Things have become significantly less sexy for long-term couples.
Daily life has become a tad monotonous thanks to working from home routines. And, due to health anxiety and the risk of new coronavirus variants, going out for drinks and dinner is happening less frequently, compared to pre-pandemic.
For couples who live and work together in the same house, the idea of spending more time together during evenings and weekends, within the same four walls, isn’t super exciting.
So it’s easy to see why ‘date nights’ have slipped for many.
‘With the pandemic, we have been together as couples so much more and we actually do need some distance in order to be together in any quality way,’ explains relationship psychotherapist Heather Garbutt.
‘We have been swamped in being together in a more practical day-to-day way. This is not quality time, it’s co-living.
‘In this context, date nights can come to represent even more togetherness when a lot of us are craving space. Many couples have been letting it go. Now is the time to reinstate it, take stock, reignite the spark and connection and have some fun together.’
Why is it so important to spend this quality time together?
Katie Lasson, a clinical sexologist and relationship advisor, says: ‘By not spending quality time together as a couple, it will have a detrimental effect on your relationship.
‘Life can get very busy and it can become easy to overlook your partner. This leads to feelings of loneliness. It’s important to remind your partner that they are important to you and to show your appreciation for them.’
Ultimately, it’s about keeping things fun and exciting – especially when everyday routines can be a little dull at times.
Neil Wilkie, a relationship expert and founder of couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm, adds: ‘The purpose of date nights is to get the magic back into a relationship and to rebuild communication, connection, commitment, and fun. Without this, there is a danger that a couple will drift apart and their relationship fade.’
Now we know how important it is to make quality time a priority, this is how you can get back to regular date nights again – without it feeling too forced.
The first thing to do is to chat to your partner about how you’re feeling – then you can both make a plan on how you can move forward.
Heather adds: ‘Take care just to listen without comment and certainly without criticism, shaming or blaming.
‘You may not be able to meet those needs or desires that you’re expressing, but naming them could get you closer to each other and closer to meeting your desires.
‘It might be as simple as going for a walk in the dark, playing a board game together, making something together, exchanging a massage, planning a holiday, going out for dinner, or just making time to listen to each other in a more structured way.’
Think about love languages
We all have different love languages – AKA how we want to give and receive love.
Our own one might be different from our partner’s – which could be a reason date nights have slipped.
This can also be applied when you schedule quality time in. For example, if your partner loves gifts, be sure to buy them something special, or if you love intimacy and touch, get some new fun things to try in the bedroom.
Heather says: ‘Remember your love language may not be the same as your partner’s so you can be trying your heart out expressing love in acts of service but they don’t feel loved because you don’t say the words.
‘They may be giving you gifts which are of high value in their love language but you don’t feel it because you need quality time and to hold hands to know you are loved.’
Book time in
As unromantic as it sounds, actually booking time in for date nights will help with follow-through.
Neil suggests scheduling regular dates in the diaries in advance, to make sure they are a priority.
Make an effort
Life coach Carole Ann Rice also stresses the importance of looking and feeling great – as this will help you get in the mood for date night too, and make it feel more of an occasion.
She says: ‘Dress up and push the boat out even at home – learn to make (or order) cocktails – take it in turns, make a sumptuous meal or go somewhere smart and new.
‘Also wear something different – make an effort. See it as an investment in the relationship.’
Redefine a ‘date night’
A date night doesn’t have to mean spending lots on an expensive dinner every time. Think about what you and your partner want from a date and go from there.
‘You don’t have to leave your home in order to have a date night,’ adds Katie. ‘There are lots of things you can do without leaving your house. Buy some nice food and cook a lovely meal together.
‘Set the mood by having candles and relaxing music. Turn off all distractions including phones and tables and just spend time in each other’s company.
‘If you don’t fancy having a formal meal, have a carpet picnic and movie night. Treat yourself to lots of nice edible treats and lay them all out on a rug. Pick a movie you both like and snuggle up together in your pyjamas.’
Katie also stresses that you also don’t have to spend loads of money to show someone you love and care for them.
She adds: ‘Just give them your time. Practice active listening. Really listen and hear what your partner has to say. Don’t interrupt them mid-conversation and don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Hear them and make them feel valued and that their voice matters.’
Both commit to it
Neil says: ‘It is likely that one of the couple will have come up with the idea and be enthusiastic about it. If the other does not share their desire, there is likely to be resentment.’
A good way to ensure both parties feel like the other is making an effort is to take it in turns to come up with date night ideas.
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