Whether you’ve been married for one year or 20 years, so many couples let their dating lives fall to the wayside after they’ve said: “I do.” “The longer the couple is together, it tends to be that those date nights decrease, unfortunately, and those couples tend to have to work harder to make them happen,” therapist K’Hara McKinney notes.
Since you spent a significant amount of time fanning the flame and getting to know your partner before tying the knot, you probably don’t think you need to maintain the dating game well into your married life. Not to mention, with marriage comes more responsibility—especially with kids thrown into the mix—so finding the time to deepen your connection becomes even more challenging.
Yes, you might have already fallen in love, but what’s just as important is staying in love. The best way to keep the spark alive and prevent complacency in your marriage? Continue to date your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together. Blocking off time in your calendar for regular date nights is essential for a stronger marriage. “The benefits of date nights are increased connection and a reminder of why the couple wants to be together,” McKinney explains. “Routine dates are a good way to help nurture and nourish the friendship, which is the quintessential component of a long-lasting relationship and marriage.” Whether it’s dinner and drinks at your favorite restaurant or an evening walk around the block, dating your spouse will take your relationship to another level.
To help you get into a rhythm, we asked the experts how often married couples should plan date nights. These relationship professionals also shared the best tips to seamlessly schedule these dates and how to maximize your date nights. Here’s what you need to know about successful date nights as a married couple.
Meet the Expert
- K’Hara McKinney is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. She’s been working in counseling for 16 years.
- Yasmine Saad is an award-winning licensed clinical psychologist with 15 years of experience and the founder and CEO of Madison Park Psychological Services in New York City. She’s also an international bestselling author.
How Often Should You Plan Date Nights?
As a general rule of thumb, one date night per week is sufficient for married couples, according to McKinney. But, there are several factors that affect how frequently you and your partner schedule these dates. Below are three components that influence this number.
Honor Individual Preferences
For one, every person has different needs and lifestyles. Some couples might enjoy having their independence during the work week and find satisfaction in a weekly Friday night dinner date. Other couples may crave more intimacy, so they could decide to pencil in three date nights every week. “What each couple needs to consider to determine the number of date nights that will suit them is how much companionship they want and need,” psychologist Yasmine Saad points out. “How much distraction from the routine of life do they need to keep the spark alive?"
Depending on different personality styles, sometimes one partner may desire more quality time, while the other might need more alone time. To dodge a disagreement and avoid any pent-up resentment from undermining your relationship, make sure to vocalize your needs during an open conversation with your partner.
Check Your Schedule
Besides your personal preference, it’s also important to keep your schedule in mind. Instead of trying to hit a certain quota, it's more important to make sure that your date nights blend seamlessly into your schedule. “[The dates] are more likely to continue if it’s not hard to do or inconvenient,” McKinney notes. You’ll also avoid the stress of trying to balance your busy lives with a dating schedule.
Focus on Quality
If you concentrate too much on quantity, you’ll quickly start to view date nights as an obligation, something to check off your to-do list. Focusing on the outcome rather than the experience of spending time with your partner will end up being counterproductive. “As long as the date is mindfully focused on the couple without distraction, that’s ideal,” McKinney says.
Tips for Scheduling Date Nights
From working a full-time job to tackling household chores, married life is busy. So, finding the time to plan an elaborate date night is most likely non-existent. Luckily, we tapped the experts for their best tips and tricks to prioritize date nights without the stress.
Organizing an extensive activity to do with your partner on a weekly basis is not only time-consuming, it’s also unrealistic. Since any time spent with your partner is valuable, start with something small, like a 15-minute stroll on Sunday evening or grabbing a quick bite after work one night. “The easier and more seamless [the date is] into their existing routine, the more likely it’ll continue,” McKinney says. “As long as the intent to connect is the driver and it’s about the couple.”
Do Something You Value
If attending to your kids, finishing your work commitments, or finding time to practice your hobbies take priority, dating your partner will fall on the back burner. “The easiest way to prioritize date nights if you have difficulty doing so is linking them to something you value more,” Saad shares. If you enjoy giving back to the community, volunteer at a soup kitchen with your significant other. Love living a healthy lifestyle? Lace up your sneakers and tackle a nearby hiking trail. For those who prioritize seeking out novelty in their relationship, book a hotel in another city and have fun exploring a new area.
Make It Part of Your Routine
The easiest way to make sure you follow through on your date night regimen is making a habit of going on a date at the same time every week, according to Saad. Block off a permanent spot in your calendar for quality time with your partner. If you’re both usually free on Saturday nights, reserve 7 to 10 p.m. for date night activities. To prevent boredom, make sure you change up the types of dates you go on.
How to Make the Most of Your Date Nights
Once you’ve locked in a time and place, you won’t get to experience the benefits of regular date nights until you’ve actually gone on the date. To help make the most of your one-one-one time, remember these four tips.
Be Engaged in the Conversation
In order to maximize your time spent together, it’s important to be present and give your partner your undivided attention. McKinney says asking questions is a great way to show interest and learn more about each other. Moving past surface-level conversations and digging deeper will also build intimacy.
Another fail-proof way to reap the benefits of date nights? Listen attentively. “There doesn’t necessarily have to be talking involved, but each person should feel heard, seen, and attended to,” McKinney mentions.
Going on a date is sacred time spent with your partner. Do you want to spend it venting about workplace drama or planning your kids’ schedules? “For some couples, it creates more intimacy, and for others, it creates less stress,” Saad says. Notice whether certain topics elevate your cortisol levels. If you’d rather spend the date focusing on your relationship, set boundaries in the conversation and communicate that to your partner.
You can also create boundaries around technology, McKinney says. Limit distractions by putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode, and turning all attention to your spouse.
Use Frequent Eye Contact
There’s something powerful about gazing into each other’s eyes. Maintaining eye contact with your significant other breeds trust and intimacy, thereby strengthening your marriage. However, this nonverbal communication technique is something that couples often overlook. “I’m always surprised at how little we make eye contact with our partner, and this becomes true the longer the relationship and the more variables involved,” McKinney shares. When talking to your partner, remember to use eye contact to your advantage.
At the end of the day, your date nights will look different than those of your friends and family. Stick to what works for you, and tune out all of the noise. “Couples should not judge each other and determine their date night’s frequency by looking at others,” Saad expresses. “They should rather consider their own unique dynamics.”