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Will scheduled, quality time with your partner improve your relationship?
Date Night [deyt nayt]
A prearranged, regular occasion during which a couple dedicates time to foster intimacy and connection, often through shared activities, distinct from routine interactions and responsibilities.
To be sure of their date night, Barbie shared a recurring monthly timebox with her partner, Kenneth.
Date night — quintessential timeboxing, btw — touches on many of the big, perhaps obvious, but undervalued and overlooked means of maintaining a long-term relationship: novelty, communication, growth, respect, excitement, compromise.
Surely this thoughtful, amorous habit must spell good news for relationships? We get quality time with our partner, free from career pressures, household admin and familial responsibilities. We get to spruce ourselves up and look nice, like it was in the beginning. We guarantee a little dedicated 1-1 time with our partner. Any downsides seem small by comparison (at a push, they might be: lacks spontaneity, costs money — both addressed later).
Does it actually do couples any good? There was a glut of research and discussion on this in 2016. (Most of the research is into married couples but I’d suggest there’s plenty of read-across.)
Married couples with a monthly date night are 14% less likely to break up (but weekly date nights don’t help).
So, introducing regular date nights can significantly enhance our long-term relationship prospects. In the post-pandemic era, with many of us more accustomed to living and working from home, the value of these date nights might well be magnified even further. And consider this: the statistics above are based on average, run-of-the-mill monthly date nights. What if we did them better? It would be pretty easy to:
Prepare for them. Get all the logistics taken care of well in advance. Set a recurring calendar appointment before the date so that when it happens, you have the optimal clothing, accessories, energy and conversation*.
Not prepare for them. Fix the time but choose what you do together, in the moment to retain some spontaneity. Or have one person plan and prepare everything, so it’s a complete mystery and surprise for the other.
Connect more deeply. Turn off or, better, relinquish your phone for a few hours. Also, date night should be fun but it might also be for discussing dreams and aspirations — and making plans for them.
Keep them fresh. Experiment with the shared experience: an art class, pottery, museum night, ecstatic dance (and plenty of activities don’t cost a penny: stargazing, countryside walks; reminiscing) — maintain a list of all the ideas you both like and pick one each time, together. Resist the ‘night’ constraint; late mornings, lunchtimes, and afternoons are all perfectly valid periods of time too.
Keep them coming. Make sure this gift keeps on giving by setting a recurring (digital, shared) calendar appointment (AKA a timebox).
If we not only did them but did them well, the benefits could be major: relationships that are more likely to last, rooted in happier, deeper connections and regular, reliable fun.
I’m going to practice what I’ve just preached, (re-)starting on Saturday. Maybe you should too? Forward this email to your partner, to spark things off.