I know what you’re thinking.
Melissa, isn’t this the exact opposite of what you’ve been encouraging for years now?
Yes and no.
Yes, date night is important. Unfortunately though, if your relationship is in a negative place, date night is more likely to end with tension than romance and sex.
A recent session with a couple that I’m coaching provides the perfect example of why date night isn’t working. Here is the “He said/ She said.”
The wife says, “I do everything around here and all I ask is that he plan date nights.” Of course, this is an exaggeration because both contribute to running the household and raising the children, but I digress. She says, “The last time he planned a date night was terrible anyway. He took me to the same restaurant we always go to and he talked only about his job.”
The husband says, “See–why should I bother? I never get it right anyway.” He explains that he chose the restaurant because they had been there before and she always likes the food. He talked about his job because she said they couldn’t talk about the kids and because whenever he stopped talking, she glared at him.
Couples are told to add romance, plan dates nights, maybe even a weekend away together. That’s special occasion love. And it is wonderful.
However, what really keeps us connected is everyday love–the smaller gestures of love that you might not pick up on.
- Everyday love is knowing and caring what is going on in each other’s lives.
- Everyday love is showing affection, like hugging, kissing and cuddling.
- Everyday love is expressing appreciation for each other’s contributions to make the household run smoothly.
- Everyday love is being quiet as a ninja when it is your partner’s turn to sleep in.
Special occasion love doesn’t work without everyday love.
We explored what date night was like at the beginning of their relationship. They both said They looked forward to seeing each other all day.
They upped their grooming to look good for each other.
They were hoping for great conversations and sex.
Now date night and sex feels like something they should do, not something they want to do. Who would want to go on a date because you have to? That’s like going out with a guy that your grandmother set you up with. You just want to get it over with.
That’s why date night won’t save this relationship.
My advice to this couple is to focus on everyday love, not date nights.
For homework, I gave them a 30-day challenge and they were not allowed to have a date night until they completed the challenge. Everyday they had to do the following:
- Greet each other when they come together after being separated all day. By that I mean, stop what you’re doing, give each other a hug and say, “I’m happy to see you.”
- Always know one thing that your partner will be focusing on that day. This could be a challenge they are facing, something they are looking forward to, or just know the characters in each other’s lives.
- At some point in the evening, give each other undivided attention. NO SCREENS!!! During this time, follow up on Step 2. Listen and don’t interrupt each other.
- Say something nice to each other. This could be a compliment or appreciation. Examples: You look nice. That’s a great idea. You handled that situation really well. Thank you for dinner.
After the challenge they reported feeling more like a team and more loving.
They planned a date night together and they were actually excited for it.
Does a successful date night mean that their relationship is fixed? Of course not. They still have a lot of work to do but now they know that being in love is a choice you make everyday. It’s not a special occasion.