Protecting our marriage with regular date nights

Guarding against our marriage become little more than co-parenting

When was your last date night?

If it was more than a month ago, new research reported in The Sunday Times indicates you’re missing out. Missing out on quality time with your other half, but also on having something in place that will help your marriage last.

Having a date together once a month increases a couple’s chance of sustaining their relationship for a decade by 14%, according to a study by the Marriage Foundation, a think tank addressing the breakdown of lasting relationships.

And yes, I am intentionally talking about marriage here and not other cohabiting relationships. Due to a greater expectation of a marriage being meant to last a lifetime, a date night was found to be of more significance for married couples.

Before we got married, Rachel and I did a marriage preparation course. One of the things actively encouraged there was setting aside one evening a week for a date night. Of course, when you’re in the first stages of a relationship, making time for a regular date night isn’t hard.

But then life gets busier. Kids come along. And you’re both tired. Well tired doesn’t come close to it actually. You’re both shattered. Physically and emotionally exhausted. And then making time and space for a date night is seriously difficult. It’s amazing how quickly weeks can turn into months and sometimes even years. You’re then left looking back realising it eighteen months since you last spent quality, alone, uninterrupted time together.

The study, based on official data, provides a worrying picture of young couples faced with the twin pressures of work and childcare struggling to sustain an element of romance in their relationship.

Is it any wonder that a marriage would struggle with this lack of one-on-one time? You can be living under the same roof, fulfilling all your duties as parents, but are you still lovers? Are you still one?

While the thought of a weekly date night might feel intimidatingly impossible—particularly at some stages of life—the research offers some comfort here. They found no noticeable benefit to a weekly date over a monthly one.

Thankfully, date nights don’t have to be expensive or fancy either.

You could just as well stay in and cook a meal together, go for a walk or play a game – the important thing is that you spend time together without any other distractions.”

The key there is ‘without any distractions’. Which, once kids are in the equation, requires planning. But the rewards are worth it.

We haven’t always got this right in our marriage. And though we’ve never gone as much as a year without a date night, we have had times when we’ve gone several months. And this lack of quality time together undeniably diminishes our relationship.

The moment we do make time and space for each other though, it reminds me that we’re not just co-parents. We are lovers. And I don’t want to ever lose that.


Image: Yap Chin Kuan

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Saturday morning reflections