Do you and your spouse go out on dates? If so, how frequently? If not, why? One of the most common things couples stop doing over time is regular dating. Yet, it was through dating that these couples fell in love. When I ask couples if they go out together, I am often met with a laugh, or some comment about how that stopped when they had kids.
So, this begs the question: Is dating necessary for healthy marriages? In my professional opinion, the answer is a resounding YES. If dates worked to help you fall in love in the first place, they can be instrumental in re-kindling or maintaining that love longterm.
Does it count as a date if you just get in the car, look at each other and say something like, “well, where should we go eat?” or “well, let’s just go to a movie.” That is not a date. Most couples are not good at dating and courting each other as much as they should. Alone time is less frequent, and romance pales compared to what it was early in the relationship. Effective dates that work for your relationship can help remedy this. If you are great at dating in your relationship, I commend you. Keep it up! If not, here are some ideas that may help.
• Date every week. I know this can be difficult with crazy schedules, taking care of kids, etc. However, if you really make your marriage a priority you can find a way to spend at least two to three hours together as a couple. Go out or stay in but keep boundaries so it is couple time and not family time.
• Take turns planning a date you know your spouse will enjoy. You don’t need to go over the top but do something you know would help them see you were thinking of them in the planning. This is mutually beneficial because each week you will either be working to help make your spouse happy or receiving the efforts from your spouse to make you happy.
• Engage in emotionally connecting activities. Select activities that require you to engage in conversation or have some type of interaction. For example, going to dinner requires you to look at each other and engage in conversation. Sitting in the dark for a few hours at a movie does not do much for emotional connection. If you do go to a movie, make sure there are a few hours of other emotionally connecting activities in addition to the movie.
• No tech toys. Put your gizmos away, and don’t give in to the temptation to check your social media or email, send a text or call a friend. It can wait a few hours. Give your undivided attention to your spouse.
• Be creative. I imagine you were better at planning creative dates early in your relationship. After all, you wanted to woo your spouse. Well, it’s time to woo again. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with my wife on a date is to go for a drive to Fish Lake or just go for a walk in a park.
I am a huge believer in dating. I have seen it help many couples, and it really helps my relationship with my wife. Give it a real honest effort; your spouse will thank you.
Dr. Swinton is a relationship and mental health expert with Utah State University Extension in Sevier County. If you have questions you would like him to confidentially address in this column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.