I first heard the term “date night” about a decade ago when I was just out of college and dating my husband. We went to movies and concerts and sports events and out to eat and out with friends whenever we wanted. Back then, the concept of “date night” seemed strange to me. I almost pitied couples that had to make such a concentrated effort to spend time together. Now, I understand it.
Life happened. We got married, bought a house, assumed more responsibility at work, and had a baby. Along the way, dating gave way to seemingly more and more frequent trips to Home Depot. But, like a wise family member told me after I became a mother, “You’ve got to make time for each other.” We took that advice, recently becoming believers in a ritual we once thought unnecessary.
Date night matters not only to couples with young children, but for any couple whose relationship has progressed out of the early stages of romance. According to experts, long-term couples can recreate some of the excitement of early romance by keeping “date night” fresh. Researchers like Dr. Arthur Aron, of professor of social psychology at the State University of New York, have found that novelty (trying new things and breaking from routines) can stimulate the same feelings experienced in new romance.
So, when it comes to dating your longtime spouse or partner, mix it up! Avoid going to the same old restaurant. For instance, getting a couple’s massage or taking a cooking class together is a nice switch from the dinner-and-a-movie routine. If you always eat at the same Thai place (guilty as charged!), try a new cuisine in a new part of town. Also, for a truly suspenseful date, keep your plans a secret from your partner until you arrive at the destination. The next time, have the other person plan the date.
Remember, great dates don’t have to break the bank. Watching a sunset and picnicking are sweet, budget-friendly ideas. And, while going out is good, now and then every couple needs a quiet night at home. After all, for busy couples, staying in may be the most novel ideal of all.
— Erika Weisensee is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism at the University of Portland.