By Drs. John & Julie Gottman
The plain and simple truth is date nights make relationships.
You’re probably thinking, that sounds great and in a perfect world date nights are doable, but who has the time, the money, or the childcare (if applicable) to go on dates?
As we explain in our new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, date nights are always doable, even if it means getting a little creative in carving your time out together.
It also helps to define what a date night is and what a date night isn’t. Watching Netflix on the couch together while scrolling through your Instagram feed is not a date night.
A date night (or date afternoon or morning) is a pre-planned time where the two of you leave your work life and work-in-the-home life, and spend a set amount of time focusing on each other, and really talking and listening to each other.
Here are the most common date night obstacles and how to overcome them.
Life can feel so incredibly busy that the thought of finding time for yet one more obligation feels overwhelming. But a date night is more than an obligation—it’s a commitment to your relationship. It helps to carve out a specific and regular time each week and make this “appointment” a priority.
Unless someone is in the emergency room, make date night a “no matter what” event. Set aside time like you would for a birthday, or church, or an anniversary, or any other special event you celebrate in your life together.
Date nights should be sacred times to honor your relationship. Think of them as such, schedule them in your calendars for as much time as possible—even if it’s just for an hour, show up no matter what.
Dates don’t have to be expensive. In fact, they don’t have to cost anything at all. Pack a picnic, go for a walk, sit in a park. There are endless ways to spend time together without breaking the bank. In each of the Eight Dates, we make suggestions about where best to go on your date depending on the topic of conversation. These are only suggestions.
We used to have a cheap date by getting dressed up and going to the beautiful Hotel Sorrento in Seattle, and pretending that we were hotel guests. We would sit in the beautiful lobby in front of a fire and nurse one drink all evening. We would answer each other’s open-ended questions for hours.
Childcare is often the stickler for couples who want to go on date nights but have young children at home. Childcare does not have to be expensive or stressful. At times, we would trade childcare with other couples, so both couples could enjoy date nights. If that’s not possible, see if a trusted family member or close friend will help you in your quest to spend sacred time together.
Look for inexpensive babysitters in your neighborhood, or ask friends for recommendations. Some parents worry about leaving their children with other people, but if you find a safe and reliable person to watch your children, you’re helping them learn that other people, besides their parents, are trustworthy and reliable.
Children are incredibly resilient, and by showing your commitment to your relationship with your partner, you’re nurturing your children by ensuring that they will be raised by parents in a healthy and stable relationship.
Too often, especially after couples have children, date night becomes a random, freak act of nature. Don’t let it. If you’re too busy for date night, you’re too busy.
I write articles based on my experience as a therapist or a training or conference attendee. Many of these articles are written by others who are experts in their field and I share their information as resources for others.