Keep the Love Alive


The kids are bickering, the laundry is piled up and the dog needs to go out. The phone rings, the kitchen timer buzzes and your spouse walks in with a frown after a bad day at work. Sound familiar? What you two need is a good, old-fashioned date — a chance to leave the stresses of daily life behind and rekindle your romance.

Communication can easily break down between two people if they don’t catch up and share their feelings on a regular basis. Making time for a date can provide the focused time that is necessary to connect and nurture the person you hold dear.

Jake and Mary Farrell of Eau Claire, Wis., just celebrated their 42nd anniversary. They attribute the success of their marriage to regularly scheduled date nights that kept their romance alive and their friendship strong. Especially after children came along, they were determined not to view each other as “Mommy and Daddy” and forget that they were best friends first.

Instead, the Farrells explained to their kids, “You exist because we are. You are the culmination of our best efforts,” and off they’d go to strengthen the bond of their love.

Amy Pickens, M.A., of Your Place for Marriage Counseling in Philadelphia, Pa., agrees and goes a step further. She maintains that date nights are important because they offer an opportunity for couples to see each other through fresh eyes. Just as they did in the beginning, each person will put his or her best foot forward and be impressed with the other’s attempts to do the same.

Pickens points out that the positive feelings of love and affection that come from a date night will release “peaceful brain chemicals, including oxytocin, the ‘bonding hormone.’”

“Studies show that loving, nurturing and harmonious relationships are associated with faster recovery from injury and illness, longer life expectancy and a decreased risk of depression and addictions,” explains Pickens. “So date nights are like a vaccine against and a cure for the boredom, stress and conflict between couples.”

The challenge is in making the time for the date. Both people need to make regular date nights a priority. Pickens recommends making one night each week a Date Night, “so that the cumulative effects of time alone are not lost.”

That may sound expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. To cut costs, trade date nights with friends so that neither couple has to pay a sitter. The night doesn’t have to be long, either. Go for walks, play cards at a diner, sit on a blanket under the stars or park like you did when you were dating. In any case, be creative. A drink or dinner out at a favorite restaurant is always fun, but a concert along the river, a tour of a local history museum or a visiting ballet can add variety to your dates.

Alternate who will decide on the activity, and then be enthusiastic about the adventure. If she wants to drive to a winery that winds up being closed, savor the drive. If he wants to take in a ballgame with thousands of screaming college kids, hold his hand. Remember, it’s not about the activity; it’s about your time together.

Be respectful of your partner’s interests. If you know that your spouse truly loathes a particular activity, then avoid it during this time to show how much you cherish your soul mate.

“Any date that violates the values of one or both people in the couple can make time alone a disaster,” warns Pickens.

Also, be sure you have time to talk on your date. A theater performance or a movie are fun activities for Date Night, but make time after the passive activity for conversation and laughter. A late-night decaf at a hip coffee shop or a cocktail at a swanky lounge would cap off the evening with an opportunity to rehash the performances and catch up on the week’s happenings.

No matter what, remember your goal: to keep the romantic fire kindled.

Says Pickens, “the best intention for a date night is to truly savor the deliciousness of being totally and deeply concentrated on each other.”

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