report from the National Marriage Project at UVA and the Wheatley Institute reveals that more than half of married couples in the United States rarely or never go out on dates. Only 48% of those surveyed reported having regular date nights at least once or twice a month. This information highlights the missed opportunity for husbands and wives who neglect to make time for date nights. Engaging in regular dates with your spouse is not just about escaping the demands of parenthood; it is linked to a happier and more stable marriage.
Couples who frequently go on dates report being 14 to 15 percentage points happier in their marriages compared to those who have infrequent date nights. Moreover, husbands and wives who prioritize date nights are approximately 14 percentage points more confident that divorce is unlikely in their future. But what is it about regular date nights that contributes to a more fulfilling and lasting marriage? The co-authors of the report, Brad Wilcox and Jeffery Dew, provide some research-backed explanations.
Communication: The Foundation of a Strong Marriage
Couples who enjoy more frequent date nights are significantly happier with their communication in the relationship. Date nights provide an opportunity to communicate openly, fostering understanding and connection between partners. Effective communication is crucial in maintaining a strong bond in marriage.
Igniting the Flame: Romance and Intimacy
Date nights allow for more time and opportunity to indulge in romance. It rekindles the spark of love that helps sustain a long-lasting relationship. Couples who regularly date are approximately 21 percentage points happier with their sexual relationship compared to those who have infrequent date nights.
Strengthening Commitment: Together We Can Overcome Anything
Date nights solidify the expectation of commitment in a relationship. The sense of togetherness is reinforced, signaling to partners, friends, and family that the relationship is valued and taken seriously. Date nights also provide ample opportunities for partners to spend quality time together, fostering a deeper connection. Nearly three out of four couples who frequently go on dates reported a high level of commitment to their relationship.
In addition to improved communication, heightened romance, and strengthened commitment, regular date nights introduce novelty into the relationship. Engaging in new and fun activities together creates shared experiences that enrich the connection between spouses. Date nights also serve as a means of escaping the daily stressors of work and family life, allowing couples to relax and unwind.
It is crucial to emphasize that date nights should not be limited to special occasions. They should become a regular practice for couples who aspire to have a happier and more fulfilling marriage. Date nights don’t have to involve expensive outings; a movie night at home or a lunch date while the kids are at school can be just as meaningful. The key is to carve out dedicated time together to nurture and nourish the relationship.
“Today, too many married parents are helicoptering their kids, which means they don’t devote enough time to fostering intimacy in their own marriage,” said Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project. “This report shows that couples should make time for regular date nights, which seem to boost their odds of being happily married and sexually satisfied.”
For ideas and resources to help plan your date nights, visit the National Marriage Week USA website. Remember, investing in your marriage through regular date nights is an investment in a stronger, happier, and more resilient partnership.